The Ocean Spinner (Prodigal Book 1) by cousins Samuel and Jared Perry is a fast-paced young adult fantasy adventure about the nation of Al’Bora, which is on the brink of war, savagely attacked by assassins and a new threat: a powerful mage called the Ocean Spinner who has the power to destroy fleets and affect the tides. Sitor, a knight who’s a bit brutish but good with a sword, is tasked to eradicate the Ocean Spinner along with a a ragtag band of assassins and mages who don’t always see eye to eye, but are driven by the same goal, leading to an exciting and surprising climax.
Sitor, the protagonist is a fun and well-developed lead character. He’s brash, tough, with enough insecurities to make him seem like a real person. His conflicts with his mentor, Leon, are the most arresting. The conflict and animosity of the band of assassins is what makes this story really move along, even more than the conflict with the Ocean Spinner himself.
However, the Ocean Spinner himself is less fully developed. Though the Ocean Spinner’s powers are impressive, his motivation is not completely explored, making him a less imposing adversary, even when he’s destroying ships. He has no real beef with the band of assassins, so it’s kind of a one-way battle. The actions scenes are good, and the magic is fun and inventive, but he’s more of a nebulous “bad guy” than a living, breathing antagonist. Likewise, the other characters in the novel act more as bit players who don’t entirely get their due. Running only 150 pages, this is a short novel, and some of the minor characters could have been fleshed out more and not affected pacing.
The book does have some editorial issues as well, including in the first sentence (“More than 20 years had passed the last emergency conference” – needs a “since”). After the first chapter, the prose gets cleaner, but the book does need some tidying up. Additionally, some of the language is a bit too modern for a sword and sorcery tale (“anyways” sounds kind of teenage for a wartime book). Those errors are infrequent enough to not be too much of a distraction.
Overall, though there are a few issues with characterization, The Ocean Spinner is a fun and inventive read. Without spoiling anything, the ending of the book is worth the wait and you won’t really see it coming. A good fantasy novel needs solid world-building and the world of Al’Bora is complex and fully realized, with its own politics and language that’s truly impressive.
Funded by a Kickstarter project, this promises to be an exciting new series, slated to be at least six novels. Though there are a few issues here and there, authors Samuel and Jared Perry have their hearts in the right place, and this is an impressively assured and elaborate debut. It strikes a good balance between advanced world building and action, without being too weighted down by extraneous information. This series is one to watch.