Fans of C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia might have found a new favorite author. Seabird, the debut novel by Sherry Thompson, is reminiscent of Lewis's classic series in terms of the rich fantasy world the author has crafted, the teen protagonist, and the strong religious subtext.
The story centers around Cara Marshall, a teenager who is magically transported to the land of Narenta. Cara, selfish by nature, is told that she has been chosen as a champion who is charged with fighting the evil that threatens the land. Convinced there has been a mistake, and not at all interested in being a hero for these odd strangers, Cara sets off to find her way home. Circumstances and experience eventually take her in a different direction and, aided by a small cast of Narentans and some talking seabirds, Cara takes on the mantle of champion.
The strengths of this story begin with the mystical quality of the world. Narenta is mysterious and inviting, but also threatening and frightening. Thompson paints memorable pictures of many locales. The reader truly feels that he or she has been dropped into the middle of a tangible world. The religious themes are strongly present, but the book is not preachy and it reads like a secular book. Characterization is another strength, with Cara completing a visible character arc- something that is frequently lacking in contemporary fantasy.
Some might find the "black and white" presentation of good versus evil to be a negative. The bad guys are bad because they're bad and the good guys are good because they're good. Readers looking for a George R.R. Martin/Joe Abercrombie type story with all characters being varying shades of gray will find Thompson's traditional approach off-putting, but those who enjoy the CS Lewis type of story will be right at home.
Seabird, the first book of the Narentan Tumults, is a must-read for CS Lewis fans, and promises to be an enjoyable story for those who like traditional fantasy.