I don’t remember where I first heard about Bernie Anés Paz and his unique Cradle of Sea and Soil. I’m glad I did, though. So, thank you to whoever it was who mentioned this to me and put Anés Paz on my radar. I’ve mentioned before how I’m constantly looking for unique and interesting fantasy in fascinating secondary worlds. I’m especially taken with worlds that feature non-western or non-typical fantasy settings. Reading the back of the book blurb makes it obvious that Cradle of Sea and Soil is going to check that box.
The first thing that you notice with Bernie Anés Paz’ novel is that the world is incredibly unique. Down to the level of flora and fauna, this is a strange and fascinating world. It isn’t going too far to compare it to Brandon Sanderson’s Roshar in terms of uniqueness and the influence that the world itself has on the story. If you love interesting worlds, this is going to be one that you enjoy.
It’s no secret how much I love world building and especially deep magic systems. Cradle of Sea and Soil delivers on both counts. As I’ve already mentioned, the world itself is strange and fascinating. There are huge trees and forests on an archipelago, the people live in a certain sort of harmony with the land, but there is the Stillness, an enemy of creation itself that seeps from the Primordial Wound. This Stillness can produce halja, strange beasts that are a danger and menace to individuals and the world itself. Now add in some very cool magic, a race of so-called halfborn who share traits with animals of the forest, or even the forest itself (and who are ostracized as a result), and you have the makings of a novel that checks nearly all my boxes. Another element that I really enjoyed was the relationship between the two main characters, Colibrí and Narune. The interactions between mother and son felt real. The struggles they each face and the way they grow, both together and—as any parent can tell you—apart, were poignant. There were also moments during Narune’s story, which has certain coming-of-age elements, where I found myself having to pause for a moment and compose myself before reading further. It was wonderful. With great characters, amazing world building, intriguing magic, and plenty of mysteries to hook you, there is a lot to love about Cradle of Sea and Soil.
There isn’t much that I didn’t like, and yet the couple small issues I had with the novel do impact my perception of it. The first issue for me was that the early going felt a little like a slog. Some of that is down to the world building. It takes time to set up a world this different from our own. That’s understandable. But there were moments when it felt like perhaps information was being dumped. A few scenes felt like they were there to tell me information, rather than show the world to me. On its own, this would be a fairly minor complaint. The other issue I had was the number of typos throughout the novel. These mostly took the form of repeated words in sentences or using “also” and “too” together or that sort of thing. There were also a few grammatical errors or sentences that could have been tightened up. Perhaps those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, but I found myself noticing the typos and other editing issues throughout the story. It’s frustrating, because the story is wonderful and would be that much better with tightened prose and fewer typos.
For those highly annoyed by a less than fully polished manuscript, you may find Cradle of Sea and Soil frustrating. But I’d encourage you to give it a try nonetheless. There is so much to love here, from characters to magic to a one-of-a-kind setting. There are action sequences and character scenes from this novel that will both stick with me for a while. This makes for a solid start to what promises to be an engaging series.