Science fiction and fantasy                                            

The People of the Sea

by Scott Marcano

The People of the Sea were a tribe driven from their land to take refuge on the seas. This story takes place when the People have evolved into several loosely-allied tribes who live on enormous, and often very elaborate, floating islands.

The plot revolves around Ursa, a magically gifted young woman, and Tumarak, the young man she loves. When he decides to leave her in order to join captain Idoway on an important naval mission, Ursa fears for his safety. Against the wishes of her father, she decides to follow him.

Tumarak's mission involves spying on the Mapuche, a renegade tribe that is believed to be preparing for war. Idoway's ship was sent to find out what they are up to.

Meanwhile Elias, a naval scout, is on a secret mission of his own. Known as "The Cork" for his unusual good look in escaping drowning, he is nevertheless shunned by many due to his reputation for bringing bad luck to others. Kir Mois, the general known as The Dragon, gives him the task of trailing Idoway's ship and spying on the Mapuche as well.

Behind many of the troubles is Shezula. He is a malicious wizard who intends to sow discontent between the tribes and stir up war. The catalyst for his actions is a certain prophecy concerning the People's destiny. But essentially Shezula is all evil, a monstrous killer without a speck of compassion for anyone.

Unfortunately this sort of unmitigated evil isn't confined to Shezula: almost every character in The People of the Sea is an extreme embodiment of virtue or vice. There's no subtlety in characterisation that would make these people seem real. For instance, there's one character we know is up to no good due to his constant sideways glances at our hero and his dislike of the small, cute and furry animals known as grimkos.

The People of the Sea is a journey through a colourful fantasy setting, and it is undoubtedly inventive. Nearly every chapter introduces us to new landscapes, characters, races, or creatures. But Marcano clearly doesn't know when to stop, affording the reader little more than a passing glimpse at each novelty before moving on to the next one. Like trying to take in the scenery from the window of a speeding car, after a while it all becomes a blur.

Nor does the author have any sense of proportion when it comes to melodrama, ladling it on thickly at every opportunity. Scene after scene is extravagantly touching, gruesomely violent, sinister, or awe-inspiring, with absolutely no pause for breath. The emotional intensity is always too high, and the book is less believable as a result.

The language is also a problem. This quote is typical of the author's writing style:

Shezula threw his huge, bare arms wide to the sky and screamed out an ancient, bloodcurdling curse in his horrific sounding tongue.

Scott Marcano is clearly fond of adjectives, to the extent that he tends to use three where one would do. He also has a habit of making a statement, and then rephrasing it for emphasis, effectively saying the same thing twice. After a while this repetitive sensationalism becomes wearing, and the end result is that the plot loses its impact. Reading this book is like swimming through treacle.

Here's another quote:

The victorious Mapuche captain looked up from the foul beast's frightful ruin and locked eyes with the glowing, merciless, penetrating orbs of the wicked Shezula.

This novel is clearly aimed at younger fantasy readers, but that is no excuse for such leaden prose. These quotes are not isolated examples, the book is full of such overblown phrases. With its shallow characters and a plot that would make an episode of The Tweenies look sophisticated, The People of the Sea is one to avoid.

Book Details

Year: 2005

Categories: Books


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1 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson


John Malkin     4th February, 2009 18:42pm

I read this book a few years ago and was very surprised to see it have only 1 out of five stars. Whilst it is not the best written fantasy book out there, there are a lot worse. But I suppose it is all a matter of taste. The People of the Sea is fantasy filled with lots of imaginative human-like species, magic, and adventurous battles. I particularly liked how destiny keeps leading these individuals along, bringing them together, and separating them at just the most opportune/inopportune times to raise the level of action.
As for the use of adjectives; I personally found these helped with my imagination and were not detrimental to the story as Ros implies.

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