The Stone Mage & The Sea: Unique setting

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fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsSean Williams Books of the Change 1. The Stone Mage and the SeaThe Stone Mage & The Sea by Sean Williams

Sal and his father have been on the run from something for as long as Sal can remember. Now they’ve come to the seaside town of Fundelry and it seems like Sal’s father may finally be giving up. Sal doesn’t know what they’ve been running from, or what happened to his mother, who left them when he was young. Most of the townsfolk are suspicious of the newcomers, but Lodo the hermit and his young apprentice Shilly take an interest in Sal. Under their tutelage, Sal learns that he has some blossoming magical powers, which might be what his father has been trying to keep concealed. He must learn to control these powers before the Sky Wardens can find him.

The Stone Mage & The Sea is the first novel in Sean Williams’ young adult series called THE CHANGE. Despite the familiar young-boy-discovers-he’s-got-a-destiny type of YA epic fantasy elements, The Stone Mage & The Sea has some unique qualities to praise. The setting, for one. Rather than the familiar European medieval setting, the world of THE CHANGE appears to be influenced by Sean Williams’ native Australia. Red inland deserts, where the Stone Mages practice their craft, give way to sandy dunes as we approach the sea where Sky Wardens use seagull spies to hunt for youngsters with burgeoning talent. The technological status of this society is intriguingly unclear. Sal’s father has a motorized dunebuggy, but it’s the only one we see, and it seems to be the highest form of technology available in this world.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsWilliams’ plot and characters are engaging and his writing is solid, though it lacks even a trace of humor. It will appeal most to its target YA audience. Adults will wonder why Sal, at 12 years old, knows so little of his own history. What happened to his mother? What are they running from? Why, when the children of Fundelry are hoping to be chosen by the Sky Wardens, does Sal’s father think they’re so evil? It would have saved them both a lot of trouble if his father had just explained things to Sal. We get the impression that Sal has just now started questioning his father in earnest. Of course, the reader understands that the tale is being unfolded for us as it unfolds for Sal, but I found it hard to admire a 12 year old who’s had no idea what’s going on around him for this long.

The Stone Mage & The Sea is definitely a set-up book. By the end, Sal is just beginning to get a glimpse of his destiny and the book stops as tragedy strikes and things really get going. Most teen readers will be eager to move on to book two, The Sky Warden and the Sun. This is an intriguing world with a unique magic system that we’re only beginning to understand. There are lots of interesting questions left unanswered.

Eric Michael Summerer narrates Audible Frontiers’ version of The Stone Mage & The Sea. He gives a good reading and I can confidently recommend this version of The Stone Mage & The Sea. Audio readers will be pleased.


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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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