Review ~ The Sea King
By C. L. Wilson
Publisher: Avon Books
Release Date: October 31, 2017
Reviewed by Nancy
In The Sea King, C.L. Wilson returns to Mystral, the intriguing world she created in The Winter King. Her worldbuilding continues to be rich and textured, offering different cultures and settings with depth and resonance. In The Winter King, the hero’s culture was based on Nordic traditions. The Sea King offers the beauty of tropical Calberna and its matriarchal culture as a counterpoint.
The heroine of The Sea King, Gabriella Coruscate, is one of four sisters known as the Seasons of Summerlea. All of them have power over the weather and are highly sought after as brides. Nicknamed Summer, she shows the world a gentle, even meek countenance while struggling to control the magic inside her. She has not only weather magic but something much more volatile.
Only her late mother knew how powerful and dangerous Summer’s magic was, especially when she experienced extremes of emotion. Summer and her mother worked on meditation and other techniques to calm her and control the power when it threatened to erupt.
Because of that need for calm, Summer believes she can never fall in love. If she loses control of her emotions, she could kill those most dear to her. She knows that her duty as a princess of Summerlea is to marry to the benefit of her homeland, but she is determined to marry someone for whom she could feel no more than mild liking.
The hero, Dilys Merimydion, is the son of Calberna’s queen and a skilled commander at sea. When he arrives to court one of the Seasons, they don’t know that his royal mother’s advisors, believing Summer to be too meek and less powerful then her sisters, want him to choose either Spring or Autumn. Dilys intends to comply, but sparks fly between him and Summer from the moment they meet, and he becomes determined to win her.
Dilys’s courtship is romantic and touching, yet Summer’s reasons for resisting him remain compelling. Her fears are very real because her powers have gotten out of hand in the past, with tragic results. When they break free again, Dilys and his Calbernans are drawn to that eruption of magic. Dilys uses his water magic to dangerous extremes, risking his own life to save Summer. His Calbernan comrades, recognizing her power as an ancient one lost to their kind, resolve to protect her.
Dilys carries his own guilt in the losses of his childhood betrothed and men under his command. His grief for him makes him doubly determined to protect Gabriella, whether or not he can win her.
Unfortunately, not everyone in Calberna wants Dilys to return with a foreign bride. A traitor lurks in the Calbernan court. As though that were bad enough, a pirate known as the Shark is attacking Calbernan shipping everywhere he can. And a mysterious buyer wants the Seasons of Summerlea.
The multiple threats provide plot twists and spur action. The descriptions of Dilys’s water magic are superb, and his powers are extensively developed without slowing the pace of the story.
When cornered, Gabriella draws on her family magic and on her internal power. It doesn’t always work, and that’s another plot twist. When it does work, however, the results are spectacular and are also vividly described.
The Queendom of Calberna is not merely mentioned as a matriarchy. It has a range of customs that fit this status, some with particular words to describe them. There is a Calbernan lexicon, which is sometimes problematic, as many of the words are multisyllabic and not in letter patterns familiar to English speakers. This makes some of the longer ones difficult to pronounce mentally. For readers who don’t feel the need to conquer the pronunciation, however, and are content to recognize the word and move on, this won’t be a problem.
When the story moves to Calberna, the surroundings are efficiently and beautifully described, as well as being very different from Summerlea or the Winter King’s realm of the Crag. This is clearly a culture devoted to the sea.
Fans of Khamsin and Wynter from The Winter King will enjoy the peeks at them here as a married couple. These bits are woven in a way that helps move the current plot forward.
There is one note that won’t bother some readers but is worth mentioning because it may trouble others. At one point, Gabriella is subjected to a repeated intimate assaults by a villain. It’s not rape, and it’s not belabored. It’s a brief segment, mostly summarized, though there are some explicit details. Readers will need to decide for themselves how they feel about this part of the story.
I suggest that readers who would rather not see this very brief section skim past it. When Dilys and Gabriella are reunited, his goal is to help her through the aftermath, and the tenderness and devotion he displays, along with her courage in facing her memories, are heart-warming. Into that, Wilson mixes the effects of the experience on Gabriella’s magic. It’s extremely well done.
Dilys and Gabriella are a romantic couple, and their struggles and concern for others give them depth. The story moves at a good pace overall, and the plot is never predictable.