Unfortunately I submitted a request for this book too close to the publication date and was unable to download the ARC before the archive date. As such I have not read the book, but I have purchased the first book in the series with an intention to read it.
This is a genre I don't often come across, but I am so glad I picked this one up after reading the first in the series based on a recommendation from our school librarian!
***Thank you to NetGalley and to the publishers for providing me with a digital copy of this book for review.***
Back in 2021, The Forever Sea, by Joshua Phillip Johnson was on our Dark Horse list. I enjoyed the book, but it was brought to heel by the lack of character. Over time I think the book lost some of its luster, but I still remembered the sweeping landscapes painted in my brain by Johnson’s prose. So when it was revealed that the sequel, The Endless Song, was coming out this year I felt both a cautious anxiety and a pull to dream once again in the grassy shoals. Unfortunately, the issues I had with the first book reared their big heads and made for a less than pleasant reading experience. Spoilers for The Forever Sea lie ahead; consult your maps if you wish to avoid them.
Kindred has been involved in the destruction of the Once-city, and Arcadia has been brought to its knees. But Kindred is still on the hunt for her Grandmother, the Marchess, and dives deep into the grassy sea that dominates the world. While down there, she encounters a wandering court who know of the Marchess, but she has fallen in with the Fell Court and may be up to more insidious tasks than Kindred was hoping for. Meanwhile, the Barony of the Borders is falling on the King of the Mainlands' bad side. Their quirky nature meant to hide a deep family secret is wearing thin in the greedy king’s eyes. Flitch wants to do everything he can to help his family succeed and maintain their place in the world, but being the youngest of the Borders children makes achieving such a fate tougher than he imagines. Can both Kindred and Flitch follow their stories to save what they can? Or will they be cut short by forces outside their control.
Let me highlight some of the bits I liked first. Johnson’s prose is still wonderful, but it serves a different purpose here. Gone are the colors of the world as we venture below the sea and into the deep recesses of the Borders’ estate. Details are still there, but instead of the stained glass paintings, it’s dark voids filled with secrets and anxieties. The detritus of the top world litters the ground of the undersea. A shifting labyrinth haunts the basement of the Border castle, filled with a being who hunts you so that you may realize your true dreams, but at a cost. Johnson has some truly clever turns of phrase that just light up the story with a bit of mystery. It doesn’t feel as lush as the first book, but it keeps the world alive and breathing.
The Endless Song is also just full of some insanely fun and terrifying ideas. The Labyrinth as a family secret was fun, creepy and unfortunately underutilized. Quietus had some truly solid dialogue that cemented him as one of the better minotaurs of the maze I’ve read. The shadowdrake, was another truly astounding idea. A spirit that chases you till it consumes you, but can be stopped in its tracks as long as you chant its name, forever devoted to it in prayer. The book is just filled with all of these smaller ideas that don’t seem entirely connected to main themes, but nonetheless capture my attention to make me see how they play into the rest of the story.
However, that’s where most of my praise will stop. I had a hard time reading this book and making sure I got to the end. The addition of a second point of view character was welcome at first, but I quickly lost interest in the plight of the Borders. They felt flat as a family and mostly served to expand on the worldbuilding and open up to the themes of The Endless Sea. Not necessarily a bad thing, but I found it tedious and it got in the way of Kindred’s tale. The POV issue was also somewhat hampered by it switching only between chapters, which I think would help ramp up the tension, but most of the time each chapter felt like it was lagging on the cliffhanger. The lack of information as the two halves started dialoguing didn’t really affect the plot all that much, and I found it frustrating.
The lack of character depth was particularly strong in the sequel. Even Kindred herself barely felt like the single rounded character. I did have a better appreciation for Ragged Sarah, but she could have had more time to really shine. The Borders Family, including the lead role Flitch, just felt tacked on. They had some fun quirks, and a really neat family history—again, I cannot overstate how much I love a FAMILY SECRET LABYRINTH, but I really didn’t care about their spat with the king. He was a king, and he was bad. Cool. The lack of character also blunted a lot of the conflict. This was a problem in The Forever Sea but it felt hyper-realized here. Conflicts lasted sentences. The characters didn't run into a wall, and take the time to reflect on things. Instead they bounced off the wall like a rubber ball and zoomed in the opposite direction. Resolutions came and went with the most minimal of set up. And that’s in a book that felt like it only truly got started over halfway through the book. There wasn’t any nuance or introspection, it just was, and now it is.
I think part of this stems from the nature of the two books. Now I will admit, I went into The Endless Song thinking it was the second in a trilogy, so my thoughts are definitely tinged. But the first book felt like the opener to an epic fantasy with a capital P Plot, and capital T Themes. But The Endless Song has a different plan in mind, one that is ostensibly good even, but the whiplash of expectations was strong and shaded my reading experience. The shift to smaller stories within the vast world felt right, but it made Kindred’s big adventure feel accidentally deflated instead of ritually sacrificed for greater effect. It didn’t hurt that the progression of the story didn’t lead the reader to the conclusion, it just dropped the piano on their head right before the climax. The book felt as if it was trying to be a story about the nature of having big stories and myths one follows, but it didn’t stick the landing and fell a full 360 degrees short.
I wanted to like The Endless Song and the stories Johnson was trying to sing, but it just fell flat for me. I didn’t feel the connection I felt in the first book, which brought to light all of the aspects that didn’t work. The sea change only made the experience more discordant. Maybe with time I might find some more appreciation, but right now I can’t say I enjoyed the second go around. If you loved The Forever Sea, you might find a lot to like about The Endless Song, but for me this was a frustrating experience.
Rating: The Endless Song - 5.5/10
An ARC of this book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The thoughts on this book are my own.
Sometimes I don't notice a book is part of a series and this is one of those cases. That said it's one of the most original world building in these years and the author delivers a story that I loved.
It's surely better read the series in order but the storytelling and the world building are magic.
Many thanks to the publisher for this arc, all opinions are mine
Rating: 5/5 stars
The Forever Sea was one of the most unique SSF-novels I read in 2021, so I couldn't wait to see where the author would take this world and story next. I'm happy to say that The Endless Song did NOT disappoint.
This sequel expanded on everything I loved in the first book; namely the lush and mysterious world, the magic, and the unique "wholesome pirate-y" vibes that I haven't encountered in any other series yet. It also fixed some of the lesser points of the first book; mostly by adding emotional depth to the characters and their interactions.
As this is a sequel, I won't go into details on the plot, but I highly recommend you pick up the first book if you're in the market for a unique SSF story with a vivid setting, engaging characters and depth, that's simultaneously easy to get into. I highly recommend it and am earerly anticipating the authors next work.
Many thanks to DAW and Netgalley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
The cover sold me on The Forever Sea, and the story and characters captured my heart! I was beyond excited to receive the chance to read the next book, The Endless Song, before its release and I literally dove right in! Picking up right where the first left off, you are once again immersed in wonderful and unique world building and imagery! Following Kindred on her quest to find out what lies below the prairie sea and all of the characters, old and new, whom bring this story to life was a treat! And did I mention the cover art? Because the second book art did not disappoint and is just as beautiful as the first!
Overall: Special thanks to NetGalley and DAW for providing me with an e-arc in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Rep: sapphic relationship, queer relationship family bonds
I thought that this was a good continuation from the first book! Some questions were answered but there is still a lot going on in this world that we dont know about and or getting hints at. I will say that the descriptions were a little over whelming at some points, making the book feel a little dense, but you can tell that the author has put a lot of time and effort into creating this world and the environmental issues going on.
I also like the character development that we got to see between Kindred and the people that she interacted with, as well and Flitch (someone who we barely saw in the first one).
And just like the first one, this one had quite the cliffhanger so we shall see what goes on in the final book!
I really enjoyed this book. The author did an amazing job of making the scenery almost as significant as the rest of the story. The description of the Seafloors and the world was intriguing and kept me pulled in. There was also lovely LGBTQ+ representation in this series. Flitch and Kindred get stuck between a crisis and searching for the truth. I felt for them while they tried to care for the ones they love and found myself wanting even more time with them, despite this being a lengthy novel. Looking forward to the next entry and hopefully spending more time with Kindred and Flitch.
I received an advance review copy for free through NetGalley, and I am leaving this review voluntarily
A wonderful followup to an already great first book. this world has me in a chokehold. It is some of the most interesting world creation ever. Floating ships in a sea of grass? queer? sign me up.
A great sequel. I really enjoyed this follow up and felt it was really well done. This world is imaginative and unlike anything I had read before. Highly recommend if you enjoy fantasy with a unique setting.
this was another wonderful entry in the Tales of the Forever Sea series, it was what I wanted from a sequel. I enjoy the way Joshua Phillip Johnson writes a science fiction novel. It had great elements of a good scifi and I could tell that this book improved from the previous one. It was what I was hoping for and really glad I could go on this journey.
“Over the generations, our family has added what little we can to these maps, keeping careful copies. If you are to step beyond Grandfather’s Library, you must take a map with you. The tunnels are dangerous enough even if you are to walk known paths through static rooms.”