Friday, June 24, 2022

Review: SEASPARROW by Kristin Cashore


Rating: 4.75/5 stars

While I would definitely recommend having read the first four Graceling Realm books prior to reading Seasparrow, you don’t have to have read them recently for this book to make sense. Cashore helpfully recaps everything that happened in Winterkeep during the first few chapters, refreshing the reader on who the characters are, where they are, and what they’re doing. Seasparrow picks up shortly after Winterkeep ends. 

This book starts out being set on a boat, which I thought I wouldn’t like, but I actually didn’t mind it here. I tend to not like stories on boats, but Hava talks so much about her day-to-day activities and her emotions and her spying that the boat setting didn’t bother me. 

Hava, the protagonist and sole POV in this installment, is a girl who has learned to hide. Her Grace is being able to change what people see when they look at her, essentially rendering herself invisible. Her ability makes her the perfect spy for Bitterblue. 

I absolutely loved Hava as this book’s viewpoint character. Before I started reading, I wasn’t sure how I would like her, but I quickly came to love her. She’s so real. She’s bitter and holds grudges longer than she should, but she’s also compassionate and cares fiercely for those close to her. She seeks justice in the face of being wronged, even to the detriment of those around her, which I found to be so relatable. Of all of Cashore’s protagonists so far, I saw myself the most in Hava, which surprised me. Bitterblue has always been my favorite, but she’s a queen and level-headed and can stand up for herself in front of thousands, and that’s just not me. Katsa is loyal and a fierce fighter who will survive against any odds and protect those she loves, the typical strong YA protagonist who I want to be but who I know I’m not. But Hava, she’s smaller, weaker, used to hiding and being overlooked, smart and clever but also irrational at times, and oh so angry. I loved her. I feel like I am her. I love how different each of Cashore’s female leads is across this series. 

Seasparrow is about hope and survival. Kristin Cashore knows how to write about endless and relentless cold in a way that makes me physically cold while I am reading. I had this experience when I first read Graceling years ago, and I had it with this book too. The characters are suffering and doing everything possible to survive in grueling, freezing conditions. I could physically feel it. That’s good writing, in my opinion. 

The end of Winterkeep alluded to lots of political machinations to come in Seasparrow, but the politicking doesn’t come into play until the last third of the story. The first two-thirds of Seasparrow is about hope and survival during a long and physically demanding journey from Winterkeep back to Monsea through the icy cold north seas. It’s slower-paced. The story that I expected to see in this book doesn’t start until the crew finally makes it back to Monsea. That’s when the intrigue with the zilfium finally becomes prevalent. 

The first 70% is pretty slow and the last 30% feels pretty rushed. I honestly didn’t mind it because I loved the book regardless, but less devoted fans may find parts of the book to be more difficult to get through and struggle with the pacing. I would have loved more political intrigue because I think it’s one of Cashore’s strongest areas of writing. 

The ending alluded to a possible sixth book to come in the future as Hava outlines her plans for the next few years, and there’s a possible cold war looming on the horizon. At least I hope there’s another book planned. I could read Graceling books for the rest of my life. I think having the next book be from Trina’s POV would be super interesting as her future plans are mentioned toward the end and it really piqued my interest. Either way, the way Winterkeep ended left more to be desired that I had hoped to get in Seasparrow, but I didn’t feel like this book fully covered what I expected it to, which is why I think there has to be another one coming. 

Seasparrow is mostly a story about Hava coming of age, even though she’s already twenty-one years old. She’s still very haunted by demons from her past, and she’s holding a lot of grudges that she’s struggling to let go of and move past. The reader sees Hava arguing with herself and refusing to admit truths to herself while also being faced with new challenges and being in the spotlight for the first time in her life. And by the end, Hava has gone through so much and overcome so much and really learned who she is and who she wants to be. It was so heartwarming to see and I was so proud of her. 

There is also not really any romance in this novel, except for a slight hinting within the last few chapters at one to come in the future. This is the first Graceling book that didn’t have a romance subplot and instead was primarily character-focused on Hava with the actual plot being secondary. I honestly loved it. I love how Cashore approaches each of her books differently and writes such distinct female leads that are each strong in their own way. 

I loved Seasparrow, so much, and it was definitely one of my most anticipated books of the year. I sincerely hope it’s not the final installment in this series. Each book is written in a way that it could be the last one, or it could be one of many more to come. I have no idea what’s in store, but I’m not ready to leave these characters and this world behind. I believe the Graceling Realm series is a standout YA fantasy series, different from the cookie-cutter stories that seem so common nowadays. It’s truly one of my favorite series ever. I love it. And if you love it as much as I do then you will also enjoy Seasparrow for the journey and the character development and all of the wonderful additions to this world that it brings. 

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