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The Skybound Sea by Sam Sykes

The Skybound Sea

by Sam Sykes

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Sykes brings his epic trilogy to a bloody, violent conclusion in The Skybound Sea. Lenk and crew must figure out how to stop a nasty tentacle monster from being released from captivity by her worshipful 'children,' even as other forces seek to kill her--and everyone else. I was especially happy to see how Lenk and Kataria's relationship developed, but really, all of the character have strong arcs, some of them quite heart-breaking. ( )
  ladycato | Dec 2, 2017 |
There will be some spoilers in this review, but spoilers don't actually decrease your enjoyment of the story. I'll keep them vague, anyway, with just enough detail to articulate what I liked and what nagged me.

Although this was the last book in the trilogy, I felt I was able to keep up with the action easily enough. After all, this book is mostly action--people killing people, narrowly evading being killed by people, people summoning giant monsters, fighting giant monsters, fighting each other over how exactly to go about fighting giant monsters. The background mythology isn't one-dimensional, but the parts that are immediately relevant to the action are presented without slowing the pacing down and without being confusing (anyway, an air of not-fully-explained mystery is a perk in mythology building, especially mythologies including ineffable eldritch abominations).

Where I did start getting lost was the character's motivations. There's some sort of scheme-within-a-scheme going on with at least one of the villain factions--yes, there's more than one. Many more. They're usually able to be distinguished by the color of their skin. Whether it's green or purple, I mean. Actual PoC do appear among the heroes and sympathetic side characters, and Sykes also writes women perfectly well, which is refreshing in this testosterone laden subgenre. They're at least as complex as the male characters, and equally or more kickass, without being at all fanservicey. When fighting they can get downright unsexy. This does not mean they aren't kickass. Bless you, Sykes, for knowing the difference.

Back to that complexity, though--some confusion among the villains, I understand, is a feature rather than a bug, and Sykes seems to intend it that way. Maybe I really am not supposed to know what's going on, or if I'd read the previous 2 books I'd know. I appreciate that Sykes doesn't slow the plot down to spoon-feed these things to us (he has one teaser of a scene where 2 villains discuss their plans in front of a hiding character--the character, though, can't speak their language and missses out on such a great spying opportunity), but at times I wasn't sure whether I was meant to sit back and watch the blood splatter or piece together a puzzle. Maybe I should have done both at the same time?

This confusion reigns despite the villains discussing their plans, the heroes arguing about their plans, and a constant rich stream of inner monologue--which pops up even during action scenes. However, I think in this case seeing the character's thoughts helps. Without knowing who a character is and what they want, even the bloodthirstiest reader can't get that invested in them spearing, hacking, chopping, exploding, and otherwise demolishing other feeling, thinking beings. The main protagonist, Lenk, might genuinely be mentally ill--he brings the possibility up and it isn't dismissed. Although this raises interesting questions like, how does this world define mental illness? Is introducing "schizophrenia" into what is, eldrich abominations and sorcerers aside, a largely medieval fantasy world an anachronism?

This being the last book of the trilogy, I was privileged to see its end...such as it was. Because it wasn't much of an ending--instead we get a bigger revelation, the heroes' troubles are clearly not over, and the world may be in even greater danger no than it ever was. Anyone who had read through the entire series might be disappointed at the lack of resolution, and for all this story was pretty fun (not lighthearted in tone by any means, but clearly meant to be the literary equivalent of a popcorn-noshing action movie), it ends on a depressing note. Not because of character death, either--this is spoilery, but as I read I started to get distracted by how rarely anyone's death or apparent death proved permanent. Instead, there's just this feeling that all the heroes' work was for nothing, they are pawns in a cosmic game they cannot comprehend, and lots of other nihilistic musings. I'm tempted to draw a comparison with R. Scott Bakker's Prince of Nothing series, which also ends on an obvious hook for its sequel trilogy (which I'm currently reading). However, Prince of Nothing exhibits vast worldbuilding, on such an epic scale that multiple series within it seem inevitable. Sykes has some awesome images in his created world, including the titular Skybound Sea, but on the whole it's a Dungeons and Dragons campaign in writing. Then again, I'd expect plenty of DMs like to end each session with a hook for the next, so maybe that's what he's doing here.

Knowing how this trilogy ends, I'm not sure I'm interested in reading the beginning, but I'll definitely check out what else Sykes has written. And I'll probably wind up snagged again.

This review is cross-posted from Story Addict. ( )
  T.Arkenberg | Sep 19, 2013 |
In writing The Skybound Sea, Sam Sykes has skillfully closed out his carnage strewn adventure while leaving himself the option to write more in his dripping wet universe. This tome is filled with Lovecraftian stylized horrors that sulk about the deepest places urging to drown the world in mucus and blood, all for another taste of their mother’s milk. If you are in anyway squeamish of bodily fluids, the Skybound Sea will desensitize you forever. This is one wet work.

Sykes writes like a T-Rex, howling and ripping fetid entrails loose with each keystroke he mashes. In his world, magic drains its wielders of their very life force, the gods seemingly don’t give a damn for their followers, and invaders from another world are hell-bent on releasing the mother of demons all in a quest to kill her. Our mighty heroes constantly dream of each others’ demises in between epic battles where their foes are eviscerated, decapitated, and emboweled spewing forth every biological liquid known to originate in man or beast. Oh, and there are jellyfish. You know what they say to do if one stings you, right?

The Skybound Sea is the culmination of an adventure that our heroes set off upon two books ago. Along the way they have battled countless humanoids, beasts, and demons of all shapes, sizes, and of course colors. From the green shicts to the purple netherlings, Lenk and company have perspired and persevered only to become stranded on the isle of Teji. Our adventure continues as they search for the hidden island of Jaga to stop the Abysmyth hordes from reuniting with their mother. What do they get for all their trouble? Do they all perish in a world flooded by the Skybound Sea, or do they accomplish the goals they set out toward in book 1: to retrieve the Tome of the Undergates thus keeping the kraken queen sealed away in hell? And what is their reward for success or failure? Well, that would be a spoiler and I don’t write those.

Sykes’ writing style is unique. Lenk’s internal dialog is the definition of madness while the battle cries and dying screams of our heroes’ foes reverberate in glory and pain. From the truly amazing first chapter, to the glorious final battle that spans countless pages, the action and wittiness that is Syke’s hallmark never lets up. It all works out to a captivating, fast paced read.

I am pleased to give this book five stars and I look forward to reading future works by Mr. Sykes. I also wanted to thank him for the advanced review copy he graciously provided me. I wish I had time to get this review out before the US release, but life sometimes has a way of messing up our plans. At least I beat the UK hardcover release which I pre-ordered months ago to place next to my “Tome” and “Black Halo” copies.
  washor | Nov 8, 2012 |
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After the misadventures of the first two books Lenk and his companions must finally turn away from fighting each other and for their own survival and look to saving the entire human race. A terrible demon has risen from beneath the sea and where it came from thousands could follow. And all the while an alien race is planning the extinction of humanity. The third volume in the Aeon's Gate trilogy widens the action out dramatically. TOME OF THE UNDERGATES was based mainly on a ship, BLACK HALO moved the action to an island of bones, THE SKYBOUND SEA takes us out into a world threatened with a uniquely imagined and terrifying apocalypse.… (more)

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