The Primordial Wound has festered with corruption since the birth of the world. The island tribes have warred against its spawn for just as long—and they are losing.
Burdened by the same spiritual affliction that drove the first Halfborn insane, Colibrí lives in exile with little more than her warrior oaths and her son. But when Colibrí discovers corrupted land hidden away by sorcery, those same oaths drive her to find answers in an effort to protect the very people who fear her.
Narune dreams of earning enough glory to show that he and his mother Colibrí are nothing like the Halfborn that came before them. Becoming a mystic will give him the strength he needs, but first, Narune will need to prove himself worthy in a trial of skill and honor.
Together, Colibrí and Narune must learn to become the champions their people need—and face the curse threatening to scour away their spirits with fury.
This is a very fitting book for me to be reviewing for SPFM, as although it was a book that was already on my radar, I won my copy of it during the last SPFM. Cradle of Sea & Soil caught my attention for several reasons, one being the stunning cover (and also fox/coyote-people which are something that I’ve always loved across all forms of media, then there was the fact that the main characters were a mother and son duo, and I am always a fan of books that turns away from the trope of having the main protagonists motivated by their parents’ death and then there was the setting.
I was ready to relocate to this world within the first few pages…
Well maybe a holiday there, because it is not the safest place to live, but oh boy was I pulled into the world that Paz has created. Firstly, I loved the fact that this was both Ownvoices, and heavily inspired and styled on cultures and histories that we just don’t get to see enough of in fantasy, and when it’s as captivating and rich as here, you have to ask why? That inspiration and the Caribbean styled world was woven into every aspect of the story – the plot, the characters, and the setting were all intricate parts of it, and Paz weaves them together until it’s impossible to have one without the other, and that is fantastic because it pulls you into the world, makes you open your eyes and ears, and pay attention to every detail, to feel it, and to learn. The worldbuilding makes that a delight, because the author filled the pages with such rich layers of detail – from the wonderous such as wolves made out of moss (which I just love the imagery of), to the little details of life and familiarity of living on these islands and in the shade of the forest, and wrapped it all in some truly vivid descriptions that meant I didn’t even need to close my eyes to imagine myself there.
The rainforest was a thing of beauty. I’ve always felt as though there was an inherent feeling of magic or otherworldliness being around trees and forests, and Paz has captured that here in truly spectacular fashion. Not, only do we have the vibrancy of a jungle, with elements such as the sounds of the coqui frog drawn from the real world, as well as the love you can feel the author has for this world and setting bringing that to a different level. But, the creativity and imagery of the ‘Tree-Lords’ and how they stretch out their roots to form root-roads, forming not only paths through the forest itself, but connecting this world of islands, until it feels as though everything is part of a one, even when you step from the trees to sandy beaches, or into the villages. I would honestly have quite happily spent the entire book just exploring the forest and travelling the root-roads with the characters, and even days after finishing this book it’s imagery that’s stuck with me.
What really hooked me on this world was how everything – even the fantastical elements of magic, and creatures, were so deeply rooted (no tree pun intended) in nature. Everything, from the ‘Halfborn’ themselves to the Flow of life and magic, to the coral lanterns, and the powers that the Spiritseers can use are all linked in with nature – and Paz has created a unique, and interconnected ecosystem. It also makes the Primordial Wound, and the corruption that bleeds from it, killing off the land and creating unnatural creatures, seem so much more dangerous and painful because we are invited into this world that lives and breathes, drawn into it, until it feels as though we are as much a part of the fabric of the world, and then we see it not only under threat, but dying – and you can’t help but want the characters to fight for the future, and to win, because it’s a world you want to preserve.
‘No one knew what cruelty had inflicted the Primordial Wounds, but the land’s cry of pain after bearing it had also been the cry of its birth.’
As you may be able to tell, I loved the worldbuilding, but the characters were another standout feature for me, especially the relationship between Narune and his mother, our two main characters. As mentioned above, this is not the type of relationship we get to see explored that often, and certainly not as in-depth as it is here, and I found the bond between mother and child and how it worked in this world both fascinating and a little disturbing – especially when we are shown the difference between how Colibrí treats her son, and the other halfborn is treated by her mother. It’s a wonderful exploration of family connections, with an unusual but interesting juxtaposition of a child coming of age, alongside a character who has already experienced so much of life and trying to find connections through insecurities, differing dreams and all the messiness that comes with being a family, but its also a consideration of consent, and learning to let the other chose their path and when to relinquish control. The relationship between Narune and Colibrí was beautifully written, and the emotion was captured perfectly – and with added banter.
‘Colibri decided that being a good mother also meant being a liar, for it seemed that love showed the world as it should be, and not as it actually was.’
This care is also shown with the other characters, and I particularly enjoyed Narune’s relationships with his friends as well, and there is was a range of cultures and interests represented, and Paz does an excellent job of making even the opposing sides incredibly human. There is not flat black and white, everyone has their own motivations and goals, and relationships and interactions are fluid, mistakes are made, communication is not always simple, and it just makes it feel all the more believable. Then there is the fact that the LGBTQIA which was another aspect of this book I really liked was just part of the world. There is a character with two fathers and multiple characters and relationships that fall under that umbrella, and as with everything in this book, it’s just a natural part of the world, introduced without fanfare and as part of the flow.
The writing is fantastic, particularly when it comes to descriptions of the world, and the magic and action scenes and Paz knows how to appeal to all the senses and fully invest you in what is on the page. He is able to take the mystical and make it believable, take the characters and world and breathe life into them. However, this does create a somewhat slower-paced story outwith the action scenes, and I will say that there were a few places where it felt as though some of the details and information could have been a little better distributed, both for the sake of pacing, but also for plot purposes – as it felt as though some aspects were explained a little too late, or that we were being told something for a second time. However, that aside, this was a book that was incredibly difficult to set aside, just because I was so invested in the world and characters, and when the action did happen, it was gripping and beautifully written.
Cradle of Sea & Soil was one of those books that I reached the end of, and was both looking for more (I would love to spend more time in this world) and also asking myself why I had taken so long to pick it up. This is definitely going to be on my list of favourite worlds for quite some time, and for anyone who loves forest settings, this is one for your TBR. A fantastic book for anyone who loves rich worldbuilding, character-driven fantasy and who wants to step beyond the walls of euro-centric fantasy.
About the Reviewer
Rowena Andrews spent her childhood searching for Dragons and talking to animals and started turning that into words when she was bored in class. She wrote her first book at fourteen and while it lives forever in the bottom of the sock drawer, the encouragement from her English Teacher meant the writing bug took hold and never went away.
Rowena has a BSc in Geography and a PG Diploma in Coastal and Maritime Societies and Cultures. She moved to Scotland for University, fell in love with the place and never left, and now lives and works on the east Fife coast.
When she’s not writing or reading, she’s hoarding dice and playing Dungeons & Dragons, and submitting to the whims of a demanding cat and dog duo.
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About The Ravyn’s Words (The Citadel #1)
Fate belongs to the Gods. They Weave it. Sing it. Harvest it.
Ravyn was born between life and death, free of the weave of fate. She dreams of distant places and grand deeds far from the eyes of the Gods that she refuses to believe in.
Eleyn is thrice-sworn to the Gods, marked for death and cursed with the knowledge that the Gods are stirring and what that will mean for the world she will leave behind. Unless she can change things, and that means twisting the weave of fate.
But fate is a dangerous thing, especially when it is stolen from the Gods.