The Huntress: Sea by Sarah Driver

The Blurb On The Back:

In the sky, the fire spirits dance and ripple.  Grandma says they showed our Tribe that I’d be a captain, before I was even born. 

Ever since Ma died, Mouse has looked after her little brother, Sparrow, dreaming of her destiny as captain of THE HUNTRESS.

But now Da’s missing, Sparrow is in danger, and a deathly cold is creeping across the world … 

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

13-year-old Mouse lives with her younger brother Sparrow on a ship called The Huntress, which is captained by their grandmother who’s looked after them ever since their mother died while their dad trades with the land-dwelling tribes.  Mouse’s dad is due to meet them when the Huntress docks in the Western Wharves but he isn’t there and instead the ship picks up Stag, a former member of the crew who’s returning to be its navigator after spending time with the land tribes and who tells the crew that Mouse’s father is dead.

Mouse refuses to believe it but Stag is persuasive and Mouse is already in trouble with her grandmother and the crew for damaging the ship during an attack by Terrodyls (blood thirsty flying creatures that enjoy attacking ships and can only be driven away by whale song).  Her only solace comes from a secret message that her dad hid in a carving of The Huntress telling her to seek out three storm opals and return them to the crown before the ice that’s creeping over the sea takes over completely …

Sarah Driver’s debut fantasy for children aged 9+ (the first in a trilogy) features great illustrations by Joe McLaren, solid and inventive world building and a courageous main character but it’s hindered by some strange time jumps where key events happen off-page, a two-dimensional antagonist, a relationship with a sidekick that veers about too much and a quest element that’s a bit ho hum.

Mouse is an interesting character – I liked her spirited behaviour, her belief that she will be captain and her relationship with both her grandmother and her brother.  However, her relationship with Crow is less convincing (especially in the final quarter where revelations are glossed over for the sake of the plot – presumably to be addressed in the next book) and she’s frustratingly slow to pick up on clues that I think will be obvious to even younger readers.  Unfortunately, Stag is a two-dimensional antagonist and Driver doesn’t give enough information to explain what he’s after or why, meaning that he quickly degenerates into a bog standard ‘evil’ character – which makes it all the more remarkable as to why he’s able to influence any of the crew.

The world building is inventive – I enjoyed the different clans and the portrayal of life on the ship – but the pacing is complicated by the fact that Mouse is unconscious during key events, which I found frustrating and I wasn’t that fond of the quest element (but only because I’ve seen it done so many times – no doubt the target audience will find it exciting).  Ultimately, I’m not sure that I’d rush to continue with this trilogy but I would check out Driver’s other work.

Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

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