Seasparrow (Kristin Cashore)

Seasparrow is the fifth novel in the Graceling Realm series by Kristin Cashore.
Finished on: 19.2.2023
[Here are my reviews of the other Graceling Realm novels.]

Content Note: animal cruelty, animal death, mention of rape, child (sexual) abuse

Hava is Queen Bitterblue’s spy, and her secret half-sister. So, of course she was part of Bitterblue’s entourage when they went to Winterkeep – and now it’s time for all of them to go home to Monsea. It is a long journey on a sailship, but Hava discovers that she loves sailing. It would be so much nicer if Bitterblue hadn’t tasked her with translating the formulas they stole – formulas that can transform zilfium into a world-shattering weapon. What Bitterblue will do with that knowledge remains to be seen. But first, they need to understand it – and they need to get back to Monsea at all. Seafaring is not that easy and political intrigue is following them everywhere.

I am so very glad that Cashore finally returned to the Graceling Realm, and continues to deliver absolutely amazing books. Seasparrow is a book that I wanted to wrap in a blanket and to tell it that everything will be alright (or rather, I wanted to do that to myself), because it really put me through the emotional wringer – in the best of ways.

The book cover showing the drawing of a female figure with waves for hair, holding on to a thick rope. Behind her are a sailship and a bird.

Pretty much all of the protagonists in the Graceling Realm novels so far are deeply traumatized characters that have suffered their share of abuse. Seasparrow is no different in that regard, but it is in the way Hava is broken. Katsa, Bitterblue, even Lovisa – they all had such a strong sense of and ultimately belief in themselves. Have barely allows herself to exist, nevermind being her own person. The way the book explores how she slowly gets ahold of herself hit me very hard and very deeply.

That includes her caring for fox puppies, and her slow and careful romance with Linny – who brings his own trauma to the table (btw, the romance is not as prominent here as in the other books, it’s more a C-Plot than a B-Plot). I don’t know how often the book made me cry, but it was definitely more than a couple of times. And in the end, it left me with a wondrous sense of hope that I hope I can keep forever.

There is definitely less plot here than in the other novels, but I can’t say I minded that much. The plot that was there is well considered and makes sense. The politics it discusses are interesting and prompt thought. But the focus here is generally on the characters, especially Hava (but also Bitterblue to a certain extent). Since I was completely wrapped up in her growth as a character and since she really has a lot to work through, there was plenty going on for me. It’s not always fast-paced, but then again, personal growth isn’t always fast-paced either. That’s just how it is. And it feels like a privilege to be along on Hava’s journey.

Summarizing: beautiful and amazing.

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