This month’s pick is a little different as Molly introduces us to eco-fantasy with her discussion of The Forever Sea. Eco-fantasy is a subgenre of eco-fiction. Broadly speaking, eco-fiction is fiction literature that addresses the natural world and how human communities interact with it. You can find a more detailed explanation of eco-fiction here as well as author interviews, book reviews, and more to help you explore the genre.
The Forever Sea is probably one of the first eco-fantasy books that I have read. Its main themes of climate change, the environment, and human relation to it is something that I have not seen in fantasy books often. These themes are the backbone of the story of Kindred as she sails the Forever Sea, guiding the magic for the crew of her ship until the supposed death of her grandmother leads her to desperately search for answers to the mysteries of the deep sea and what waits below.
First, I should probably describe this sea world. As someone that has lived in the prairie their whole life, describing grasses waving in the wind as ocean-like is not new, but now make it a real ocean. Instead of oceans of water, it is prairie grasses, unknowably deep and filled with who knows what. I could easily picture this world in my head like a forgotten daydream I had as a child stuck in the car driving hours across the Texas prairie. The author does an amazing job of describing this incomprehensible sea of grass and its looming, almost eldritch, impact on the people that interact with it. You can easily feel it swaying around you. On those grasses sail ships powered by fire and bone magic, floating above the endless, bottomless sea, collecting plants for food and casting magic. It is a beautiful setting for a story about the importance of the environment and having a relationship with the natural world.
But this book doesn’t just have an amazing setting and world building. (Along with a good magic system, which is very important to me.) It also confronts real issues in our world like exploitation of nature and resources, control of resources essential to life like water, and the impact of climate change on the environment and society. It deals with the ramifications of what the world would become like if climate change is not addressed with nuance and a hint of reality. A war for water, lack of livable areas, and the conflict of people over these things. A main theme is the unknowable mystery of the natural world and magic that people try to control and force to provide for them without regard for the damage done to the world or to people that don’t fit the mold. It makes us look at our own reality while simultaneously giving us a wonderfully different adventure story.
A great setting described beautifully and themes that resonate, matched with majority women characters and a soft magic system that actually serves a purpose in the plot, I greatly enjoyed this book. Only the first one in a series, I look forward to seeing how the story progresses in the second one.
The Forever Sea is available at Bookshop.org