Title: A Jewel Bright Sea
Series: Mage and Empire #1
Author: Claire O'Dell
Format: Kindle Edition
Published: September 3rd 2019 by Rebel Base Books
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N
Rating: 3 out of 5 Wine Glasses
A whirlwind of intrigue, lies, politics, and adventure swirls around one woman—and the prize she’s been sent to reclaim …
It was her talent for tracking magic that got Anna Zhdanov sent to catch a thief. A scholar’s daughter sold as a bond servant, she has no desire to recover the Emperor’s jewel for herself. But a chance to earn her freedom has driven her to the untamed Eddalyon province, awash with warm breezes, lapping waves, and more danger than she could possibly guess.
Within days her cover as an indolent noblewoman is in question, and it’s clear there’s more to Anna’s task than she knows. Soon she’s the captive of the unpredictable pirate captain Andreas Koszenmarc, hunted by the Emperor’s guard, besieged by a brigand queen, and at odds with her only friend. She must trust someone if she is to survive. But when all that’s certain is that everyone is hiding something, it’s no simple thing to choose …
Claire O'Dell's A Jewel Bright Sea is an adventurous tale brimming with magic, mayhem, pirates, and politics!
Anna Zhdanov had a wonderful life of academia and magic growing up with her father. With his sudden passing though, Anna learns of the mountain of debt he kept hidden from her. Her only hope of paying off all of the creditors pounding at her door is to sell herself as bond servant to her father's friend, who she thought was a good man. Now she is given the chance to be free of her servitude. All she has to do is recover the Emperor’s stolen jewel. But she isn't the only one after this treasure...
While I enjoyed the exceptional adventure of A Jewel Bright Sea, you're very much thrown into the middle of things right from the start of the book without any explanation. The plot was extremely confusing at first. I wasn't sure who these characters were, what their parts in the story were, or what kind of world I had stepped into. It took some time for me to sort it all out and become absorbed with the story. Anna travels to new lands with her two household companions. One who she believes she can trust, and the other who she know's she cannot. When it comes out that they are just one of many groups searching for this missing gem, it's hard to know just who to trust period. The plot is full of twist and turns, and once you start to feel good about someone there is suddenly a surprise betrayal. The story-line kept me on my toes and Claire O'Dell has weaved an interesting world to be sure in this new series.
One of my main issues with this title was that there was more telling than showing. I never felt any deep emotions from these characters. They just skimmed the surface. I didn't feel the attraction between Anna and Andreas, though it was an obvious set up from the start, and I didn't understand a lot of this couple's actions. There were numerous unfinished sentences from Andreas, and I think that if his character could have been expanded on more he would have had that much-needed depth for the romantic sub-plot. While I liked these characters, I found myself wanting to like them more and just not being able to with the material given. I was also frustrated that I couldn't picture the main characters in my head. I can't recall if their looks weren't touched upon in the story, of if it wasn't touched upon well enough.
That being said, I finished the book, and enjoyed it in all. The plot moved steadily, with never a lull, and the world that Claire O'Dell has created here is unique. While I think that the characters and romance lacked substance, I am interested to read more. I am also curious about Anna's dreams or visions. Are they a glimpse of the past, or a warning for the future?