Thursday, February 8, 2018

Of Sea and Stone By Kate Avery Ellison|Review & Blog Tour



Of Sea and Stone
Published by Createspace on February 18th, 2014
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Pages: 260
Format: ePub
Rating: 
Aemi lives in a village carved from stones and surrounded by sea. She wins spear-throwing competitions in disguise and earns slaps from her spoiled mistress by talking back. She hates being a slave. She survives by remembering her mother's tales of home, a paradise called Perilous.
Aemi intends to find it.
But then, black ships rise from the sea in the night. Aemi is captured and taken to Itlantis, an underwater world of cities of glass, floating gardens, and strange and wonderful technology.
She is determined to escape, even if it means conspiring with fellow prisoner Nol, who fills her with equal parts anger and desire. Even if it means impersonating her mistress. Even if it means fleeing into the territory of the Dron, the bloodthirsty barbarians of the deep.
But when Aemi witnesses firsthand an attack by the Dron, she realizes not all is as it seems below the sea.
And Perilous might be closer than she thinks. 

My Thoughts

This book is a tidal wave! I didn't know what to expect when I first began reading this book. I was drawn in immediately. I mean, who doesn't want to read a story about an underwater village! I was not expecting this book to contain elements of mystery, which is what I think initially grabbed my attention from the start. Ellision's humor was spot on. Numerous times, I found myself wiping tears from my eyes due to laughter and painful emotions. There are so many unexpected turns that your mind is racing to keep up until the very end. The final twist was definitely a jaw dropper. The world building is picture perfect. I could easily imagine the underwater world and its inhabitants.

Of Sea and Stone is a unique story about a girl fighting for her freedom. It will not leave you disappointed.



EXCERPTS

EXCERPT ONE – The Contest
In this excerpt, Aemi can’t resist entering a contest against her least favorite person in the village—even though she is forbidden to as a female and a slave.
Haven’t they called your name yet?” I asked.
Kit shook his head.
I’m going to lose,” he said, swiveling his head to look from me to the target set at the opposite end of the rock. “You know what happens to the one who finishes last.”
I did know. While the winner had the honor of lighting the pyre, the loser was punished with six lashes across his back and no food from the feast. It was a cruel tradition, started by the spear master and meant to motivate the boys.
I looked at my best friend with a sinking feeling. I’d seen him throw.
You throw better than any of them,” Kit said. “You would win if you were allowed to compete.”
Remind me why women can’t enter this competition?” I muttered.
She couldn’t win even if skinny girl thralls were allowed to compete,” a voice said behind us, the tone mocking.
I turned my head and saw Tagatha leaning against the stone arch that led to the Village of the Rocks deep within the tunneled caves of the island.
Nol will win,” she said with a haughty smile. “He’s the best with a spear.”
Tagatha sauntered past us to join the rest of the crowd, her sea green tunic fluttering in the wind and her anklets of sea shells jingling, and I choked on the injustice of it all.
The spear master called Kit’s name. My friend froze and looked at me in a panic.
My father,” he whispered. “He’s going to be furious. I should have practiced more. I should have tried harder. I should have—”
Stop,” I said. “Give me your shirt and mask.”
Kit stared at me. “What?”
Kitran, son of Karth,” the spear master bellowed again.
Your shirt and mask,” I repeated, and he pulled his shirt off and thrust both it and the mask at me. Kit always did whatever I said without question, a strange dynamic for a wealthy boy to have with a thrall, but it was the way things were between us.
I yanked the fabric over my head and pulled up the hood of the tunic so it covered my eyes, then settled the mask over my face. I could walk like Kit. I’d done it a thousand times when we were children playing at mimicry. He had a distinctive way of dragging one foot every few steps.
After grabbing the spear from Kit’s hand, I started toward the line of boys.
The broad stone ground of the Training Rock was warm and smooth beneath my bare feet. A salt-scented wind teased the tendrils of hair escaping from beneath my hood. I straightened my spine and lifted my chin as if I belonged as I approached the group of boys and young men, who stood in a haphazard line before the target of wood.
I took my place at the end of the line.
The smell of salt filled the air. Gulls screamed overhead as the first boy drew back his arm and threw his spear. It glanced off the target and clattered on the rock. His face creased with disgust, and he turned away. The second boy threw, and the tip of his spear embedded itself in the corner of the target.
I was better at throwing than any of these boys. I’d always been good at it, better than anyone else my age when I was small enough to swim in the shallows with the free children and sleep in my mother’s arms at night. My mother had beamed with pride to see me throw, and so I continued to hone my skill even after she was gone. Sometimes I went out to the edge of the rocks that formed a ring around the sea like a circle of stone arms, and I caught fish to put on the fire so Nealla and I could eat more than the meager food we were provided for our meals. I was better than all of them, but being a girl banned me from participating in the competition.
At the front of the line stood Nol, the oldest in the competition and the favorite of the crowd. He cast a glance my way, but didn’t look long. I exhaled as he turned his head away.
One by one, the boys threw their spears. They were still learning, and few were good yet. The aim of a fisherman was impeccable, once he’d mastered the art, but these were just boys.
I swallowed as the boy beside me took his turn, and then it was mine. I stepped forward and hefted my spear. The weight was familiar in my hand. I inhaled, squinted at the target, and threw.
The spear buried itself at the edge of the middle circle. A few of the boys cried out in appreciation. Sweat broke out across my back.
I hadn’t meant to throw quite so well.
Nol turned his head again to look at me. He wasn’t stupid, even if he was infuriating. He’d seen Kit throw before.
I held my breath, and he looked away.
Those who had struck the target gathered their spears and tried again. There were only a few of us, and the number rapidly dwindled. I threw poorly, but my spear seemed to swerve to meet the target against my will, and the rest of the boys threw with the skill of drunken monkeys. Finally, only Nol and I were left.
My heart drummed in my chest. I didn’t dare look at Nol or the crowd.
You’ve improved, Kit,” Nol said as he passed me to retrieve his spear.
It was clear by the way he strode toward the target that he thought victory was assured for him. He barely spared me a glance as he drew back his arm to throw.
The crowd waited, breathless.
Nol threw first. His spear struck the inner circle of the target, and he straightened, pleased. I could tell by his posture that he thought he’d won. The necklace of shell he always wore tinkled faintly as he turned to me. He yanked off his mask, and his expression was triumphant.
Your turn.”
I drew my arm back and took aim. I heard the rush of the sea behind me, the cry of gulls above me, and the hiss of my breath over my teeth as I threw. Sea and gulls and breath combined to make music. I shut my eyes and threw.
My spear hit the mark and quivered.
It had struck closer to the center.
The boys roared in approval and swarmed around me. Nol’s jaw tightened, and he shot a glance toward the crowd. I saw his father, the mayor, frowning.
I stepped forward to receive my prize. As I passed Nol, suspicion crossed his face. He snatched off my mask, dislodging my hood in the process.
My long hair tumbled down around my shoulders. Wind fanned my face.
I was exposed.
The crowd gasped. Nol let go of me as if he’d been burned.
It’s Tagatha’s thrall!” someone shouted.
You deceptive little brat,” the spear master snarled. “Where’s Kitran?”
I ran.
The spear master grabbed for me. His fingers slipped through my hair, giving one painful tug, then the strands ripped from my scalp and I ran faster. I reached the edge of the cliff, dropped Kit’s spear, and jumped.
The rock was hard beneath my feet as I leaped, and then salty air rushed around me, the gulls’ screams filled my ears, and I was falling, falling, falling through air and wind and sunlight.

EXCERPT TWO – Captives
In this excerpt, Aemi and Nol have just been captured from their village and taken beneath the sea.
Aemi,” Nol said softly in my ear.
I opened my eyes and stared at the ceiling that looked like silver. The round, flameless lights embedded in it glowed faintly, like the start of a sunrise. They were sometimes bright and sometimes soft. I had decided that they followed the sun’s path somehow. I did not understand it.
Aemi,” Nol said again.
I rolled over and looked at him. His face was pale, and he looked fragile as a shell.
Do you think they’re all dead?” he whispered. “The others?”
I didn’t answer. I thought of Nealla, her hands red from the heat of the fire as she made cakes. The Old One, muttering as he mended the nets. Kit, smiling at me, laughing as he told a joke.
Tears choked me, but they didn’t fall.
I looked at Nol’s face and something in me tugged. He’d lost everyone too. I moved a little closer, inexplicably drawn to comfort him. I wanted to touch him, comfort him.
I don’t understand,” Nol continued bitterly, not noticing my movement toward him. “Why did they take you, but leave Tagatha?”
His words struck me like a slap. I froze and inched back so there was space between us again. I turned my face away without responding. I had no desire to hear him speak anymore.
Men came again, bringing us more food and water. These ones looked less cruel than the ones who had come before. When they returned to collect the water bowls, I grabbed the sleeve of one of the men with my fingers as he bent down.
Please,” I whispered. “Where are we?”
He looked like he was about to shake me off, but something in my face must have made him change his mind, for his mouth softened, and he glanced around before responding. “We’re a mile below the surface and a day’s way from your village,” he said gruffly.
I looked around us at the windowless walls. “Below the surface?” I asked, feeling a sense of panic. I hadn’t felt the familiar rocking that came with traveling on the water. Did we move by magic?
He snorted now as if I was insane. “We’re beneath the sea, girl.”
Panic sunk its cold fingers into me. Beneath the sea? How was such a thing possible?
He pulled away and followed the rest of the men out the door before it slid shut. Nol, who had been listening to the exchange, looked at me out of the corner of his eye.
Don’t do that,” he said angrily.
Do what?”
Lick their boots. Beg them for answers. Don’t act like a thrall.”
I am a thrall,” I said, angry now too. “And now you are too.”
He turned away and curled into a ball.
I shut my eyes and slept. It was the only thing to do anymore.


EXCERPT THREE – Making Friends in Itlantis
In this excerpt, Aemi and Nol have just been assigned to a master and given their duties as slaves in the city beneath the sea. Aemi is already trying to figure out a way to escape.
I fell into step beside Nol as we headed down the long hall toward a door marked with the words INDENTUREDS’ DINING ROOM. Some of the letters were strange, but I could still read it. The written language was not too different from what I was familiar with.
Nearly a dozen servants sat at tables around the room, some eating stew from metal bowls, some talking, some half-dozing with their heads propped on one hand. The hum of voices died down as soon as we stepped into the room. All eyes fastened on us, and I felt the heat of their curiosity in their stares.
We stopped.
After a few seconds of silent staring, everyone returned to his or her tasks, and we were forgotten. I followed Nol to the stew pot. He dumped the watery meat soup into a bowl, his eyes fixed on the food. We didn’t speak, but I noticed the way his hand shook on the ladle. When he’d gotten his food, he went and sat alone at the far end of one of the tables. I went to the opposite side of the room and sank down into the first empty chair I found.
You and the other new one don’t seem to like each other too much,” someone commented.
I looked up to see a thin-faced, brown-skinned young man with thick black hair and a scar down one cheek watching me over his bowl of food. He spooned some stew into his mouth and chewed, waiting for my response. A honey-complexioned girl with large, dark eyes and full lips sat beside him. She offered me a small smile.
No,” I said, looking down at my bowl.
I heard you arrived together. Do you know each other?”
Don’t ask so many questions, Tob,” the girl beside him said. “It’s rude.”
Tob grinned. “Sorry. I had a bad fall a year ago and damaged my head, and now I can be a bit rash with my words. I don’t mean any harm. Mella here usually tells me when I’m being offensive.”
The girl, Mella, nodded at me in greeting. Her gaze flicked over me, and I had the feeling that she missed no details.
Didn’t you arrive today?” Tob asked. He took another bite of his stew.
Tob,” Mella said again. “Rude.”
It’s all right. Yes, I arrived today.” I struggled to keep my voice stoic, but the words wobbled on my tongue.
You sound sad. But don’t worry,” Tob said. “You’ll get the hang of things quickly.”
I sighed and tasted the stew. It was plain but filling, much tastier than the cubes from the ship, and I ate quickly.
Don’t mind that mess,” Tob said as he watched me eat. “The cooks here have no finesse. They burn everything, and they’ve no imagination at all when it comes to ingredients.”
Tob fancies himself to be a cook,” Mella said.
Fancies? I could make a lobster pastry that would make you weep with joy,” he said. “If only they would let me touch the food.”
I’ve heard some of your ideas,” Mella said. “Perhaps the cooks are wise to keep you away from it?”
It’s called a shock cook,” he said. “They are popular in Primus. They make the strangest things delicious. It’s an art.”
Mella made a face. “I don’t want the word shocking used to describe my dinner, thank you very much.”
You’d be shocked at how much you loved it,” Tob promised.
Is Merelus a good master?” I needed to learn my place, my lines. I needed to know the lay of this land if I wanted to escape. If I wanted to find Perilous.
Tob shrugged. “He has his quirks, but he’s one of the better ones. We don’t see him much. He spends most of his time with his books.”
He’s a scholar,” Mella said.
I wondered if Merelus was considered rich in this society, or if houses like this one were the usual fair in Celestrus. I wondered how the people of this place had come to live this way. How had they built such cities? Why did they live below the sea? But I dared not ask. I was supposed to be from this world.
I heard you were from far away,” Tob said. “And you have an accent I’ve never heard before. Are you from one of the new colonies?”
Something like that,” I said. “It was very remote.”
His expression sagged with disappointment as he realized I wasn’t going to chatter about the details. “Not even a hint?”
Mella poked him. “Every Indentured has the right to keep quiet about his or her past. You know that.”
Tob sighed. “True. But consider that decision carefully,” he said to me, grinning in a way that told me he was teasing now. “If you continue to be so tight-lipped about your accent, people are going to think you’re a spy for the Dron.”
The Dron?” I shook my head in confusion.
Tob looked as if I’d just asked him what a fish was. “What clamshell have you been living in?” he demanded.
Tob,” Mella said.
He ignored her. “The Dron. Our enemies. Blood, tears, endless promises of dismemberment? You know, those people?”
Remote colony dweller, remember? I’ve been reclusive.”
The Thousand Year War?” Tob tried, as if that would jog my memory.
I shook my head.
The Itlanteans and the Dron have been enemies for centuries,” he said. “Enough blood has been spilled between Itlantis’s cities and theirs to fill an ocean.”
Why are they at war?” A shiver trickled through my stomach at the thought of all those armies and men fighting below the surface of the ocean, unbeknownst to the rest of the world.
Tob shrugged. “Does anybody even remember? I don’t. I don’t think those bigheads in Primus do, either.”
Tob sees little value in discussing politics,” Mella said to me.
I’m capable of a discussion,” Tob protested. “I just have no desire for one. Besides, that’s what you’re here for.” To me, he whispered, “She wants to be a scholar just like the master.”
Mella elbowed him. He yelped and shot me a grin.

EXCERPT FOUR – The Floating Gardens
In this excerpt, Aemi is scheming to access to a map of the city to better help her plan her escape. She talks her mistress, Lyssia, into exploring the floating gardens with her under the guise of finding a young man named Cal whom Lyssia likes.
The gardens were at the top of the city, nearest to the sunlight that filtered through the vast expanse of blue water above our heads. We took a lift enclosed in a gilded chute, and my stomach knotted with anticipation as the city fell away around us.
The lift came to a shuddering stop, and the door opened. Lyssia grinned at me. “You’re going to like this.”
We stepped onto a platform surrounded by a smooth, rounded bubble of glass. The floor was glittering metal set with lights in the floor. Ramps led away in six different directions, some of them curling overhead, others leading straight away from us.
Each ramp takes us to a different garden sphere,” Lyssia explained. “Cal could be in any of them. You said we should try Verdus?”
I nodded. The platform had captured my attention. Verdus’s ramp spiraled up to high above the platform, entering a tunnel of glass that gave views of the sea on all sides, even beneath our feet. As we reached the top, the sound of trickling water filled my ears.
Here we are,” Lyssia said. “The garden sphere of Verdus.”
A glass sphere enclosed the garden, and lush green vegetation trailed up and down a forest of columns that reached to the top of the glass bubble. A sign next to the entrance informed us that Verdus was built amid a forest of kelp, an underwater plant that grew in tall, straight lines, and these columns were meant to mimic that in design. Pathways wove between the columns, some winding around them to take visitors to the top of the garden. Sunlight filtered through the ocean above and danced over everything in shivery bands of gold, mingling with spotlights that illuminated the columns in soft colors of blue and green. With the fish swimming past outside, I could almost believe we were underwater too.
Where did these plants come from?” I asked as I turned a circle. “Aren’t they from the surface?”
Our ancestors brought plants below with them when the world burned, saving thousands of varieties from extinction in gardens such as these,” Lyssia said. “My father could tell you more about it, I’m sure.”
We wandered through the paths, looking for Cal. At least, Lyssia looked, while I read every sign in search of information. But the beauty of the garden threatened to distract me from my mission. Sculptures of fish and otters were displayed among the vegetation, gleaming statues of gold and silver metals created in playful designs, and benches made to look like sea stones were tucked between columns. It was beautiful, a masterpiece.
Let’s go up to the top,” Lyssia suggested, gesturing at the highest pathway that rose to the highest part of the garden sphere. “It’s the highest point in the whole city. We’ll be able to see better.”
I followed her up one of the winding pathways, scanning the surrounding area for any sign of the map the device from Merelus’s study had mentioned. When we reached the top, though, I forgot why I’d come.
The sunlight felt so close here, and it was almost like being in a cave by the sea, with light reflected from the water dancing on the rocks. I shut my eyes and pressed my hands to the glass. I could almost dredge up a dream of the Village of the Rocks, except for the fact that no wind stirred my hair and no scent of fresh seawater met my nose. Instead, I felt the faint mist from the waterfalls that trickled down the sides of some of the columns, and smelled the scent of green growing things mixed with the aroma of Lyssia’s perfume.
Help me look for Cal,” Lyssia said, and the daydream was broken. I lowered my hands and turned to peer over the rail.
He may not be here,” she murmured. “He may be in another garden, or not here at all.”
A glimmer of light caught my eye. Below, in the center of the garden sphere. “What’s that?” I demanded, leaning over the rail.
Lyssia looked. “Oh, that’s a map of Verdus. All the gardens have one for their city.”
The map.
I would like to see it,” I said, trying to contain my eagerness.
We descended the ramp that led to the center of the Verdus garden. There, set atop a slab of green stone, hovered the glowing map of the city.






About the Author:

I'm the author of the Frost Chronicles, an Amazon bestselling series and source material for the adventure app game Frost by Delight Games, as well as numerous other fantasy and science fiction novels. I love putting a dash of mystery in everything I write, an ode to a childhood spent reading Nancy Drew, Agatha Christie, and Sherlock Holmes. I can’t resist adding a good twist inthe story wherever I can. I wish I could live in a place where it’s always October, but until that’s possible, I make myhome in humid Atlanta with my husband, children, and two spoiled cats.Author WebsiteGoodreadsTwitterFacebookAmazon Page




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