Author: A.R.K. Horton
Princess Eya’s life changes forever with the discovery of the Statue of the Goddess Winds, just as she’s coming of age. The long over-looked kingdom of Hicares finds itself in a war it isn’t prepared for against the far more powerful empire of Pescel. To survive, Eya must flee her home, losing everything and everyone she loves in the process.
Yet, by leaving behind all she’s ever known, she learns that her sheltered life didn’t prepare her for the real world’s strange and frightening nature. She encounters people, places, and creatures beyond anything she ever imagined, along with sinister enemies from every direction. Perhaps her most surprising revelation is that she is developing terrifying powers of her own. Will Eya be able to find happiness in her new life, or will she continue struggling with the current?
Rating: Intriguing, Distant (Are you all used to my ratings?)
The First Review (spoilers are not invited here):
I found it hard to get into Struggling with the Current. There were moments when I could really connect to Eya, the main character, but there were also a lot of moments where it felt like the plot was usurping the character’s place. It was not so much that Eya did this or that that was out of character, in order to fit the plot – in fact, I did not feel like Eya did anything that was out of character – but that it was more as if the plot was guiding the story than the character. I did not know or feel Eya well enough to know that this was how she acted, to feel that in that moment this was what she does, regardless of whether or not that would always be what she did. The story kept approaching the closeness, that understanding, and then drawing back from it, focusing too much on what happened, and making leaps that seemed more about the plot than about understanding Eya – or any of the other characters.
This is not to say Struggling with the Current was a plot novel or that it was fast-paced. It’s definitely not a plot novel, per se, and I really liked how we’re shown the feelings and thoughts of many different characters and perspectives. It’s not quite as seamless yet as it gets in the following novels, but what goes on in different people’s minds and how their motivations and decisions are formed and provoked is very expertly showed. It’s just the main characters that make the story. How people interact with everyone else matters and has far-reaching consequences. There’s a lot of depth to it, and there’s this mistake an unhappy Queen makes that sets so much in motion, though of course other people’s reactions to it are make the things happen.
A lot of time is spent on other things, too, things that really show the life and personality of Eya. How her brother teach her weaponswork and to shoot. Her flawed relationship with her mother, Queen Iba. Her life as a maid with Lady Immelda. So many other things. It’s not like things just happen. Her experiences are shown, and what her life is like, and how she perceives it. I liked that.
There was other things that were really interesting and made me want to read more. There are some conversations near the end of the story with a strange old woman about fate and destiny and prophecy. I wanted to see Eya challenge the prophecy. I wanted to see how that, and other things, happened and were handled.
Here’s a passage that illustrates something I really liked about the story:
The sailor looked at her clearly then and realized his mistake. How could he have mistaken this rich woman for a dockside harlot? He got down on his knees immediately, muttering apologies.
“My daughter is on that ship and I am tasking you with her care, subject,” Iba said, tilting his chin up to look at her. She emphasized his station to remind him of how far beneath her he was. By the look of fear in his eyes, she thought she had done an excellent job.
“Aye, Your Highness,” he said. “I will care for her as if she were my own.”
“Care for her better than that. Who knows how many children could call you father yet have never seen your face?” Iba spat. “Care for her as if she were your only hope because she is.”
The sailor scurried up the ramp like a ship rat. She had gone too far with that man. He was the First Mate of the ship and was seething in rage now. Her words had stung more than she could ever know. His children had known his face. His children had been his greatest joy. That’s why he wept long tears when they marched off to the land bridge with their King, never to return.
The Continued Review (Ware, Spoilers ahead!):
At the beginning of the story, I found the way Eya and Daijah’s relationship developed and shifted hard to feel. I could not feel from the story, I did not know Eya or Daijah in such a way that I knew their relationship must be that way because of how I knew them. It felt like it could be tacked on.
Near the end of Struggling with the Current, Eya and Daijah are reunited. There were still touches of that uncertainty in the way Eya and Daijah fall in love and relate to each other, but it was a lot more sure.
And let me share one snippet about Daijah:
“King Retam doesn’t want her to be distracted,” Daijah muttered.
“Ah, well, in that case, I’m glad you haven’t told her that you love her,” Novem said with a frown, thinking how he would do anything to be with Esamne at that moment. “Because that would be a lie. If you really loved her, it wouldn’t matter what the King said. You wouldn’t let her hurt over you.”
Something else about the story I really enjoyed was Lady Pleffort, Immelda. She turns out to be quite a nice woman, nothing at all like the rumors about her chasing her servants away. Something else is going on altogether. It did not feel quite the way the story started to feel near the end, but it was good, very good. And Immelda’s struggles are relateable. I also enjoyed seeing that trio, where Immelda is asexual and in love with Lord Pleffort, Tevin, and Tevin and his squire are lovers. I liked them.
Cefa, the mortal goddess Clesta, is very interesting, too, and how she takes to Eya. And it was some things she said about destiny and prophecy and fate that caught my attention.