SEA OF KINGS Book Review by Andrea Wang

Thirteen-year-old Prince Noa has hated the ocean since the day it caused his mother's death. When a vengeful pirate lays siege to their home, Noa and Dagan narrowly escape with their lives. Armed with a stolen ship, a haphazardly assembled crew, and a magical map that makes as much sense as slugs in a salt bath, the brothers set sail for the realm's other kingdoms in search of help.

But navigating the sea proves deadlier than Noa's worst fears. To free his home, Noa must solve the map's confusing charts and confront the legendary one-eyed pirate before an evil force spreads across the realm and destroys the very people Noa means to protect.

About the Author

Melissa Hope is passionate about helping writers improve their craft and connect with the writing community. She escaped the frostbite normalcy of Canadian winters to live in Florida with her family, bipolar cat, and growing collection of scuba gear. Visit her website to watch free writing tutorials. ​ Twitter: @hopefullhappens Instagram: @hopefullhappenings Youtube: HopeFullHappenings

Book Review by Andrea Wang

Sea of Kings starts off with a bang — or, rather, a skull— and this compelling, fast-paced middle grade adventure will keep you reading until the dramatic end. Thirteen-year-old Noa and his younger brother Dagan are princes of the Kingdom of Ondule, one of six island kingdoms in the realm. Anxious, bookish Noa is content to stay at home, but the athletic and outgoing Dagan chafes at the ruling their father, King Titus, made thirteen years ago – that none of the children of Ondule can leave the island for their own safety. But after the king is betrayed and the entire castle held hostage, Noa, Dagan, and a motley band of local children are forced to flee so they can seek help. Armed only with a strange pendant Noa found attached to the aforementioned skull, a magical map, and their wits, Noa and his friends must brave the treacherous seas in order to save their loved ones.

The best quest stories take the protagonist and the reader on an epic journey to multiple dangerous and fantastical lands, and Sea of Kings does not disappoint. Noa and his ragtag crew make their way through the perilous ocean to various island kingdoms, pursued by a notorious pirate named Weston. They encounter new foes, make new friends, and rapidly discover that what they’ve been taught to believe all their lives – that magic isn’t real – is a lie. The stories Noa read about mythical creatures are actually true. I loved the world-building in the book – each island has distinct flora, fauna, and customs. Even the slang the children use is particular to the island they’re from, adding moments of hilarity even as they find themselves in increasingly dire straits. Overall, the tone of the book is fun and lighthearted, reassuring young readers that despite life-threatening situations, it’s all going to be okay for Noa and his friends.

I also appreciated how layered this book is – it’s much more than just an action-adventure story. The loss of his mother several years ago has had profound effects on Noa, making him both more compassionate and more anxious. Mired in his grief, angry at his father for being absent, he struggles to forgive those responsible for his mother’s death. Dagan and the other children are also well-developed, with their own strengths and faults and character arcs. Thrown together, they have to overcome their internal biases and insecurities and learn to work as a team. Noa also learns hard truths about what it means to be a leader and the responsibility that comes with power.

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Andrea Wang is the award-winning author of The Nian Monster and Magic Ramen. Her debut middle grade novel, The Many Meanings of Meilan, releases in 2021. Her work explores culture, creative thinking, and identity. Andrea holds an M.S. in Environmental Science and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing for Young People. She lives in Colorado with her family. ​ Website: Twitter: @AndreaYWang Instagram: @AndreaWhyWang