This series is shaping up to be one of the best character studies I’ve encountered in a very long time. I remember being excited about watching the Godfather because people said it was an amazing character study and I don’t understand people at all, so I love character study stories. So I watch the movie (and the second and the third), only to have the character make critical decisions off screen with no explanation. First, the guy hates his dad’s business, and suddenly he’s working for the guy for a year and there wasn’t even an instant of demonstrated hesitation, even to dismiss his earlier concerns. That’s fucking bullshit. You don’t get those kind of cheap cop outs with Kennedy.
Exile of the Seas is book 2 in the Chronicles of Dansaria series. I reviewed the first book, Prisoner of the Crown, a couple of weeks ago. This story is highly serialized, so I don’t recommend reading book 2 without having read book 1. I know some people want to skip the first because of how much triggering stuff happens and it isn’t impossible to get at least a sense of what’s going on, but so much of the nuance and development of the story is lost that I’m not sure you’d get very much out of it. It would be sort of like going straight to Godfather 2, except in that case you should skip all three because they are all terrible and yes this is absolutely the hill I am dying on.
Anyway, saying pretty much anything about the plot would likely be considered spoilery so I’ll just say this, if you’ve read and enjoyed the first book, just go read the second. It isn’t nearly as triggering (though when Jenna’s past inevitably catches up with her I did get full on palpitations but it’s brief and makes perfect sense for the plot).
It won’t disappoint. Kennedy sustains the momentum built in the first and does not rush Jenna to magically transform into a Strong Female Character With a Dark Backstory. Instead, the book follows her as she learns what freedom is, bit by bit. Since I can’t tell you what’s happening, instead, I’ll give you what I think is the best summary of what this book is about in Jenna’s own words:
It occurred to me much later, that my time in the seraglio had left me as a blank page. I’d been carefully crafted to be beautiful and obedient, but also to take the stamp of my future husband. As I traveled through the world as a woman alone, I became the one to create my own self, drinking in everything around me, filling those spaces in my mind kept so deliberately empty.
Fuck yes. And we watch her do just that. We see her push through fears and self doubt and the voices of her past again and again. She isn’t just magically better. She doesn’t just magically know what she wants to do. She doesn’t magically learn everything she needs to instantly. At the end of the book she still can’t read. She doesn’t believe sun burns are a thing because why would she know about that? She still isn’t a particularly skilled fighter. Those gaps are terrifying. Is it reasonable to be freaked out travelling alone where you know literally nothing of the outside world and can’t understand most people? Sure. And she spends time hiding because that’s normal. And then she gets her courage up and she gets out there and does the thing that scares her and puts herself out there.
Oh and there’s a hint of romance in this one if that impacts your decision and given what’s happened so far in the story I think it’s handled with exceptional care.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some aggro fight or flight impulses to punch out before I pick up the next one.