The Midnight Sea by Kat Ross (The Fourth Element #1)
Published May 10, 2016 by Acorn Publishing, 261 pp.
They are the light against the darkness.
The steel against the necromancy of the Druj.
And they use demons to hunt demons….
Nazafareen lives for revenge. A girl of the isolated Four-Legs Clan, all she knows about the King’s elite Water Dogs is that they bind wicked creatures called daevas to protect the empire from the Undead. But when scouts arrive to recruit young people with the gift, she leaps at the chance to join their ranks. To hunt the monsters that killed her sister.
Scarred by grief, she’s willing to pay any price, even if it requires linking with a daeva named Darius. Human in body, he’s possessed of a terrifying power, one that Nazafareen controls. But the golden cuffs that join them have an unwanted side effect. Each experiences the other’s emotions, and human and daeva start to grow dangerously close.
As they pursue a deadly foe across the arid waste of the Great Salt Plain to the glittering capital of Persepolae, unearthing the secrets of Darius’s past along the way, Nazafareen is forced to question his slavery—and her own loyalty to the empire. But with an ancient evil stirring in the north, and a young conqueror sweeping in from the west, the fate of an entire civilization may be at stake…
How goes it?
The Midnight Sea may have started out a bit hazy for me, but damn was the last half so great. The elements of this are familiar – girl suddenly becomes a central figure in a conflict she had no idea existed, a demon pair, warring kingdoms – but I think Kat Ross does a good job of putting her own spin on these that this makes for an interesting read! Also is not the cover gorgeous!
The Midnight Sea does not kid around – it throws you right into the action. The book opens with Nazafareen’s sister’s death by Druj, and when sometime later the King’s Water Dogs (an army of sorts, consisting of humans and bonded daevas) come across her clan, she joins them. In Nazafareen’s training to become a Water Dog she meets Ilyas, captain, and his daeva, Tommas; Tijah, a girl from the desert that shares a close bond with her daeva, and sometime later, Darius, her own daeva. Everything is right in the world, until a breakout in one of the daeva prisons leads them in a chase across the desert, up and down snowy mountains, and into the Kingdom’s capital. If before Nazafareen and Darius were just small wheels in a larger machine, now they’ve become central figures in the kingdom’s future.
Straightaway you land right smack in the middle of the mountains with Nazafareen. There is snow and wind whipping all around, and for a while I struggled to get my bearings, but I didn’t mind. The pace is brisk especially in the beginning – speeding through Nazafareen’s training and introduction to the Water Dogs – but it doesn’t lack details, and only somewhat starts to slow down, as if in a fast forward of sorts, when we meet Nazafareen’s (girl this is a handful to type, bless Kat Ross’ soul) daeva, Darius. There is no outright attraction, although it is apparent that daevas are all somewhat good-looking and attractive. It’s more like an uneasy alliance, since the daevas are all bonded by a cuff and basically have no choice, but the good thing (I think?) is that the pair can feel what each other is feeling.
I was only “okay” about this at first, but the second half and the way Kat Ross handled familiar, if not cliche, elements made me like this more. The character development is also good, I think – by the end Nazafareen and Darius have to start from scratch, with the knowledge that what they know about how the bond between daevas and humans works is basically nil, and everything isn’t so black and white, unlike how Ilyas viewed it.
I think the turning point in me actually liking this was when Ilyas went psycho on Nazafareen in an effort to sever her bond with Darius. My only thought in that moment was, “Kat Ross went there, damn son.”
Overall, I’d say I like this! The setting is based on West Asia, and the author notes that she takes inspiration from actual historical figures and ancient kingdoms, so I guess this also inspired me to brush up on my Asian history.
Twists on familiar tropes and characters make The Midnight Sea a good read, I think. If you can get through the slow first half, I think you’ll find the payoff in the second part worth it!