Review: The Huntress: Sea - Sarah Driver


Publication date: 06.04.2017 (Official date ... )
ISBN: 9781405284677
Number of Pages: 336 

‘This is the one day in the year when all the Tribes of Sea and Land show unity – it’s forbidden to shed blood at the Stone Circle, as well you know.’ He don’t mention the Sky tribes ‘cos no one’s seen feather nor tail of them for ages and ages – not since Grandma was a nipper, when the war ended. Bear waggles his eyebrows at me. ‘Unity stars at home, wouldn’t you agree?’
 (The Huntress: Sea – Sarah Driver. P118.)

In Trianukka, perpetual war reigns between tribes of land and sea. Both would fight the sky tribes, but none have been seen since Mouse’s Grandmother was small. Legend has it Trianukka was once united under one King, until the magical storm opals were scattered. Through the seas of Trianukka sails ‘The Huntress’. Mouse’s Grandmother is Captain, and Mouse is impatient to take her turn. So impatient she doesn’t think much of following orders ...

This is a world of adventure and magic. Like other characters, Mouse has a magical gift – she is able to hear the ‘beast-chatter’ and talk to animals in return. She is also able to detach her spirit from her body when on the verge of sleep, which proves handy for spying. Mouse’s brother Sparrow can sing the whale song, and call the whale-gods who keep the ship safe. He also has seizures which cause uncontrollable flashes of purple lightning, and summon hordes of whales.  

Then ‘bad-blubber’ Stag comes aboard and claims Mouse and Sparrow’s father is dead. Stag takes his place as navigator. He does not think much of Captain’s orders either, although he gives plenty of his own. He appears to take a particular dislike to Sparrow, the brother Mouse swore to protect as her mother lay dying.

Mouse finds a message from her father, but can she really defy Stag, protect Sparrow and reunite the whole of Trianukka?

I love so many things about this book. To summarise it in two words I’ll borrow a phrase from GirlGuidingUK – ‘Girls Can’. Girls can shoot with a long bow and Captain a ship. Girls can dive for treasure, climb ropes and smear bird poo over their faces as war paint … I do not advise that last, although I cannot say I have experience … Mouse is a direct descent of heroines like Abi Elphinstone’s Moll Pecksniff and Phillip Pullman’s Lyra Belacqua. With Abi Elphinstone’s Dreamsnatcher trilogy at a close, thank goodness Mouse is here to step into her … shoes? Not likely.

Crow is a particularly interesting character. The story is about the family we choose as much as the family we are born with. I love the exploration of how land-born Crow and sea-born Mouse see one another. How their initial preconceptions develop into an understanding which goes deeper than tribe or birthplace. As another character says, ‘Look in a person’s eyes … and you’ll learn there’s not so much difference between you.’ In the current political climate these messages are important.

These preconceptions are part of the world-building Sarah Driver manges with such skill. From language to legends, sea-faring Mouse has a complete world behind her. I love the sea-based language of Mouse’s world – ‘get the wind out of your sails’ for example, or ‘plug your pipes’. Captain Rattlebones – villain of childhood stories and games aboard the Huntress - is also a delight.

‘Sea’ is the first part in a trilogy. It is safe to say I am a fully-fledged crew member.

Can you think of any new sea-related phrases? Or of language specific to another setting? Please share in the comments below! 

Here are a couple of my sea phrases. I've had fun with this all weekend ...

- Like a navigator without a compass
- horizon's always clearest after a storm
- might as well count the waves as they sweep the shore 

[picture of sea - Paul Nettleton.]

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