Seafire, Book 1

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
Seafire, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Swashbuckling all-girl crew fuels thrilling dystopian tale.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Set in a dystopian, post-apocalyptic world, Seafire has bits of advanced technology cobbled together from the old world's wreckage, including ships powered by solar sails and genetic engineering (of plants) gone awry. Also Latin names (such as Mors Navis, Death Ship). Characters' skills and knowledge from engineering to botany to navigation are highly valued.

Positive Messages

Strong messages of family, friendship, loyalty, teamwork, acceptance, responsible leadership, and self-sacrifice and creative thinking they all require. Also, quiet messages of diversity, as characters in this post-apocalyptic world have many skin tones, and often deal with a disability or difference as part of their daily lives.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Seeing killing of her family and friends' families as her fault, Caledonia is tortured by guilt, but then determined to form a new family with crew of orphans, refugees, and to put them first. Her best friend Pisces knows her well -- and stands up to her when Pisces thinks she's wrong. Other members of the crew, and friends they meet along the way, show courage, resourcefulness, loyalty, heroic self-sacrifice. Long-dead families remain a strong influence, source of guidance.

Violence

Lots of stabbing, slashing, gunfire, explosions, weapon-brandishing, and more. Several characters, including beloved ones, meet a violent death, though there's no gratuitous gore. Imprisonment and enslavement are a common fate for characters and their loved ones who manage to survive, if they're not lucky enough to be part of Caledonia's crew.

Sex

A weak moment where 14-year-old Caledonia kisses a boy instead of killing him has far-reaching, deadly consequences. There's some low-key but growing sexual tension between two characters that leads to an intense kiss, and a bit of mildly sexual banter between crew members. There's some sisterly kissing and hugging among the all-girl crew, but also the implication that some of them are couples.

Language

Lots of "hell." A character calls another a "bastard."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Much of the plot involves a drug called Silt, distilled from orange flowers and used by an evil warlord to addle and enslave a large army of (mostly) boy warriors called Bullets. It's not portrayed in a favorable light, and two characters go through agonizing withdrawal as part of joining Caledonia's crew. Caledonia and her crew drink wine.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Seafire is the first book in a planned trilogy by Natalie C. Parker, set in a dystopian, post-apocalyptic world. An evil warlord keeps everyone enslaved and drug-addled -- except a few hardy families who take to the high seas to avoid him. One such family is brutally murdered by his forces, thanks largely to the judgment of a 14-year-old girl who knows she should kill a captive enemy, but shows him mercy, and loses everything as a result. Four years later, she's racked with guilt, determined to keep her new crew safe and bent on revenge. Redheaded captain Caledonia Styx is an appealing, relatable, conflicted character who shows a lot of positive qualities, including an ability to listen to advice and admit when she's wrong while shouldering the heavy responsibility of leadership. There's a lot of violence and death in the story, with stabbings, gunfire, electrical zapping, and explosions aplenty, and much of the plot involves Silt, the drug used to enslave the warlord's army. Through it all, there are strong themes of family, loyalty, respect, mutual support -- and how sometimes the willingness to break a rule might be what saves you.

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What's the story?

In the dystopian, post-apocalyptic world of SEAFIRE, evil warlord Aric Athair has used brutality and a drug called Silt to enslave just about everyone, except for some hardy souls like the families aboard the Mors Navis, who take to the high seas to get away from him. Redheaded Caledonia Styx, daughter of the captain, and her best friend, Pisces, are ashore gathering provisions when they meet a Bullet, one of Aric's drug-addicted boy warriors. In a moment of mercy, Caledonia doesn't kill him -- which quickly results in the massacre of everyone on the ship and leaves her and Pisces as the only survivors. Four years later, with Pisces and a determined, ragtag all-girl crew, Caledonia and the rebuilt Mors Navis are doing as much as they can to damage Aric's forces. But a raid brings unexpected complications when Pisces' life is saved by a different Bullet, who wants to defect. And he tells them something about their lost families that could change everything.

Is it any good?

Natalie C. Parker concocts a thrilling, relatable series opener featuring redheaded 18-year-old sea captain Caledonia Styx, her intrepid all-girl crew, and their struggles against the evil warlord who enslaved and killed their families. Seafire's characters, their internal conflicts, and the frequent surprises as new challenges emerge all add up to an exciting plot with complex ethical issues and a conclusion that sets up the next installment.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about dystopian, futuristic stories. How does Seafire compare to others you've read? What's their appeal -- and how are they used to comment on the world we actually live in?

  • Caledonia has to decide when it's best to follow the rules and when it's best to ignore them. And often there aren't easy answers. Have you ever been in this position? How did you deal with it?

  • What do you think might work better with an all-girl (or all-boy) crew? What might not go so well?

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