The Perilous Sea: Review

September 25, 2014 2014, 4 star books, fantasy, historical, Kim 34 ★★★★

The Perilous Sea: ReviewThe Perilous Sea by Sherry Thomas
Series: The Elemental Trilogy #2
Published by Balzer & Bray on September 16, 2014
Genres: fantasy
Pages: 414
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
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After spending the summer away from each other, Titus and Iolanthe (still disguised as Archer Fairfax) are eager to return to Eton College to resume their training to fight the Bane. Although no longer bound to Titus by a blood oath, Iolanthe is more committed than ever to fulfilling her destiny—especially with the agents of Atlantis quickly closing in.

Soon after arriving at school, though, Titus makes a shocking discovery, one that makes him question everything he previously believed about their mission. Faced with this devastating realization, Iolanthe is forced to come to terms with her new role, while Titus must choose between following his mother's prophecies—and forging a divergent path to an unknowable future.

The Perilous Sea is one of those rare creatures: a sequel that is better than its (already pretty great) predecessor.  Where The Burning Sky sometimes dragged in places and was a little fuzzy on the magic and the rules of this fantasy world, everything in this installment is much improved. The plot zips along with breathless tension, more action, and a larger scope to the world of the story that never becomes daunting or confusing. The elemental magic is more present in the story and there’s none of the confusion of the first book. There are zigs and zags that I never saw coming and guarantees almost certain heartbreak. I devoured this book even more eagerly than the first and I loved every minute of it.

The characterization is superbly done overall. Brave and stolid Iolanthe with her quick wit and easy bravado. Sweet Titus with his seriousness and sense of duty ever present. I especially enjoyed getting to know the Eton classmates much better, in particular Wintervale and Kashkari. All of the boys are endearing in their own unique way. Thomas draws these characters so well I forget that I’m reading a story and I feel for them as though they are real people. This all comes back to stab you in the heart, though, when things take a turn for the worse. And boy do they!

Now, as adorable as Titus and Iolanthe were in the The Burning Sky, I thought this volume really increased in romantic tension and sexiness. When not writing YA fantasy, Sherry Thomas is known for writing adult historical romance novels (one of which I love, love, love) and it was more apparent than ever in this installment. Also, for those unfamiliar with the first book, Iolanthe is disguised as a boy (with the help of some magic) to blend in at Eton. As a fan of m/m romance in general, I really loved the slightly queer reading on their relationship. Of course, since this is YA, it never truly gets steamy but it is very, very sweet. Sometimes I love that just as much. Iolanthe and Titus are very supportive of each other and their mutual respect is so refreshing. One of my very favorite things about them is the reversal of the Damsel in Distress trope from the first book. Similar misandries, I’m delighted to report, occur in this one. But really, I just adore the wit and warmth of their relationship and I wish there were more of them in YA.

The story is told in two alternating timelines. In the present, Titus and Iolanthe are stranded in the Sahara with no memory of who they are and the forces of evil Atlantis rapidly encroaching. Does it sound like fun adventures follow are soon to follow? Because they are!  In the second, we’re back at Eton exploring the paths and choices that landed our main characters in their Sahara predicament. I actually really enjoyed the alternating timelines which is unusual for me. I often find that I’m always anxious to get back to one story or the other. Sherry Thomas seamlessly weaves the two plotlines and balances the interest and tension in a way that never made me impatient to get to either the past or the present. All is brought together at the end with explosive reveals that tore at my heart. These characters fight, and try, and die, and are strengthened through the struggle. It is written so viscerally my heart still pangs writing this now weeks after reading the book.

The series also focuses an intense amount on prophecies. After all, it’s prophesy that brought Titus and Iolanthe together in the first in the place. But there are some interesting developments in this book and I really enjoyed the exploration of free will/choice that the story engages with its readers. Are certain things happening because it’s fated? Or are they happening because the characters have been actively working to fulfill the prophecy? The story fully engages on this questions.

I also just adore Thomas’ writing style. It’s gorgeous and luxuriant without being grandiose. And the story is effused with Britishness through and through. It rather makes me want a cup of tea just thinking about it right now.

The Perilous Sea is an exciting adventure fantasy that is all the more enticing for its lush writing, inherently lovable characters, romantic banter, twisting plot, and bonus! Victorian boarding school setting! If you’re not reading this series yet don’t make me have to come have a stern talk with you. Just come back here and thank me later.

An advance copy was provided by the publisher for this review.


kim teal









34 Responses to “The Perilous Sea: Review”

  1. Lynn

    Such an amazing story — and the sequel was even better than its predecessor! Does anyone know when the third book in the trilogy will come out? September 2015??? So many months to wait!

  2. Camille

    Loved this review! I’m thinking about starting this series. Actually your review of Heir of Fire got me to start the Throne of Glass series and now I’m completely hooked, oh my gosh. So now I’m on a fantasy kick, and this series definitely seems to be up my alley. Cross-dressing protagonist, magic and hot romance? Um, yes please! Since I ended up loving ToG after your review, I’m expecting I’ll love this trilogy.
    Great review!
    Camille recently posted…REVIEW: Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White

    • Kim

      Thanks, Camille! And AHHHHH THANKS CAMILLE. Haha you dont know how happy it makes me to know that my review helped you get hooked on THRONE OF GLASS! :D I think you will definitely love this one too! Reeeeead it. You can always come and weep to me, also, about Books 2 and 3 in TOG.
      Kim recently posted…Station Eleven: Review

    • Kim

      The beginning of the first one seems slow because you’re trying to catch up with the lingo and the rules of magic in this world. When I re-read the book after being familiar with the world already it was a very exciting beginning! It’s just an unfortunate common stumbling block with fantasy I find. Sci fi too sometimes. But I think the series is definitely definitely worth giving a try!
      Kim recently posted…Station Eleven: Review

  3. Jeann @ Happy Indulgence

    Wow, I really love that this series seems to have really stepped it up with the action, scope and the romance! I have been meaning to pick this up for ages but haven’t had the chance. Oh my gosh the prophecies, yes. Sounds like a wonderful read Kim and thanks for the review!
    Jeann @ Happy Indulgence recently posted…The TBR and GIF Book Tags

    • Kim

      Yesss I was so thrilled that everything that was good about Book 1 was just amplified for this installment. Sherry Thomas sure can write. This series is at the top of my recommendation list for those who enjoy romantic YA fantasy. You know, those with only the most impeccable of tastes. :p
      Kim recently posted…Station Eleven: Review

  4. Debby (Snuggly Oranges)

    Heeeeee I’m so glad you love this series too :) Thomas’s characters and romance are just so awesome. I loved that with the timeline in the desert, you basically get to watch Titus and Iolanthe fall in love twice. EEP. FEELS. SUCH AWESOME BANTER. And the plot twists in this one KILLED ME. asdfjkl; WINTERVALE. *cough*

    I need it to be next year so I can finish this series ;____;
    Debby (Snuggly Oranges) recently posted…Book Haul #14: In Which I’m Floored By The Generosity of Others

    • Kim

      I knowwwww. I just adore Titus and Iolanthe so much. And yes! Im not usually a fan of amnesia story lines but it was just so delightful getting to see those two fall for each other all over again. So, so cute.

      And. So. Many. Feels. If you’d told me in Book 1 I’d end up having lots of Wintervale feels I’d’ve given you a strange look. I also really enjoyed Cooper. What a delightful lil buddy haha.
      Kim recently posted…Station Eleven: Review

  5. Carina Olsen

    Amazing review Kim. <3 Sigh. I'm so so happy that you loved this book :D I loved it to pieces as well. It was just so well done, yes? Sigh. I'm mostly happy about the no love triangle, lol :D and how amazing the romance is in these books. <3 Ack. I'm just dying for book three. :) Thank you for sharing your awesome thoughts. <3
    Carina Olsen recently posted…Firebug Blog Tour: Guest Post + Giveaway

    • Kim

      Totally. So well done! The pacing, the action, the romance…everything! It was all there. And I sure do feel you on the love triangle aspect. I usually can’t stand them. And the factor here is like nonexistent yay! Happy to know you liked this one too. :)
      Kim recently posted…Classic MG Discussion: Harriet the Spy

    • Kim

      Yeah the writing style is very similar. I think you’ll enjoy these too! Everything to love about her historical romances minus the sex (boo) but plus on the fantasy (yay!) now if only she’ll write adult romantic fantasy!

    • Kim

      Oh you’re in for such a treat! If you loved the first book there’s no doubt in my mind you won’t love this book even more. I really enjoyed the dual timelines. Titus and Iolanthe have to get to know each other all over again! It’s just delightful. And written and pulled off so well. *happy sigh*

  6. Layla

    I’m ashamed to admit that I have The Burning Sky and still haven’t read it. Dangit. & now that I know she’s disguised as a boy – um, yes, I love romances where the heroine cross-dresses and they have to confront on some level that their relationship is a little queer (that’s why I hate ones where the male love interest intuitively “knows” that this young man with the beautiful rosebud mouth is actually a lady in disguise! Sigh. So screwed up for so many reasons).

    Anyway, looking forward to reading this. I love Thomas’s writing (even when I don’t like what she’s writing about, as in Not Quite A Husband). & boarding schools + banter + fantasy + romance = catnip for Layla.

    Beautiful review.
    Layla recently posted…The Perilous Sea: Review

    • Kim

      Oh man. It sounds like you’re really, really going to enjoy this series, Layla. The first book I thought was a little confusing to get into at first (but I generally feel this way about fantasy-even being as huge a fan as I am). Once the story hits its stride, though it’s sooooo good.

      Yeah, me too. I hate the intuitive “knowing.” Or worse, portraying the male love interest all conflicted/disturbed over his attraction to his “male” friend. That was like Defy, an earlier 2014 debut. I made it about 15% into that before I abandoned for that very reason among others. It’s definitely not the case here. Titus and Iolanthe are straight making out in his room and all and she’s all in her Etonian boy get-up. It’s pretty hot.

      Also, let’s never think about Not Quite a Husband again. TERRIBLE. Read The Luckiest Lady in London when you’d like some sweet, non-problematic romance with substance. (How did the same person write both of those books? Boggles the mind). Also also, it blows my mind that she basically taught herself English when she was 13. Sherry Thomas writes better than I will ever be able to in my lifetime and it’s her second language. Mad props.

      • Layla

        Ditto about the first book. A little confusing but mostly really engaging! although I think I did the book a disservice by reading it on my phone – a pain to scroll back and forth between the footnotes (which were actually REALLY WONDERFUL & baahhhh, I didn’t get to most of them until the book ended as a result).

        In some ways, I prefer the conflict – unless it’s of the “oh noes we can never bone–IT’S A LADY, HURRAH!” variety. I’m ok with conflicted if it’s an accurate portrayal of maybe how hard and confusing it can be to experience same-sex attraction when you ID as straight, or have been told that you ID as straight, or when you’re made aware of an exception or something. I’m pretty down with that. I really hate the intuitive “knowing” because it totally forecloses any possibilities of same-sex desire and that is just the worst to me. Bleh!

        I did like Titus / Iolanthe – I liked them EVEN MORE at the end of the novel when he releases her from that stupid oath (although this did lead to some good discussions about power dynamics in relationships!) and am now super stoked for Book 2. All the feels. (Also, how how HOW could Sherry Thomas have written this and Not Quite a Husband? I have also read The Luckiest Lady and really enjoyed it and it is mind-boggling to me that she can write good relationships but also thinks marital rape in that one book is ok.)

        And yeah, mad props to her for her writing. (PS. You write beautifully, though!)
        Layla recently posted…Love Is the Drug: Review

  7. Nikki

    I probably won’t be picking this one up. Too much fantasy for my taste. I don’t usually get that drawn into stories where mages and magic are the primary “character”.

  8. Kristen@My Friends Are Fiction

    I really love this series and thought this was an excellent sequel. I can’t wait for book three. I’ve got to read Sherry’s romance books (even though I’m not a romance fan). I adore her writing and if anyone could make me like a romance book I’m thinking it would be her. So happy you liked this one too Kim.
    Kristen@My Friends Are Fiction recently posted…I’ll Be Back October 1st

    • Kim

      Yay! I’m so glad for a fellow fan. I love absolutely beautifully everything was plotted out and poised book 3 to be such an anticipated 2015 release for me! I’m not huge into romance though I do enjoy it. I’ve just got higher priorities (You know, like YA fantasy :D ) I’ve only read two of her romance novels but I would recommend THE LUCKIEST LADY IN LONDON to literally everyone. I just loved it to pieces. I find romance novels very tricky b/c on the one hand I just want to enjoy some sexy escapist fiction but on the other they are often filled with very tired, sexist tropes that I can’t handle. LUCKIEST LADY avoids any/all unpleasant tropes, though. It’s just pure wonderful. I wish more romance novels were like it.

  9. Jasprit

    I’m thrilled to know that you enjoyed this follow up too Kim. I grabbed The Burning Sky just the other day and although I did think that this series wouldn’t be for me, now I really can’t wait to get started with it. It sounds like it has so much to offer and Sherry’s writing sounds wonderful! :)
    Jasprit recently posted…Review: Shimmer by Paula Weston

    • Kim

      Ugh I just adore her writing. Even when I don’t like her books (there is one adult romance novel that I give major side eye) I always admire how gorgeous and sumptuous her writing is. The style of her romance novels is really similar to the one here too. Mostly probably since they’re all affecting that haughty, Victorian tone, you know? But I just love it. But anyway, I really, really, really hope you pick these up. I think it’s head and tails above the vast majority of fantasy I’ve read this year. Coming in second probably only to HEIR OF FIRE. Do let me know what you end up thinking if you read them!

    • Kim

      Oh it’s just the worst feeling when everyone else seems to love something and you don’t. I just finished another YA fantasy the other day that has reviews from everyone except, it seems, me. But I totally get this since I remember having trouble connecting to the first book as well. But this happens often enough with fantasy that I then go on to enjoy and so I usually push through. When I read the first book a second time it was just a pure delight after already being familiar with the world. I’m just sad you didn’t connect! I know what a bummer feeling that is.

    • Kim

      It is well worth it! Fantasy, and especially YA fantasy, has a propensity to use the same tropes over and over to the point where stories can start to blend together. But I find everything about this series to be so fresh and fun.

  10. Pili

    Well, I still haven’t read The Burning Sky despite having been on my Kindle library since last year, and it seems that it is about time I do so I can read the even better sequel? I absolutely love when the books in a series keep getting better and better (a la Throne of Glass) and hearing that this is the case here makes me want to finally read The Burning Sky!
    Also, the reversal of the damsel in distress trope? Yep, I love that idea!!
    Fantastic review, Kim!
    Pili recently posted…Cover Reveal for Rebellion by J.A. Sounders!!

    • Kim

      Oh but you must, Pili! I just know that you would adore this series. I had a bit of trouble connecting with the first book at the beginning but once you get into the groove of the world it really pays off to stick around. I re-read book 1 right before I read this installment and it was even more enjoyable than the first time since I was already familiar. And yes! I love the Distressed Dude trope. Definitely a favorite. Move these up your list, Pili. Im very confident you will love them!