Sea of Ghosts (The Gravedigger Chronicles 1) by Alan Campbell [Book Review]

Dark-humored steam-fantasy science fiction

This is my first Alan Campbell novel ever but it will not be the last. Sea of Ghosts have a great first scene involving a book shop, a little lost girl, magicians, a dragon and the Gravediggers themselves. It is quite entertaining hearing them discuss how get the ceiling to fall on the magician especially since it probably would crumble a significant portion of the city. It makes you understand why the Emperor wants to be rid of them. Now the Emperor is a greedy heartless tyrant but that is beside the point.

The main protagonist Colonel Thomas Granger goes into hiding as a jailer to avoid the emperors clutches but unlucky for him his sense of compassion and loyalty will soon unravel his true identity.

The world is slowly sinking into the sea due to seabottles spread by the Unmer magicians before their defeat by the Empire. They used to enslave dragons with their magic but one of their own freed them and they could not resist the telepathic Haurstaf mercenaries the Empire bought to fight them.  Now the Haurstaf are paid to keep the Unmer imprisoned while the world continues to sink. If that was not enough the sea bottles pour out a substance known as Brine that turns human skin into shark skin and prolonged exposure turns you into sea people with no recollection of your previous life.  It is an interesting mixture of fantasy and science that Alan cooked up here that tie into the entropy and the end of the universe theories.

It is also a good narration and at least one character you can relate to. Tomas is jaded and cynical when the story begins but he learns that behind his rough exterior beats a caring heart. He also has a dark kind of humor I like. Unfortunately the other characters are sketchier. The banter is okay to good.

The story is fast paced after a slow beginning and starts in a steampunk sword & sorcery land but evolve to a mixture of high fantasy and science fiction. I am a bit of two minds about the plot, it allures to me as a vivid reader of science fiction but I think many fantasy fans might have a problem with it but that’s just my opinion.

I found the firsts Gravedigger novel to be an amusing adventure and a great start of Alan Campell’s new series. The blend of steampunk, high fantasy and science fiction works great for me but I would have liked a bit more about the characters. With that said I recommend it.

Book Information

Sea of Ghosts (The Gravedigger Chronicles book 1) by Alan Campbell – Tor UK 2011 – Bought from Amazon UK | US

When the last of the Gravediggers, an elite imperial infiltration unit, are disbanded and hunted down by the emperor they once served, munitions expert Colonel Thomas Granger takes refuge in the unlikeliest of places. He becomes a jailer in Ethugra – a prison city of poison-flooded streets and gaols in which a million enemies of the empire are held captive. But when Granger takes possession of two new prisoners, he realises that he can’t escape his past so readily. Ianthe is a young girl with an extraordinary psychic talent. A gift that makes her unique in a world held to ransom by the powerful Haurstaf – the sisterhood of telepaths who are all that stand between the Empire and the threat of the Unmer, the powerful civilization of entropic sorcerers and dragon-mounted warriors. In this war-torn land, she promises to make Granger an extremely wealthy man, if he can only keep her safe from harm. This is what Granger is best at. But when other factions learn about Ianthe’s unique ability, even Granger’s skills of warfare are tested to their limits. While, Ianthe struggles to control the powers that are growing in ways no-one thought were possible. Another threat is surfacing: out there, beyond the bitter seas, an old and familiar enemy is rising – one who, if not stopped, will drown the world and all of humanity with it..