Book cover reveal ho! Just look at this gorgeous cover for the swashbuckling fantasy adventure The Forever Sea by Joshua Johnson. Due to be released in January next year, the books is said to take a timely look at our relationship with the environment, and the inevitable consequences of greed.
Here is a synopsis of The Forever Sea…
Kindred Greyreach keeps The Errant afloat. She sings the language of the hearthfire and builds complicated structures of bone to prevent the ship from sinking below the prairie grasses. When her grandmother, the legendary Marchess, disappears into the forest-sea, Kindred needs to find the truth: why and how did the Marchess disappear? And most importantly: what lies below the Forever Sea?
If that wasn’t enough to whet your appetite for this epic coming-of-age tale, we can also give you an excerpt of The Forever Sea so you can prepare yourselves for the salty adventures that await you! Check it out here…
Kindred threaded her hands deep into the fire and sang a quiet song.
Around her the ship was chaos: boots pounded rough tattoos over the deck as crew members rushed to secure and tie and pull and coil; shouts – panicked, angry, excited – shook the air, threatening to break Kindred’s concentration. The captain’s voice was a silver bell amid the turmoil of The Errant; Kindred couldn’t make out her orders ringing through the noise, but the toll of authority was recognizable nonetheless.
And amid and above and below and through it all, the threat that had The Errant hurtling fast across the Sea, bearing hard for port.
Kindred’s hands spasmed in the fire as she thought of the ship pursuing them, of wild, jagged predators’ smiles. ‘Focus in, girl,’ a voice hissed in Kindred’s ear. Rhabdus, the senior hearthfire keeper leaned over her shoulder, supervising with a sneer Kindred felt without needing to see. ‘I don’t fancy sinking into the deeps because of your incompetence and creativity.’
Kindred took a breath, stilling her thoughts and trying to ignore Rhabdus’s wheezing sighs and the play of her imagination. She focused on her present: the hearthfire blazing indigo before her, the rustle-touch of flames arcing around her wrists and fingers.
And her song.
The whispered words countered the fearful storm on deck and staved off the fear slinking sideways along the alleys of her mind.
‘A litany for the fire.
Burn bone, ay lay, burn bone to black
sing white, ay lay, brand bone to black
for ship and Sea and crew, ay lay,
to sail the green, to sail the grass, ay lay.
A fire, ay lay, a prairie flame
a blaze, ay lay, a blaze of bone
for ship and Sea and crew, ay lay,
to sail the green, to sail the grass
ay lay, ay lay.’
Kindred’s song stilled the fire, changing the color from a dark indigo to a cloudy grey and revealing a tree-like structure of bones at the center of the flames. Kindred monitored the interplay of air and flame and bone there at the center, the rush of heat swooping and rising through the tendrils of bone and winding amid caverns made of air and flame. She noted breaks in the structure, bone branches drooping from where she had set them earlier.
Rhabdus scoffed, her derision nasal and low.
‘Inefficient and idiotic,’ she said, leaning in, nails digging deep into Kindred’s shoulder. ‘You’re the hearthfire keeper, girl. You own it, you control it – now start acting like it. Enough with the imagination.’ Rhabdus snarled the word. ‘Quit messing with my build and follow the shit-spitting rules.’
Kindred swallowed her indignant response – Rhabdus knew her name, had been mentoring her some time now, but still refused to call her anything other than ‘girl.’
Your build was ugly and plain, she wanted to say. Your build had no spirit. Your build will kill us. ‘Understood.’ Kindred released a calming breath and examined the fire and bone.
Somewhere in that phantom movement of flame and air was mystery, pure and awful. Despite Rhabdus’s shortsighted insistence on the rules, Kindred felt no urge to challenge the fire’s mystery with clumsy attempts at misguided logic – that was for the scholar-stylists on Arcadia and the Mainland, and for those hearthfire keepers like Rhabdus who felt a need for control over everything natural, everything untamed.
Such a need to possess the flames was distasteful to Kindred, and wrong, like a child given a palette of beautiful colors and mixing them all together into a muddy, monolithic brown.
That the fire demanded a captain’s bones to burn, Kindred knew.
That it kept a ship afloat, gave it lift and speed on the grasses of the Forever Sea, Kindred knew.
That it spoke a language unwritten and inscrutable, a language like rain, like the changing Sea itself, Kindred knew. The whys and hows were the flames’ mysteries to keep, and it was to them Kindred sang.
As melody slipped from her lips, Kindred reached farther into the flames, lifting the structure where it drooped, sculpting the supple, malleable bones to better articulate Rhabdus’s vision of speed, of escape. She found and eliminated her own improvisations – extra branches plucked from here and twining vines carved there, each meant to offer more speed to the ship, each one almost there, if only Kindred could have had more time without Rhabdus leering over her shoulder, following her every movement, criticizing her every decision.
The word echoed again in her mind, threatening to pull her down into the chaos and anxiety of the ship. She fought the urge to stand from where she huddled amidships next to the hearthfire. Perhaps she could leave the hearthfire to Rhabdus and quickly climb to the quarterdeck, get an update from the captain, allow her eyes to follow the disturbed grasses tossed about in their wake, to see the pursuing black sails, the scarred hull, the jeering, leering pirates flinging forth their unnatural magics, their broken grins –
Kindred cursed, breaking her song and pulling her hands back from the hearthfire, which grew hot and nipped at her wrists, punishment for losing her connection to the flames.
She felt the drop in The Errant’s speed and saw it in the disarray of the flames.
‘Idiot child!’ Rhabdus wheezed, pushing in to kneel next to Kindred on the deck, her veined hands mottled with old burn scars and age marks, plunging into the fire as she sang her clipped song. In the swirl of flame, she slapped Kindred’s hands away, giving her a hard-eyed look despite the relative softness of her song.
Rhabdus moved quickly, her motions practiced and perfectly efficient, brutal in their precision. Her hands were tools that ordered and owned, demanding where Kindred had appealed; where she molded soft curves, Rhabdus imposed hard lines.
The words of Rhabdus’s song were mostly nonsensical. Every keeper Kindred had ever met – save one – sang to the fire in this way, with some measure of gift for the language of the hearthfire but no real understanding of it. Like a child mimicking her parents.
It was what set Kindred apart, what gave her the edge over every other hearthfire keeper she’d ever met. She not only sang to the flames; she understood what she sang, and what’s more, she understood what the hearthfire sang in return. When Kindred kept the fire, she was not breaking a wild animal to her will as Rhabdus sought to, singing thick- tongued nonsense; when Kindred worked, she worked with the fire.
‘Keeper!’ Captain Caraway shouted. ‘What is going on? We need more speed, not less!’
Kindred turned to see the captain standing fore on the quarterdeck, her wild hair tossed by the wind, her eye ablaze with a gallows light. She wore the black of her station, the only concession to color a dirty white strip of cloth covering one eye. She grinned into the wind.
Gods, she’s enjoying this! Kindred thought with a start.
Since Rhabdus was engaged with the fire and couldn’t yet break her song, Kindred responded.
‘My fault, captain. Apologies. It won’t happen again.’
Before joining up with the crew of The Errant, Kindred had asked around about the ship and its mysterious captain.
Most knew nothing other than the stories: wild, dangerous, insane, and protective of her crew beyond all else. But she had heard other rumors, little bits and fragments of gossip: Captain Caraway sailed too far; Captain Caraway took crew members aboard who had not been sanctioned by the ruling bodies on Arcadia; Captain Caraway liked her crew rough and strange and just as wild as herself.
All of this flashed through Kindred’s mind as she shouted at the captain across the madness of the deck – between them, the crew moved in a chaotic dance to adjust and coil and pull and climb and sail.
Captain Caraway nodded, her smile predatory and gleeful.
‘See that it doesn’t,’ she shouted, and turned her attention to the frenzied activity of her crew. ‘Quartermaster! Aft defenses!’
Kindred saw Little Wing, the quartermaster, tall and powerful, lope across the deck, moving aft to follow the captain’s orders.
Each to her place; each to her power, Kindred’s grandmother had always said about the hierarchy aboard boats. A pair of red comets sailed high and wide over The Errant before bursting into a shower of sparking magical energy. She tried not to think about how close the pirates had to be to start hurling their magical assaults. Too close.
Songs, sailing and pirates? Sounds great to us! The Forever Sea is out on 19 January from Titan Books.