Fun Worldbuilding, Superheroes, and Lotsa Action
Through the sewers and cobblestone streets of a psuedo-Victorian fantasy world, Reese leads an outlawed band on the run from police because of the special magical abilities they possess. The action almost never slows as Reese frantically throws plans together and tries to rescue as many of the “abilitied” as possible.
She seems to be fighting a losing battle — as more abilitied people flee to safety on the mainland, Reese is left with fewer agents in her “army.” Then, the man “responsible” for this whole mess falls into her hands – and Reese is forced to decide how to deal with events, what she can honestly do with him, and how she’s always wanted this conflict to end.
I hate to say too much, since part of the fun is watching the interesting world-building and backstories unwind (which they do at just the right pace).
Reese is an interesting character. The nature and utility of her ability are well introduced through exposition. While she leans toward the “anxiously over-think” end of the leadership spectrum, she possesses enough nuance to allow other emotional and cognitive issues full play.
The romance that weaves through the book was refreshing. Reese was not one of these heroines whose entire existence and focus for worrying revolves around their emotional life, nor was she so absorbed in her role as rebel commander that she is completely immune to the stability and companionship the right man could bring to her life. Reese’s struggle over who to trust – and her desire for control over events – also play into the romantic subplot, allowing this element to feed into and enhance the larger arc, rather than hijacking the rest of the story.
In the end, many questions remain unanswered. What is the villain’s motive for his sadistic torture of his enemies? How does he decide who his enemies are?
And then there’s Reese. She finishes on a note of emotional stability. But what did she learn in her crisis of self-reliance? Did she lean on others because she had no other options, or is she finally emerging from her struggle over control?
Ms. Shafer doesn’t feel the need to answer all these questions, and perhaps they don’t need answering within the confines of the story. There’s plenty of material should Ms. Shafer decide to pen a sequel, yet at the same time the characters’ lives are moving forward in a positive direction, physically and mentally. Some of these questions couldn’t be answered by our point-of-view character, Reese, so the author doesn’t strain the continuity to reveal the answers. The larger history of the world – and the characters – isn’t over, but Ms. Shafer wrapped up the story she wanted to tell.
Deaths and disasters pile up enough to maintain the interest, and Reese’s personal history teases out at the proper rate to avoid irritation or overload. A Sea of Purple Ink is probably more “summer blockbuster” than literary thought-piece…and yet it’s got enough character-depth to keep niggling in our minds after we’ve reached the last page.
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