“Seaborn” by Chris Howard

Posted by Harry Markov

Title: “Seaborn”
Author: Chris Howard
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 384
Publisher: Juno Books

Summary: Kassandra is the Seaborn king’s granddaughter – the one he wished he’d killed when he’d had the chance. Kassandra’s spent her entire life in exile on the surface, struggling to control frightening powers she barely understands—powers she has already used to defeat the king’s warriors when she was still a teenager. Now she’s ready to declare war. Corina Lairsey is a California college student who has just freed herself from one controlling relationship when she finds herself in another. Only this time, Aleximor, an ancient Seaborn sorcerer, is literally inside her head, and wearing her body. Corina must strive for control of her self, fighting against time as Aleximor trades pieces of her life away in exchange for power over the path between the worlds of the living and the dead.

Classification & Literary Class: It has been a lot easier to write reviews to books that I didn’t enjoy than to something that I seem generally in love with. Plain and simple, novels you don’t resonate with, lack that magical quality. Without it, you can pop the hood and analyze every little process effortlessly. But the story changes when you are confronted with a novel that has this quality, that is organic and whose magic you can never pinpoint or analyze. You get where I am going with this.

“Seaborn” is exactly that. Organic. Every element, idea, character and plot thread flow into each other until your senses are overwhelmed in the best possible way meant. Starting from the most obvious “Seaborn” is urban fantasy, but the way I think it should be. The core of the novel is the story itself that unfolds flawlessly in two entwining worlds and that is propelled by the characters’ strategies, unlike the current wave of titles with greater focus on a near to impossible relationship. “Seaborn” speaks about war and battles, where in the end it’s either everything or nothing. To top it off every line is delivered with above satisfactory prose. For me Howard’s writing evokes a resemblance to Nabokov’s style with unconventional imagery and originality.

Characters & Depth:
Since I mentioned that “Seaborn” is virtually flawless, the characters must be top notch as well. The strong heroine in urban fantasy usually has some issues like anger management, inferiority complex or daddy issues, which make them brass, fast to strike and totally primal to a point. They don’t think before they act. Kassandra is has people inside her head, real voices. She can never be sure, when one of them will pop up and take her body for a spin and she doesn’t get along with her family much, but she is the embodiment of a Machiavellian character. Poseidon’s Wreath pretty much makes her all powerful underwater and a strategic genius. An emergency arises and she is already scheming how to evade it. But here is the best part about her. She has to remain sane. Kassandra is trying to be as human as possible, fighting for control with the previous bearers in her head and not blowing things up.

Virtually every character is as fleshed out and controversial as Kassandra is. I loved the Corina-Aleximor possession, since both characters are complete opposites starting from the most obvious, their species and moving towards the personality differences. During the whole novel though I saw immense character growth. Aleximor showed a strange form of kindness or at least something similar, while Corina was adapting to the new situation and found enough strength to reclaim power over her own body. I can keep going on, but it is pointless. Chris Howard has gone as far as giving the past bearers their own distinctive pasts and personalities that later on help Kassandra piecing the whole puzzle together.

Worldbuilding & Believability:
Probably what hooked me most before I discovered the merits of the story itself was the world building. This world has everything from incredible magic over water and other forces, to the rich history and the lore and culture. The world of the seaborn is based on Greek mythology and most of the names sound Ancient Greek as well as certain terms. Being cursed by Zeus these people have left their island and created their own society below the waves, divided into 9 houses with their own artificial sun. They have their own undead army and magic taboos. It all makes perfect logic and I never doubted a thing. Most intriguing I found the hereditary passing of magic talents, which ‘bleed’ from an elder to a blood relative of a new generation. And these talents use water mainly, but we do have necromancy, clairvoyance and fire magic underwater, which is also pretty well justified. I am not sure what is researched and what is fictitious, but whatever aspect Chris Howard touched, he raised the bar quite high.

The Verdict:
I am not sure how Juno got their hands on this novel, but they landed quite the gold mine at least for urban fantasy readers. I may sound extreme, but here goes: This is a must-read, must-have and worshipped. This mythology junkie is more than satisfied and begs people to buy more than one copy as soon as possible. If I am correct, after several generations a first issue of this will be quite valuable.

More Briefs 2008.12.11

* Want to win cool stuff from Rachel Vincent? Sign up for her quarterly newsletter to get all the details.

* Jeaniene Frost guest blogging about plotting or pantsing.

* Charlaine Harris answers questions at SciFiWire.
I was sure vampires would be fun to write, and I wanted to take a direction that was new and fresh. (At the time, it was!) I decided to be the anti-Anne Rice. (This is not a knock on her work, but an attitude.) Since she took romantic southern Louisiana, I’d take the northern part, which is much more prosaic. Since her vampires were romantic and pay a lot of attention to their clothes, mine would shop at the mall and have ordinary names. That can only go so far; after all, I had no intention of writing a parody or of mocking her work, which I admire. After deciding your style of writing for the work you want to do, you have to construct a credible world.

I love Charlaine’s response in answer to what it’s been like being all over the best sellers lists: “I’m still faced with the problems I had before: a looming deadline, a book that won’t write itself. Being the prom queen for a season hasn’t changed the work any.”

* Chris Howard has created a graphic prequel, Saltwater Witch. The events of the story take place 5 years before those in his novel Seaborn.


[REVIEW] Seaborn – Chris Howard


Chris Howard

Book 1

Juno Books [July, 2008]

Seaborn is an epic fantasy tale of a hidden undersea world that is told from three points of view.  Kassandra, who is the daughter of the current king of the realm who has banished her to live in exile on the surface.  Through her bleeds, which access family member’s magic, she is preparing to go to war with her grandfather.  She will stop at nothing to restore her family’s rightful place within the hierarchy of the Seaborn.

Corina is a college student who loves to scuba dive.  While exploring, she accidentally sets Aleximor free and loses control of her body in the process.  What ensues once she gets her bearings is the clash and battle of two minds contained in the same body.  Can she assert herself and regain control of her body from the sorcerer?

And Aleximor, a sorcerer who controls the dead and has been in an undersea prison for four hundred years.  Now that he has been freed, he can finally exact his revenge on those who imprisoned him.  It is inevitable that his path will also cross Kassandra’s as they both muster their regiments to fight.

Seaborn is well written with dense prose and excellent description.  It is also downright creepy in spots.  The scene where we are introduced to Aleximor’s familiar was a prime example of this.  I admit I was somewhat squicked out while reading it and that doesn’t happen to me very often.  Mr. Howard’s description of both surface life and the expansive undersea world were detailed and vivid.  His knowledge of greek mythology and battle lore are formidable.  The scenes with Corina and Aleximor are particularly interesting as control shifts back and forth between them.

The pacing was a bit slow in places, mostly because of the extensive description.  There was also a lot of history and backstory to introduce the complexities of the world of the Seaborn.

Rating:  A-

Mr. Howard has created an epic fantasy world and story in his debut novel Seaborn.  The second in the Series, Sea Throne, will be released in 2009.

Chris Howard’s Website

Chris Howard’s Blog

Thursday Tidbits

Fantasy Magazine interviews Chris Howard, author of Seaborn.  Take a peek:

Where do you get your ideas?

Dreaming and traveling; and I couldn’t write without my journal to record ideas. I’d forget it all if I didn’t write every idea down and sort out the good ideas from the crappy ones later. I do more plotting at four in the morning, half awake, with a scene and characters tumbling around my head. But I have to get up, sort it out and write it down, or I’ll lose it.

Fangs, Fur, & Fey interviews Yasmine Galenorn.  Here’s a taste:

Rachel: Why do you write urban fantasy/paranormal romance? What drew you to the genre?

Yasmine: I knew I wanted to be a writer from the time I was three and have been making up odd little stories from the day I could string sentences together. I learned to read early and my loves ran to volcanoes, dinosaurs, and…would you believe it? Yes, fantasy and science fiction. The Space Cat series by Ruthven Todd was one of my first discoveries in that genre-I just loved that adventuresome astronaut cat. And thanks to a non-restrictive policy allowing children to check out books from any section of the library and an extremely advanced reading capability, I sped through the fantasy and science fiction section at an early age. I ploughed through Asimov, Clarke, Pohl, and my favorite to this day-Ray Bradbury. I cut my teeth on The City and the Stars, I fell in love with Something Wicked This Way Comes and The October Country. By the time I was ten I knew that I didn’t care all that much for Heinlein, but I was nuts over Clifford D. Simak.

J.F. Lewis, author of Staked, is guest blogging over at Patricia’s Vampire Notes on July 17th.

Vampires are the genre for July over at Genre of the Month blog.

From Dear Author:  Fictionwise’s eReader Available as an iPhone App for the New Iphones

New Releases for July

Here’s what you can look forward to hitting the shelves this month:


1 – Kelley Armstrong – The Summoning (hardcover)
My name is Chloe Saunders and my life will never be the same again.

All I wanted was to make friends, meet boys, and keep on being ordinary. I don’t even know what that means anymore. It all started on the day that I saw my first ghost—and the ghost saw me.

Now there are ghosts everywhere and they won’t leave me alone. To top it all off, I somehow got myself locked up in Lyle House, a “special home” for troubled teens. Yet the home isn’t what it seems. Don’t tell anyone, but I think there might be more to my housemates than meets the eye. The question is, whose side are they on? It’s up to me to figure out the dangerous secrets behind Lyle House . . . before its skeletons come back to haunt me. [Amazon link]

1 – Elizabeth Bear – Ink & Steel (pb)
Kit Marley, playwright and spy in the service of Queen Elizabeth, has been murdered. His true gift to Her Majesty was his way with words, crafting plays infused with a subtle magic that maintained her rule. He performed this task on behalf of the Prometheus Club, a secret society of nobles engaged in battle against sorcerers determined to destroy England. Assuming Marley’s role is William Shakespeare— but he is unable to create the magic needed to hold the Queen’s enemies at bay.

Resurrected by enchantment in Faerie, Marley is England’s only hope. But before he can assist Will in the art of magic, he must uncover the traitor among the Prometheans responsible for his death…
[Amazon link]

1 – Mike Carey – The Devil You Know (mmpb) Felix Castor is a freelance exorcist, and London is his stamping ground. It may seem like a good ghostbuster can charge what he likes and enjoy a hell of a lifestyle–but there’s a risk: Sooner or later he’s going to take on a spirit that’s too strong for him. While trying to back out of this ill-conceived career, Castor accepts a seemingly simple ghost-hunting case at a museum in the shadowy heart of London–just to pay the bills, you understand. But what should have been a perfectly straightforward exorcism is rapidly turning into the Who Can Kill Castor First Show, with demons and ghosts all keen to claim the big prize. That’s OK: Castor knows how to deal with the dead. It’s the living who piss him off… [Amazon link]

1 – Dakota Cassidy – Accidentally Dead (pb)
It’s a lousy first day on the job for Nina Blackman when a patient, loopy from the anesthesia, bites her. At least he was cute. But for real drama she can’t beat the next evening. Nina wakes up with a set of razor-sharp fangs, bionic vision, supersonic hearing, and a taste for blood. But there’s a good explanation: It’s her patient, Long Island vampire Greg Statleon. Actually they’re perfect for each other—if Nina’s willing to commit to one man for eternity. [Amazon link]

1 – Yasmine Galenorn – Dragon Wytch (mmpb)

The D’Artigo sisters are half-human, half-Fae operatives for the Otherworld Intelligence Agency. Camille is doing her best to juggle magic, men, and the demonic war into which they’ve been thrust—until she discovers a secret that could change all their lives. [Amazon link]

– Eve Kenin – Hidden (mmpb) Tatiana has honed her genetic gifts to perfection. She can withstand the subzero temperatures of the Northern Waste, read somebody’s mind with the briefest touch, and slice through bone with her bare hands. Which makes her one badass chick, all right.

Nothing gets to her. Until she meets Tristan. Villain or ally, she can’t be sure. But one thing she does know: he has gifts too–including the ability to ramp up her heart rate to dangerous levels. But before they can start some chemistry of their own, they have to survive being trapped in an underground lab, hunted by a madman, and exposed to a plague that could destroy mankind. [Amazon link]

1 – Justine Musk – Lord of Bones (mmpb)

Jess and Ramsey stopped a demon from bringing about the apocalypse. But a gate was opened and more demons have come to Earth—inhabiting human bodies. Now, these demon hybrids are paving the way for the arrival of the Soulbreaker, known as Lord of Bones… [Amazon link]

1 – GENA SHOWALTER – The Darkest Pleasure (mmpb)
Reyes is a man possessed. Bound by the demon of pain, he is forbidden to know pleasure. Yet he craves a mortal woman, Danika Ford, more than breath and will do anything to claim her—even defy the gods.

Danika is on the run. For months she’s eluded the Lords of the Underworld, immortal warriors who won’t rest until she and her family have been destroyed. But her dreams are haunted by Reyes, the warrior whose searing touch she can’t forget. Yet a future together could mean death to all they both hold dear.… [Amazon link]

4 – Ekaterina Sedia – The Alchemy of Stone (pb) Mattie, an intelligent automaton skilled in the use of alchemy, finds herself caught in the middle of a conflict between gargoyles, the Mechanics, and the Alchemists. With the old order quickly giving way to the new, Mattie discovers powerful and dangerous secrets – secrets that can completely alter the balance of power in the city of Ayona. However, this doesn’t sit well with Loharri, the Mechanic who created Mattie and still has the key to her heart – literally! A steampunk novel of romance, political intrigue, and alchemy, The Alchemy of Stone represents a new and intriguing direction by the author of the critically-acclaimed The Secret History of Moscow. [Amazon link]

8 – L A BANKS – The Shadows (pb) The Dark Realms are taking cover after an angel onslaught from On High. The Anti-Christ has been injured and the fourth Biblical seal has been broken. Yonnie and Val, a strange combination of a daywalker and an angel hybrid, have joined Damali and Carlos’s team. And the two new Council Level vamps, Elizabeth Bathory and Lucrezia Borgia, are still in recovery from their last mission.

Seething in the underworld is the Unnamed One, so furious that he’s bringing the battle topside, unleashing a full-frontal assault on mankind for the offenses committed by the Vampire Huntress team. This time, Damali and Carlos must address serious human casualties and collateral damage…all while the vampire councilman, Nuit rebuilds Blood Music to become more than a record label, but a media brainwashing empire for the dark lord. [Amazon link]

20 – CHRIS HOWARD – Seaborn (pb) Corina Lairsey has just clawed her way free from one controlling relationship when she finds herself in another-only this guy, Aleximor, has really gotten under her skin. Literally. A 400-year-old sorcerer who gathers the drowned dead off the ocean’s floor for the King of the Seaborn, he’s inside her head and is wearing her body like a wetsuit. Corina desperately schemes to regain control of her self, fighting against time as Aleximore trades pieces of her life away in exchange for power over the path between the worlds of the living and the dead . . . Kassandra is the King of the Seaborn’s granddaughter. She comes from the sea, but has spent her whole life in exile on the surface, struggling to control frightening powers she barely understands. She declares war on her murderous grandfather and manipulates her family, friends, oceanic royalty, and the US Navy to aid her- but Aleximore intends to use Kass to carry out his revenge against the entire Seaborn royal line. And she’s also fallen in love-one more struggle for an already troubled soul. [Amazon link]

28The Mammoth Book of Vampire Romance – anthology – Paranormal romance is a supernatural force to be reckoned with. Packed with a menagerie of werewolves, shape-shifters, and assorted demons, its undisputed king is none other than our favorite centuries-old bloodsucker—the vampire.

Let the biggest and brightest names in the paranormal romance business show you the bewildering array of complex vampire codes of conduct, dark ritual, and dating practices, as they chat up the locals and engage in the most erotic encounters you will sink your teeth into this side of un-Death. These ain’t your mother’s vampires!

In a quickly expanding genre, here are 30 short stories of hot blood and inhuman passions. [Amazon link]

28 – MIKE CAREY – Vicious Circle (hardcover)
Following in the footsteps of megasellers Neil Gaiman and Jim Butcher, comic book writer Mike Carey presents his second hip supernatural thriller featuring freelance exorcist Felix Castor. Castor has reluctantly returned to exorcism after the case of the Bonnington Archive ghost convinced him that he really can do some good with his abilities (‘good’, of course, being a relative term when dealing with the undead). But his friend, Rafi, is still possessed; the succubus, Ajulutsikael (Juliet to her friends), still technically has a contract on him; and he’s still–let’s not beat around the bush–dirt poor. Doing some consulting for the local constabulary helps pay the bills, but Castor needs a big, private job to really fill the hole in his overdraft. That’s what he needs. What he gets, good fortune and Castor not being on speaking terms, is a seemingly insignificant ‘missing ghost’ case that inexorably drags himself and his loved ones into the middle of a horrific plot to raise one of Hell’s fiercest demons. When Satanists, sacrifice farms, stolen spirits and possessed churches all appear on the same police report, the name of Felix Castor can’t be too far behind… [Amazon link]

29 – JENNA BLACK – The Devil You Know (pb) The beautiful. The bad. The possessed.

Some people worship them. Some people fear them. And some people—like Morgan Kingsley—go up against them toe-to-toe, flesh to flesh, and power against power. An exorcist by trade, Morgan is one of the few humans with an aura stronger than her possessor, even though her demon can tease her body senseless. She’s also a woman who has just discovered a shocking truth: everything she once believed about her past, her identity, may have been a lie.

With a family secret exploding around her and a full-scale demon war igniting, Morgan is a key player in an unsettled world. Then a rogue sociopathic demon enters her life with a bang. His name is The Hunter. And since she is the prey, Morgan has only one choice: to hunt The Hunter down—no matter what heartbreaking truths she uncovers along the way….[Amazon link]

29 – MARIE BRENNAN – Warrior (mmpb)
When a witch is born, a doppelganger is created. For the witch to master her powers, the twin must be killed. But what happens when the doppelganger survives?

Mirage, a bounty hunter, lives by her wits and lethal fighting skills. She always gets her mark. But her new mission will take her into the shadowy world of witches, where her strength may not be a match against powerful magic.

Miryo is a witch who has just failed her initiation test. She now knows that there is someone in the world who looks like her, who is her: Mirage. To control her powers and become a full witch, Miryo has only one choice: to hunt the hunter and destroy her. [Amazon link]

29 – MARIE BRENNAN – Witch (mmpb)
When a witch is born, a doppelganger is created. For the witch to master her powers, the twin must be killed. Until now…

Created by the merging of witch and doppelganger, Mirei is a unique being. Her extraordinary magic makes her the most poweful witch alive — and a notorious social outcast. While Satomi, the leader of the witches’ ruling Primes, hails Mirei as a miracle, rival Primes proclaim that Mirei is an evil abomination…and that those who champion her must be destroyed.

Now the different witch factions engage in a bloody war with magic, treachery, and murder. But both sides may be fighting for nothing. For the power that the rebel Primes fear, the magic that Mirei alone possesses, is killing her. [Amazon link]

29 – PATRICIA BRIGGS – Cry Wolf (pb) Anna never knew werewolves existed until the night she survived a violent attack…and became one herself. After three years at the bottom of the pack, she’d learned to keep her head down and never, ever trust dominant males. But Anna is that rarest kind of werewolf: an Omega. And one of the most powerful werewolves in the country will recognize her value as a pack member—and as his mate. [Amazon link]

29 – JOCELYNN DRAKE – Nightwalker (mmpb) For centuries Mira has been a nightwalker—an unstoppable enforcer for a mysterious organization that manipulates earth-shaking events from the darkest shadows. But elemental mastery over fire sets her apart from others of her night-prowling breed . . . and may be all that prevents her doom.

The foe she now faces is human: the vampire hunter called Danaus, who has already destroyed so many undead. For Mira, the time has come to hunt . . . or be hunted. [Amazon link]

29 – ANGIE FOX – The Accidental Demon Slayer (mmpb)
It’s never a good day when an ancient demon shows up on your toilet bowl. For Lizzie Brown, that’s just the beginning. Soon her hyperactive terrier starts talking, and her long-lost biker witch Grandma is hurling Smuckers jars filled with magic. Just when she thinks she’s seen it all, Lizzie learns she’s a demon slayer-and all hell is after her.

Of course, that’s not the only thing after her. Dimitri Kallinikos, a devastatingly handsome shape-shifting griffin needs Lizzie to slay a demon of his own. But how do you talk a girl you’ve never met into going straight to the underworld? Lie. And if that doesn’t work, how dangerous could a little seduction be…? [Amazon link]

29 – JENNA MACLAINE – Wages of Sin (A Cin Craven Novel) (mmpb)
Dulcinea Craven descends from a long line of witches, and she has just inherited wild, untrained magical powers that she has no idea how to control. Now a ruthless vampire and an age-old demon are determined to enslave Cin and steal her power for their own. Her only hope is The Righteous, a band of warrior vampires who slay the rogue undead. Among them is Michael, a fierce swordsman who inflames Cin’s most primal hungers. Showing her a sensual pleasure beyond anything in the mortal realm, she must choose between the human existence she has always known, and immortality as a vampire—a new life filled with forbidden urges, dark yearning, and unearthly passions… [Amazon link]

29 – MICHELLE MADDOX – Countdown (mmpb) THREE
Kira Jordan wakes up in a pitch-black room handcuffed to a metal wall. She has 60 seconds to escape. Thus begins a vicious game where to lose is to die.

The man she’s been partnered with–her only ally in this nightmare–is a convicted mass murderer. But if he’s so violent, why does he protect her? And stranger still, what is it behind those haunted sea-green eyes that makes her want to protect him?

No one to trust. Nowhere to run. And the only hope of survival is working together to beat the
[Amazon link]

29 – KATHRYN SMITH – Before I Wake: The Nightmare Chronicles (mmpb)
ou may call it a dream job . . .

And in some ways, you’d be right. I actually get paid to study people’s dreams. It comes much easier than my employers at the Sleep Center suspect; after all, I, Dawn, am the daughter of the king of the dream world, and I can roam the dreams of others, battling the nightmares that plague them.

I call it a nightmare . . .

Honestly, I could use a good night’s sleep. But ever since I met Noah Clarke, I’m even more torn between the two worlds: smart, sexy, and able to control his own dreams, Noah could be my perfect man—except he’s being stalked in his sleep by an unearthly evil, hell-bent on destroying him . . . and the entire world. [Amazon link]

Group Blog Gets Bigger

Fans of the LJ community Fangs, Fur & Fey now have more to love as several authors were added this week. The community now boasts 88 contributers and 679 readers. New this week: Chris Howard, Ekaterina Sedia, Maria Lima, and Gena Showalter.

Hard to believe this community began in September 2006 with only Melissa Marr, Jeaniene Frost, and Caitlin Kittredge.