Seasparrow (Graceling Realm, #5)

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Seasparrow (The Graceling Realm, #5)
Age Range
14+
Release Date
November 01, 2022
ISBN
978-1984816672
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Make the harrowing journey home with Queen Bitterblue's sister and spy, in the fifth novel in the bestselling Graceling Realm series.

Hava sails across the sea toward Monsea with her sister, the royal entourage, and the world’s only copies of the formulas for the zilfium weapon she saved at the end of Winterkeep. During the crossing, Hava makes an unexpected discovery about one of the ship’s crew, but before she can unravel the mystery, storms drive their ship off course, wrecking them in the ice far north of the Royal Continent. The survivors must endure a harrowing trek across the ice to make it back to Monsea. And while Queen Bitterblue grapples with how to carry the responsibility of a weapon that will change the world, Hava has a few more mysteries to solve—and a decision to make about who she wants to be in the new world Bitterblue will build.

Editor reviews

4 reviews
Overall rating
 
4.7
Plot
 
4.5(4)
Characters
 
4.8(4)
Writing Style
 
4.8(4)
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A(0)
A deeply personal tale
Overall rating
 
3.7
Plot
 
3.0
Characters
 
4.0
Writing Style
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A
In my opinion, Seasparrow is a character-driven story rather than a plot, which can make for a less exciting story. Yes, the zilfium mines and bombs coming to the Seven Kingdoms are imperative to the plot, but Seasparrow is about Hava's journey overall. We always come back to her struggles, isolation, and pain, and then you add mixed emotions about the baby foxes that she rescues.

I admit I was expecting a more exciting sea adventure rather than the never-ending monologue of Hava struggling to figure herself out. I was very fond of Hava and found this tale unique to the Graceling series. I discovered how her trauma manifests believable and compelling - it never felt convenient, as she's often getting in her way. Hava changes her attitude within her relationships to fit her emotions. It was realistic that she had so many issues with Bitterblue because their relationship was so secretive and flawed. We will get more stories as this book feels like a filler to set us up for another story. Not my favorite but an essential tale for the development of the series.
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YA Fantasy at Its Best
Overall rating
 
5.0
Plot
 
5.0
Characters
 
5.0
Writing Style
 
5.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A
I cannot get enough of the Graceling world, and I was so excited when I learned that Kristin Cashore was returning to it. SEASPARROW is the fifth installment of the series told exclusively from Hava’s POV. Hava is Queen Bitterblue’s half-sister and spy, a skilled Graceling, and one that I couldn’t wait to learn more about. Following the events of Winterkeep, SEASPARROW documents the journey back to Monsea and all that Hava learns about herself and her companions along the way.

Hava is a difficult character to like. I liked her because of her bond with Bitterblue and how they watched out for her. However after reading from her perspective, getting to know her and her actions better, I love Hava. She is a straight shooter, meaning she doesn’t pull her punches and she does not tolerate lying in any form. Then again, who would if they had lived through King Leck? Hava doesn’t trust easily, and she comes off as snobbish and a bit bratty to the sailors who are traveling with them. With the newfound relationship between Giddon and Bitterblue still a secret even from her, Hava is lonely and beginning to question where she fits in, where her home is.

In the midst of Hava’s emotional self-crisis, the ship sails into a bad storm and the journey back to Monsea becomes even more dangerous than before. I loved how inquisitive Hava is of the ship, how she wants to have a place on it and contribute as she feels confined and out of place letting them do all the work. It’s easy to see, even through Hava’s perspective, how the crew treat her and admire her, though she keeps them all at a distance. I loved seeing her tentatively trust and put her own life and Bitterblue’s in other’s hands. Her confrontation with her own demons and how she admits to herself that she is lost. The little blue fox she saves is a bit of levity in an otherwise darker tale.

I loved SEASPARROW. The conversational narrative makes it easy to empathize with Hava and grow to love her. It allows us to understand the reasoning behind her actions as that is not always obvious. Everything she does, she does for her the safety of those she loves: Bitterblue, Giddon, the advisors, even the sailors she doesn’t quite trust. Hava’s giant, caring heart is the true story here. Fans of Graceling will delight returning to the world in an all new adventure. Highly recommend!
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Fabulous Continuation of the Series!
Overall rating
 
5.0
Plot
 
5.0
Characters
 
5.0
Writing Style
 
5.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A
What I Liked: This fifth book in the Graceling Realm series starts seven weeks after the events in Winterkeep, where we came to know a little about Queen Bitterblue’s half-sister, Hava. We know that Hava’s grace is the ability to blend into her surroundings and that came in handy growing up when her mother kept her existence a secret from everyone, including her sadistic father, King Leck. He killed her mother when she was eight years old and she led an existence fending for herself until Bitterblue learned of her and welcomed her into her life as her spy and secret sister.
Hava is a fascinating personality that is both innocent and extremely knowledgeable of the depravities the world offers. Staying hidden means she has spied her whole life on others interacting and living while never learning how to do it herself. Now at twenty-one years old and living in a confined space where people see her, she is slowly starting to learn who she is. Most don’t know her background so they don’t understand her reactions which makes her a magnet to them.
Her socially awkward encounters with the other crew are endearing and make this chunky book hard to put down. She has never had a friend before and getting a nickname from the captain, having the crew take her interest seriously and teach her about running the ship, and engaging her in the conversation has her constantly questioning their motives and their intent. Then there is Linny. He is kind to her and after a while, she realizes she thinks he is handsome. They have a slow friendship and he gives her the space and time she needs to learn how to open up and trust him. The parts where they are interacting were always the parts I couldn’t put down.
Much of this book takes place in Hava’s head as she is growing and learning about how she feels and thinks about her surroundings. The ship wrecks in the polar north and the book becomes a story of survival. She is now part of a close-knit unit that is always together and must trust and rely on each other to survive. The situation is challenging and will stretch everyone to the edges of their endurance mentally, physically, and emotionally. For a person like Hava who only knows the outlines of other people’s lives, having them next to her and every action exposed makes her thrust into humanity in a very visceral way. Being in Hava’s head as the reader allows us a front-row seat in seeing her mature and her edges filled in from a periphery character in Bitterblue’s story to her own unique person.
The role the blue foxes filled in the story at first seems a fun and whimsical decision. However, the plot keeps coming back to Hope and her babies. In a very real way, the babies allow the others to endure their northern ordeal because they bring joy and the responsibility to survive in a desperate landscape. They bring the senses to life as I can picture how their coats smelled unwashed as they bundled the un potty-trained babies in their coats for weeks. It allowed Hava to show her growing maturity to share the care of the kits and her empathy with others when she knew care of the kits would help others endure their pain. Then there is the subplot of why Hope was stolen and their work to unravel her past self that was engrossing.
I enjoyed that the story didn’t end with their emergence into civilization. We were with Hava every step of the way and could appreciate her difficulty as her group starts splitting apart. Her feelings of being overwhelmed when she is seen by everyone and the world isn’t just stark white and cold but colors and noise. How she returns to her life so changed that she needs to explore how to be back at the castle. Hava is like a caterpillar that is emerging from her cocoon of trauma to learn how to be an adult.
Final Verdict: I could keep going on how much I enjoyed the book. However, I think it is really telling that I read this 602-page book in 24 hours. Hava evolved from a periphery character to a fully fleshed person that now takes up residence in a corner of my heart. This book took the time and care for us to see her evolution and it was wonderful.
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riveting and consuming YA fantasy
Overall rating
 
5.0
Plot
 
5.0
Characters
 
5.0
Writing Style
 
5.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A
SEASPARROW is a riveting and consuming YA fantasy read about a shipwreck, survival, and finding your place in the world. Hava is 21 years old, and the Monsean Queen's spy. Unbeknownst to most, she is also her half-sister, but her life has been lived in secret - perhaps this is why her Grace allows her to alter her form and others' perceptions of her in order to hide herself in plain sight. She is traveling with Bitterblue, the Queen, back to Monsea on their ship. The path is treacherous, but Hava is beginning to find a place for herself amongst the crew.

That is, until the worst happens and storms have pushed the ship too far off course to the north. As they try to redirect the ship, they find themselves caught in even more dangerous storms with dwindling resources. Following a shipwreck, they are stranded amongst the glaciers and ice, forced to make the deadly trek towards the nearest country - if they are able to survive it.

Hava and Bitterblue are carrying the notes from the chemist in Winterkeep who was developing a deadly weapon using zilfium, a polluting rock found most commonly in Monsea. As they travel, Hava translates the notes from Keepish and keeps her ear to the ground as to those on the ship with them. This unexpected and life-changing journey will also cause her to re-evaluate who she is and who she wants to be.

What I loved: This might be my favorite book from the Graceling series thus far - Hava is such a compelling character, and I loved her story of redemption, trauma, and healing. Her life has been challenging, since she was hidden as soon as she was born to a mother whose mind had been broken by the former king. She also witnessed the death of her mother at his hands, leaving her to flee and try to survive on her own in the broader world, with only her Grace for protection. Her life of solitude has changed ever since she made herself known to Bitterblue five years earlier, but it has been challenging to interact with others and heal from all the trauma of the past.

This trip forces her to again re-evaluate who she wants to be and how she might attain such things. Her utility as a spy is in part her own making, something that she feels trapped into out of loyalty to Bitterblue and their past arrangements. Hava lives a rich internal life, but struggles to communicate open and honestly, something that must change in order for her to understand herself and her place in the world. Being on the ship and later shipwrecked with a relatively small group of people has forced her to confront herself as she is and decide whether and how she will move forward. What others (and the reader) see in her, though she does not yet see in herself, is, in part, her pain and the ways she has coped with this, but also, critically, her incredible empathy, passion, thirst for knowledge, and loyalty to those she cares for.

Hava is a character who really resonated with me, and I imagine will do so for other readers, for the multitude of reasons around her personal journey, past traumas, and beautiful heart. For this reason, even though the book is already so thick, I still found myself wanting more and to see the journeys Hava will have in the future.

The Graceling series always has such lush world-building, and this book is no different. The ship itself really came to life in the telling, and the way Hava views it comes across to the reader - the ship is a beautiful, majestic, and magical place. The descriptions seemed thoroughly thought out and researched, and so it was not surprising to learn of the way the author in fact did deeply research this on a ship around the Arctic. The countries, their squabbles, and the potential for conflict also pervades the story, and it all felt so real. Some of these are parallels to the way modern countries conflict or treaty with their neighbors, as well as political ideological and resource differences that divide them. A major theme of the story is around the ethics and morality of learning about such a deadly weapon and whether it should be developed - separate from whether it could. This discussion reflects the nuclear discussions frequently on the table in our world as well.

Other characters were really compelling as well. Beyond Hava, there is Bitterblue, who readers learned to love in past books, but also the new characters of the ship's crew. As they are endeared to Hava, so are they to the reader. The bonds forged in this journey are hard to break. Linny was a particularly lovely character, who is dealing with his own trauma, but also sees the beauty in Hava, approaching her with care and friendship. There are also the telepathic blue foxes who steal the scene in many places in the story. They are wonderful characters in their own rights.

The themes in this story are beautiful and thought-provoking, including those around politics, the ethics/morality around the development of weapons, resource divides between countries, sisterhood/family, trauma and healing, espionage, empathy, forgiveness, and human rights, particularly around marriage and humane conditions of imprisonment. There is a crime committed by a secondary character amidst the backdrop of the ship, and the way that Hava approaches this as well as how her opinions evolve, demonstrate the importance of empathy and understanding in approaching such cases. Trauma and healing is certainly another critical theme of the book with several primary characters having faced trauma in their pasts, as well as the trauma they experience in the wake of the shipwreck and journey for survival. The experiences of trauma are diverse, as are the ways in manifests in future dealings, and the story does a good job of capturing the individuality of trauma as well as the way it shapes us, even as we heal.

The plot itself managed to stay absolutely riveting, and it was so easy to fall into and get caught up in this world. There is much action, but the most compelling plotlines to me were the internal ones for Hava. I would read a whole series of her stories - and I highly encourage readers to pick this one up! While the book takes place following the events of the prior book, everything is summarized so well in this one, and the main character changes, so it could easily be read on its own. This is seriously the best book in the Graceling series, and I want everyone to pick it up!

Final verdict: SEASPARROW is a beautiful and imaginative story of shipwreck, healing, and finding your place that I cannot recommend picking up enough! This is the best book thus far in a YA fantasy series with masterful world-building and consuming characters - an absolute must-read.
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