SEAFIRE - by Natalie C. Parker

feminism - fantasy - ya - pirates - adventureGoodreads | Book Depository
Published: August 2018 - Razorbill.
Genres: Young adult / adventure / fantasy / romance.
Pages: 374.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Violence.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Penguin Random House SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review. I voluntarily read & reviewed this copy. All thoughts are my own.

After her family is killed by corrupt warlord Aric Athair and his bloodthirsty army of Bullets, Caledonia Styx is left to chart her own course on the dangerous and deadly seas. She captains her ship, the Mors Navis, with a crew of girls and women just like her, who have lost their families and homes because of Aric and his men. The crew has one mission: stay alive, and take down Aric's armed and armoured fleet. But when Caledonia's best friend and second-in-command barely survives an attack thanks to help from a Bullet looking to defect, Caledonia finds herself questioning whether to let him join their crew. Is this boy the key to taking down Aric Athair once and for all . . . or will he threaten everything the women of the Mors Navis have worked for?

Seafire is the feminist pirate adventure the bookish world has been thirsting for. I know I have.

The prose is simply glorious, knitted together with emotion, character, and atmosphere, and sweeps you into its current from paragraph one. The powerful dialogue and rich descriptions breathe soul into every setting and interaction, and each sentence is so impeccably crafted. I'm being honest when I say that I was lost in the quality and beauty of Parker's writing from page one.

The plot in one word? EPIC. The pulse-pounding action, the roar of the waves, the screams of battle, all leap to life to deliver a heart-racing story. The action scenes are so well choreographed, and the finely-chosen details add to every scene, instead of dragging them down. I also love how meticulously researched the whole seafaring aspect is; Parker is specific, she clearly knows the ship and its crew inside out, and this knowledge and backstory seeps through onto the pages. Knowing what you're writing about can make all the difference between a vivid, fully-realised story, and one that isn't. And this one is.

  Remember, when they call you girl, they're trying to tell you something. They're trying to tell you that they're more than you, that the body you're in makes you less. But you know, and I know, that you're exactly what you need to be."

Very rarely do I fall head over heels in love with a cast before page 25 of a book. But this book? And this cast? I'm obsessed. Caledonia and her diverse, all-female crew are so profoundly realised and so vividly written that it's not long before you know exactly who everyone is and what role they play. You get their backstories and their histories bit by bit as the plot progresses (instead of getting an info-dump on page 2), and you soon see why everyone's fighting and what for; Parker makes sure that every girl has her motivation and her wound and her talents, and she lets us see this at a gradual pace. This is exactly what makes you love them. Within a few seconds, you feel like you know them. I kid you not when I say that I was crying on page 80 because a character died. And that's only 80 pages into the novel! Pisces, Lace, Redtooth, Amina, Cala......all of them so fierce and so vulnerable and so soft-hearted - I'm not often enamoured with book characters, and yet I would follow these girls to the ends of the ocean.

Characterisation is excellent. It's actually phenomenal what Parker achieves, because I wish more authors did. Very rarely are motivations so strong, backstories so fleshed-out, characters so clearly introduced, details so precise, to make a reader support a character from the moment they're introduced. It shows skill, and more than that it shows understanding.

Friendship is one of the aspects I was most looking forward to when I read the synopsis of this novel. Happy to say, it's fantastic. I absolutely adore the friendships between Cala and her crew and how the girls are like sisters to each other; how they might fight and disagree but in the end they always have each other's backs. There's also a deep history and very real respect behind these friendships, which makes them authentic and mature. Every human relationship has its ups and downs, and Parker's characters go through that, too.
I especially love Cala and Pisces' relationship. Those girls shared a horrific tragedy that killed their families, and because of that they have a special bond that's only developed with time. Pisces knows Cala's demons, Cala knows how far Pisces will push herself, and both of them are always there to pick each other up. Theirs is definitely a female friendship with which to be reckoned.

Seafire is as electric and oceanic as it sounds. Blood and waves swirl amidst epic pirate battles, girls are as fierce as they are soft-hearted, and friendship is the unbreakable bond that ties everything together. 
This is one YA adventure I won't soon forget. 

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