The Fourth Element #1
by Kat Ross
Published on March 26, 2016 by Acorn Publishing
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
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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 leash 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…
You often hear that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but lets be honest. Many of us are guilty of the practice. The cover is what entices you to pick a book up out of a stack in the bookstore. You don’t always have someone in your ear detailing the synopsis. So I’ll freely admit that the cover of The Midnight Sea is why I considered purchasing it (though I promise I read the description before actually buying it).
This purchase on a whim was an excellent decision.
The Midnight Sea is the first in a new fantasy series by Kat Ross telling the tale of Nazafareen, a girl from the mountains with vengeance in her heart and the gift to do the job. In her world, magic and power exists in the form of daevas, creatures believed to be domesticated from their evil counterparts but always bound to a human. Their thoughts merge and together, human and daeva hunt the malevolent Druj. An interesting idea, drawing on stories not commonly touched upon in young adult fiction.
I liked Nazafareen, but I didn’t love her. She joined the Water Dogs — an elite group of human/daeva bonded pairs who protect the empire from the Druj — because of her sister’s death at the hands of one of the creatures. For years, she held that nightmare in her mind while training and though I understand that had to be a traumatizing experience, she doesn’t ever seem to get better until she gains a distraction in the form of her daeva, Darius. Who, of course, she’s attracted to. Because we can’t have a female/male pairing in a young adult novel without romance. Its only saving grace is that the love isn’t instantaneous and builds over the course of the novel.
I am thankful, however, that the triangle wasn’t a love triangle (for those of you who have already read The Midnight Sea, you know how weird that would be…).
My issue lies in that those two facts about Nazafareen, her sister’s death being a motivator and her attraction to Darius, are really the only things you learn about her that play any significant role. Occasionally her clan’s name, the Four-Legs Clan, is mentioned but not much more than that. Nazafareen never felt quite real to me.
Her daeva was much more interesting. He’s more powerful than the other daeva with a very strict idea about cleansing himself of his “evil nature.” Darius fights his own demons and had a life before the Water Dogs that left its mark. Of all the characters, I wanted to know more about him and the time before he bonded with Nazafareen.
I’d also like to briefly mention Ilyas, who trained Nazafareen and sought to protect her even when she wasn’t in need. His character was so beautifully written and he made the perfect antagonist. Not villain, antagonist. He always believed he was right in what he did regardless of the outcome. I rooted for him while also hating him, an unusual combination that kept my interest.
Though the characters were written fairly well, I never really had the chance to know them. The story moved quickly, almost rushed, but still flowed smoothly. Sadly, the speed gave plenty of time for action but none for anything else, no moments to bring the characters out and provide the reader a chance to feel something for them. I was disconnected the entire story, reading about these people but never really caring what happened to them. I think if the story had slowed down and spent more time on the moments between the action, my opinion would be different.
In its favor, The Midnight Sea featured an intriguing setting in ancient history, but not as an alternate world. The ties to the ancient Mediterranean and surrounding region were prominent but this isn’t your typical historical fantasy and in fact exists in its own world based around our own. I found the setting and workings of the world the most interesting part of this book and wanted more on the daevas and Druj.
My hope is to see more character development in the sequel, Blood of the Prophet, and maybe more of the world’s history as well. But one thing is for certain: I will be reading book 2.