Book Reviews,  Coming of Age,  Fantasy,  Magical Realm

Book Review: Skyseeker’s Princess (Songs of Si’Empra, #1)

Skyseeker's Princess (Songs of Si’Empra, #1)Skyseeker’s Princess by Miriam Verbeek
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Set on Si’Empra, a beautiful but harsh Antarctic island in the Southern Sea, Skyseeker’s Princess introduces us to Ellen, a member of the island’s royal family. Ellen’s destiny was to become the next ruler, though she’d much rather be a storyteller and serve her country through song and poetry about this magical land and its people.

If this sounds like a typical princess fantasy story, let me dash those hopes right now. Ellen’s destiny fails her when her horribly evil brother Redel takes the throne. Now that I’ve mentioned Redel, I need to give a trigger warning. Redel makes Ellen’s life intolerable by abusing her in harsh and unspeakable ways. There’s no reasoning with him, as his intents towards her are fueled by madness. Author Miriam Verbeek writes with an unflinching pen about Redel’s abuse of Ellen, but also knows when to stop and move on.

After a particularly unsavory round of Redel’s abuse, Ellen escapes with the help of a ‘glasaur’ named Rosa, a fantastical bird-beast she’s bonded to. But she can’t escape the after effects of Redel’s abuse; she suffers from depression and often indulges in self-harm. Will Ellen choose exile and pursue her storytelling dream, or find a way to fight back and take the throne? Can this broken girl mend herself and her island home?

There are three classes of people on Si’Empra. The Skyseekers, like Ellen, are the upper class. The Crystalmakers are the middle-class, and just like in our reality, they do most of the real work. At the bottom of the heap are the strange Webcleaners who seem to do exactly what their title suggests.

As Ellen explores the villages of Si’Empra, she learns how her island home actually functions. She discovers how the lower classes contribute to society, and what the people must have stockpiled to survive the coming winter. To her dismay, she realizes that under Redel’s corrupt reign, Si’Empra is floundering, with no real hope in sight. She wants to help her people, but how? Finding the answer to that question is the crux of the story.

If this still sounds like classic high fantasy to you, there’s another twist I haven’t mentioned yet. Si’Empra doesn’t exist on a fantasy world or in ancient times. The story takes place on present-day Earth. This means that modern cargo ships regularly come and go, computer and cellphone technology exists, helicopters are used in tracking the escaped princess, and there is even a mention of a car being shipped in to the island. This is our world, as we know it today, but with a special, magical twist somewhere near Antarctica.

Skyseeker’s Princess is the first volume in the “Songs of Si’Empra” three book series. The entire series is available at Amazon. I noticed that the book has had various covers since its first publication. The name of the series and the book number are prominent on each cover though, so you should have no trouble selecting the correct title.

Additional Reading
A few chapters in, I realized that I had very little knowledge of what life might be like south of the Antarctic Circle. I bookmarked my page and went to do a bit of googling. I found these three articles to be helpful in picturing Ellen’s homeland.

Forget city breaks: Give me life and death on South Georgia

Do People Live in Antarctica?

Antarctic Islands

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Lori Alden Holuta lives between the cornfields of Mid-Michigan, where she grows vegetables and herbs when she’s not writing, editing, or playing games with a cat named Chives.

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