Book Review: THE FOREVER SEA by Joshua Philip Johnson

Title in white on an image of a ship floating on grass
Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: Adult
Star Rating: 3 stars
Series: yes - first book


Book cover for THE FOREVER SEA: title in white about a girl looking at a ship floating on grass

On the never-ending, miles-high expanse of prairie grasses known as the Forever Sea, Kindred Greyreach, hearthfire keeper and sailor aboard harvesting vessel The Errant, is just beginning to fit in with the crew of her new ship when she receives devastating news. Her grandmother—The Marchess, legendary captain and hearthfire keeper—has stepped from her vessel and disappeared into the sea.

But the note she leaves Kindred suggests this was not an act of suicide. Something waits in the depths, and the Marchess has set out to find it.

To follow in her grandmother’s footsteps, Kindred must embroil herself in conflicts bigger than she could imagine: a water war simmering below the surface of two cultures; the politics of a mythic pirate city floating beyond the edges of safe seas; battles against beasts of the deep, driven to the brink of madness; and the elusive promise of a world below the waves. Kindred finds that she will sacrifice almost everything—ship, crew, and a life sailing in the sun—to discover the truth of the darkness that waits below the Forever Sea.

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


THE FOREVER SEA is a debut set in an interesting world, but a story that ultimately failed to capture my attention.

The world is why I bought this book – ships sailing on a grass sea miles deep and full of mysterious creatures. It is a really cool concept, and the Sea itself is both beautifully inviting and also dangerously mysterious. It’s evoked so well, with a lot of atmosphere – the best bit of the book for me.

It’s clearly an allegory for climate change with these strange dead patches appearing (though the cause and solution is an unsolved mystery by the end). Plus, the conflicts in the book are over water, which is very prescient. It wasn’t an “in-your-face” message, but rather part of the tapestry of the book. I prefer books that make me think and challenge me on a subconscious level so that it lingers, rather than being slapped in the face with a message and told how to think.

I like chunky books as a rule, but sometimes they feel very long and with not much happening in them. This is one such book. Oh, sure, there is plenty of action, but the pace is so slow and there’s not much actual plot happening. When I typed out the plot (which I have deleted for spoilers), it only ran to a few lines, and that did mean it felt really rather slow and stretched out.

There are these little interludes where the story teller’s day is followed, and it just didn’t feel like it added something. It was a narrative framing device unconnected to the actual story and characters in any meaningful way, so I wasn’t interested in him at all – it just felt like added words to get through.

One of the reasons I think this book was a personal disappointment was because the blurb and start of the book seems to imply Kindred will go after her grandmother, go deliberately on an adventure into the Sea after her. That does happen. She thinks from time to time about her missing grandmother and her words, and it influences one decision, but the book is not about her going exploring. Given that was the expectation set up by the marketing, it was a bit disappointing that this didn’t happen. The ending is her setting off for the deep.

I am not sure if I will keep reading this series. The slow, not-much-happening-and-yet-requiring-a-lot-of-words style is not to my taste, so we’ll see.

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