BRIEF SYNOPSIS: After unceremoniously being sent back to Earth from Stormwrack, Sophie’s dreams of returning are fulfilled…with a very large catch.
PROS: Intriguing worldbuilding depth in terms of politics, magic and plotting; excellent characterization, complete with painful growth.
CONS: Novel doesn’t stand well alone and is best consumed on the heels of the original.
BOTTOM LINE: An excellent entry in the story of Sophie Hansa, and the Stormwrack verse.
What do you do when you come back from journeying through the Portal to another world? In the case of young Sophie Hansa, who went through a Portal to find her birth parents (in Child of a Hidden Sea), her inquisitive nature means that she can’t wait to try and get back to Stormwrack. However, she doesn’t have the magic cabinet, or the secret ring, to get there on her own, and a rough and tumble world of written magic, disdain for Earth technology. and adventure on the high seas means that Sophie needs to level up in order to really succeed there.
When Sophie is offered the chance to return, there is a price. The results of Sophie’s first trip have led to her training, in an informal and ad hoc manner, to plan to return to the world that she can’t talk to anyone on Earth about save Bran, her brother, who also visited Stormwrack. But even physical training and planning for a return does not prepare Sophie for a meeting with her father: a meeting in which her mother’s fate, and possibly much more, lies in the balance.
The Stormwrack novels put a lot of thought into the idea of what a modern American would do when faced with the possibility of traveling to what is,essentially, a fantasy world. The first novel convincingly went the documentary route–you’d want to photograph and examine everything, and Sophie’s choices and gear reflect that. In this second visit, chastened by her earlier visit both by experience and by those around her, Sophie is prepared for it in different ways, and finds new strength and skills in dealing with the world of Stormwrack without quite so many toys at her disposal.
That wonderous world of Stormwrack itself is convincingly expanded as well. With all of the island nations and the cultures that make up the mosaic of Stormwrack, the author has a wide canvas to go both broadly across the world, as well as deeply within the structures that make the world work. We learn about the island home of Sophie’s father, more about the Fleet of migrating ships, and much more. Courts, law, science, social customs both large and small are revealed, and Stormwrack is as tangled, complex, contradictory and interesting as our own world. There are interesting lines and thoughts about how Stormwrack might be tied to our own Earth in unexpected ways.
I hesitate to talk much about the details of plot. It unfolds beautifully, and Sophie’s new adventures, and those seeking to take advantage of Sophie’s disruption of the world of Stormwrack come together in a most satisfying manner. Now that the basics of the world and many of the characters are previously established, the author seems intent on putting them through their paces, and she does so to excellent effect.
I strongly look forward to setting sail with another Stormwrack novel. Don’t start here, though. The book does not stand well without having read Child of a Hidden Sea first. Delve into that, and then you will be ready and eager to continue Sophie’s journey.