Fifteen-year-old Jackson is different from the other children at the foundling hospital. Scales sometimes cover his arms. Tentacles coil just below his skin. Despite this Jackson tries to fit in with the other children. He tries to be normal for Sister Jerome Grace and the priests. But when a woman asks for a boy like him, all that changes. His name is pinned to his jacket and an orphan train whisks him across the country to Macquarie’s.
At Macquarie’s, Jackson finds a home unlike any he could have imagined. The bronze lions outside the doors eat whomever they deem unfit to enter, the hallways and rooms shift and change at will, and Cressida — the woman who adopted him — assures him he no longer has to hide what he is. But new freedoms hide dark secrets. There are territories, allegiances, and a kraken in the basement that eats shadows.
As Jackson learns more about the new world he’s living in and about who he is, he has to decide who he will stand with: Cressida, the woman who gave him a home and a purpose, or Mae, the black-eyed lion tamer with a past as enigmatic as his own.
The Kraken Sea by E Catherine Tobler
I was immediately drawn to this book by its amazingly stunning cover. Pair that with an exciting synopsis about monsters and secrets, I was hooked. While The Kraken Sea by E Catherine Tobler certainly delivered on what the synopsis promised, I did feel like the entire story (which was more of a short novella being only 128 pages long) was extremely rushed. The characters, while seemed well developed, but we never really went in-depth with any and the world-building lacked, leaving many questions unanswered.
The main problem, for me, was the pacing. It started well and steady, talking about the orphanage Jackson lived at and the trip he was about to take. But once they stepped on the train, it seemed as though Tobler needed to rush to the end, having too many ideas and concepts and not enough pages. There are barely any easy/smooth transitions between one scene/idea and the next. This leads to the other issues I had with the book. Since there was this rush to speed through to the end, I never really felt like I could understand or come to care for the characters. I wanted to know more, and were this novella at least twice as long, I feel like I would have since it felt like Tobler definitely knew the characters and had them well-fleshed out in her mind at least.
Another casualty of this race to the finish was the world building. There was such a detail rich environment created where you could feel the tension, the division in this town where everything seemed well thought out. But we never get to experience it. We don’t know how it is everyone is okay with these creatures. Is this a town made of creatures? How seedy is this place? How are there normal folk living here mixed in with the rest? Why are they paying for protection? If we had had another hundred pages or so, perhaps we might have learnt more.
So much potential, The Kraken Sea by E Catherine Tobler was definitely an interesting story that I would love to revisit again. However, the extremely unnecessarily fast pacing definitely hindered my enjoyment, causing me to feel like I was missing half the book. I would really love to know why Tobler felt it necessary to make the story so short, if she was worried about not having enough to story to continue, or just nervous about it.
Quotes & Excerpts
Arrogant, that. No person belonged to any other person — people were as changeable as the weather. But when at last Mae did move, she lifted her head and pinned him with her black gaze and he knew, knew the way he knew so much else he couldn’t explain, that she was his and he was hers, as much as they could be.