Sea of Ghosts by Alan Campbell (Gravedigger Chronicles: Book 1)

When the last of the Gravediggers, an elite imperial infiltration unit, are disbanded and hunted down by the emperor they once served, munitions expert Colonel Thomas Granger takes refuge in the unlikeliest of places. He becomes a jailer in Ethugra – a prison city of poison-flooded streets and gaols in which a million enemies of the empire are held captive. But when Granger takes possession of two new prisoners, he realises that he can’t escape his past so readily.

Ianthe is a young girl with an extraordinary psychic talent. A gift that makes her unique in a world held to ransom by the powerful Haurstaf – the sisterhood of telepaths who are all that stand between the Empire and the threat of the Unmer, the powerful civilization of entropic sorcerers and dragon-mounted warriors. In this war-torn land, she promises to make Granger an extremely wealthy man, if he can only keep her safe from harm.

This is what Granger is best at. But when other factions learn about Ianthe's unique ability, even Granger's skills of warfare are tested to their limits. While, Ianthe struggles to control the powers that are growing in ways no-one thought were possible. Another threat is surfacing: out there, beyond the bitter seas, an old and familiar enemy is rising – one who, if not stopped, will drown the world and all of humanity with it . .

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this book. I enjoyed his first series of books although I personally thought that the series slightly struggled to live up to the heights reached the first book. By the time I had finished this book I was excited, delighted and slightly disappointed in equal measure.

This book starts out as a simple fantasy tale, but by the end becomes half a science fiction book. This could be the start of a new genre “science fantasy”, it’s close to, but does not fit into any sub-genre I’ve read. Not quite steam-punk more particle physics-punk.

The book is a great fun read, but upon re-reading the book, a lot of the secondary characters lack a little depth, or maybe they are just a little bit too stereotypical. Don’t get me wrong I really enjoyed this book and the actual world they inhabit is fantastic, but some of the characters just do not quite live up to the fantastic world they inhabit. The world building is second to none. There are times when you can smell and feel the world around you.

The hero Granger seems to be a bit dim at the beginning when he cannot bite his tongue when his heroic deeds get him put in front of the stupid emperor. This results in him having to run and scramble to save the life of his men and himself. We then pick him up several years later, when he seems to have had a hard life and is in charge of a small prison. I did not really get how he could act as he does around the prison, as he doesn’t seem quite the heroic character we first met, but when his own daughter becomes a guest at his prison he is forced into taking a stance, which again throws his world into turmoil, and leads him on a long trail to find his daughter after she is kidnapped. He leaves a large swath of death and destruction in his wake as he races across the world to find her. Occasionally he gets in one scrape too many and you are left feeling how the heck did he survive that? No-one can take that sort of punishment, but if you just go with the flow it’s such a fun read you can forgive the occasional over the top moment.

The arch villain of the book Maskelyne seems borderline insane when we meet him, and possibly goes downhill from there. He’s a great villain, slightly over the top. He sort of reminds me of an American movie where you know who the baddie is because he’s the British one. He’s a completely mad genius. I think I actually get on more with the villain then I do Granger. I just love him, he is a proper genius, but so misguided. He would be fun to be around, if you could keep your head on your shoulders long enough to appreciate it. Virtually indestructible, you know that he’s going to either end up destroying the planet or somehow finding a way to save the planet. He has one or two very horrible ideas along the way on how you should treat people, some of which are rather nasty and disgusting, but it’s just the sort of man he is. A completely insane b*****d. But you cannot put down the book when he takes over the pages.

Ianthe, well she has to grow up pretty darn quick in this book, as her safe world is ripped apart around her. Her mother is killed in front of her, she knows that her father starts of exploiting her and does not exactly love her with all of his heart, but hey... get over it, and she does. You do feel rather sorry for her, but at the same time knowing what she is capable of doing, you start to worry for those around her.

There is a calm before the storm at the beginning of this book. But, once Granger comes to realise he cannot just eek out the rest of his life as a gaoler and his daughter gets kidnapped you know that he is about to go to war to save her. I found myself falling head over heels in love with this very complicated land. By the end of this book, Granger and Maskelyne are doing a pretty good job of tearing their world apart. You are left wanting more, which to me means it must be a pretty good read.

9/10 I found myself falling head over heels in love with this very complicated land.

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