Review: The Skybound Sea

Posted: April 10, 2013 by in Books We Love (5/5 single_star) Meta: Sam Sykes, Fantasy

When endeavoring to attract a new lover, one cannot begin to understate the dignified merits of beauty, grace, and poise; and yet nothing else, I have found, will draw undivided attention to your person more quickly than a good, swift punch to the face. Repetition encouraged.

Sam Sykes’s debut novel, TOME OF THE UNDERGATES (EBR Review), was nothing, if not exactly just such an attention-clenching assault on my psyche. Through that book, I was ripped from the funk of my heretofore meager existence, dragged wholesale through the thrilling chaos of true adventure, and then left to wallow in the self-pity and dripping mucus of what detritus remained to me. It was an experience that I did not think that I would soon forget. And I didn’t, until I read this novel and was hit so hard by it that I lost the ability to retain such fond memories of any other such impactful novel.

THE SKYBOUND SEA (Amazon) was easily one of my most anticipated sequels to read. Even after the relatively underwhelming BLACK HALO (EBR Review), I could see nothing but rampant chaos and giddy carnage for Lenk and his dear friends . The last novel left part of them floundering in the sea in search of an invisible island, and the others wandering around the bone-covered and netherling-infested island they’d found at the end of TOME, and all of them having a date with the devil during an apocalyptic world-ending visit to the island of the Shen. Ohmigosh, this book was fun.

The opening chapter nearly sent me into fits. Super mega action, caged behemoth-god rising from the depths of the ocean, seagull-Omens chanting salvation, hoardes of frogmen streaming through the streets, and one lone ex-priest wandering in search of a young girl. Just whoa. If there was ever a way to start a book this book, or any book for that matter, this was it. But was SEA going to be another action-fest, or would it drop off and get too detailed on me?  Thankfully, the thing that was most impressive about SEA was how Sykes took what he’d learned from the first two books of the series and combined them to make this one. Where TOME was “action, mockery, action”, and HALO was “breathe, explore, breathe”, SEA was something on the order of “action, explore, learn”. The balance between action and story development and character planning sessions and introspection, all which seemed very skewed and bunched up until this point, was very well done.

All of the character development that Sykes has done up until now played major roles in this book as well, and made this journey all the better. We learn more about Denaos’s background, and oh is it ouchy. Kataria’s inner turmoil concerning her people and her relationship with Lenk (a filthy, disease-tastic human of all things) made for some serious good reading. The scene where Gariath meets the Green Shict (Shict on steroids) was awesome-tastic. I laughed for days after reading it. I stilllaugh about it.  Gariath has some killer fight scenes in this one. Oh, man. That massive sea serpent? Woo-hoo! His time for contemplation is over, and he just starts wailing on stuff. Lenk finally finds the voices in his head. Really great ideas all, and well worth the investment.

THE SKYBOUND SEA is uber readable, uber smart, uber storytelling. Fun and fast, without any of the boring slog we find everywhere else.

There were so many cool parts of this book that I can’t begin to start enumerating them, and Sykes does such a good job of writing that clarity was never an issue. The balance between action and breathing/exploring made for great pacing. It never seemed to lag to me, and things kept moving toward a climax that was obvious (Kraken Queen wrastlin’, anyone?) but by no stretch of the imagination conventional. Sykes just kept pulling out punch after punch too. Forget the fact that this is supposed to be a trilogy. Last book?Nah. Bah.  Take this.  POW! And here’s another. WHACK! And now a left hook. BANG! Guy just doesn’t stop.

On the whole, I think this series could be seriously helped by reading it all together. I know that’s probably a big commitment for some–it’s gotta be like 1500 pages or something–but I really think the story would benefit from doing so. Because, whereas your typical literary offering will end before the climax of the story ever happens, this series is nothing but climax. Everything leading up to the events that happen in these three books has already occurred, and this is the massive clash of chaos that ensues as a result.

Kind of makes the series as a whole a kind-of “post-literary” story, in a way.  Humph.  I like that. In fact, I might just use that somewhere else.

I honestly can’t say enough good about Sam Sykes. He is one of the elite few that I consider to be a favorite author of mine. He can write. He can spin a tale. He can nail a character to the wall with impunity. I can’t wait to see what this guy comes up with next. Will it be more story of Lenk and his “trusty” companions? Given the ending of THE SKYBOUND SEA, that’d be entirely possible. Or perhaps it’ll be something new? Honestly, it mattereth not. Sign me up, kimosabe. Cause I’m sold.

  • Recommended Age: 18+
  • Language: Significantly more than in either of the previous books, but still quite tame and infrequent
  • Violence: Ridiculously violent and gory but none of it gets distracting
  • Sex: One scene that includes detail on every body part but the necessary few

If you’re sold on the idea of this book, consider taking a look at the omnibus that Orbit published after Sykes’s move there: EBR Review. It’s a three-fer.


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