Chloe Neill’s The Bright and Breaking Sea is a rollicking bit of historical fantasy that harkens back to Horatio Hornblower and other nautical adventures. Less adult than some of her urban fantasy work, this volume is clearly intended for a somewhat wider range of readers.
The book stars a captain named Kit who runs a small ship and frequently takes on missions for the queen herself. She is shown early on to be effective at running her ship and its diverse crew, and can magically feel and slightly influence currents. While Kit yearns for home to a certain extent, it is mostly the sea that calls her.
Another major character is Grant. Grant is a former army man, a colonel, and a member of the Beau Monde, a type of aristocracy. He is also haunted by his military history, with traces of PTSD and an abiding hatred of warfare. He is a complex enough secondary character, featuring as a rather obviously telegraphed love interest for Kit. This is not a complaint, as he is both likeable and believable in the role, and takes nothing away from her. Further, there is something positive to be said for relatively formulaic elements in a story, as they are proven to be often effective.
Prejudice relating to class and gender are are clearly expressed, and treated as a negative reality. Kit faces captains who see her as lesser for her status as a woman of no particular breeding, and those who look down upon her for her gifts related to magic as well. Sexism is strong enough that the current queen has to deal persistently with a subset of her own people undermining her orders because they come from a woman. There are hints of racial animosities; however these are on the backburner comparatively, which is understandable given the cast and situations.
The magic system is clearly well thought out, with comparisons amiable to both developing sciences and environmental understanding in our world. Indeed a part of the plot hinges on the severe damage the misuse of magic, both in the past and present, can cause. This is not only in the weaponized sense but also in the fact that one might perminantly damage magic or the world. The environmental parallels are obvious and interesting, resulting in a believable sorrow as Kit encounters such damage. She has a private moment in which she senses changes and questions how one might best be able to restore the harm, and if that is entirely possible. The fact this occurs in relation to a technological development only maoes this clearer.
There is an obvious sequel hook at the end of the book, one which also suitably builds upon the setting and conflict of the existing story. It certainly will make a reader curious about future events, yet does not feel like what might be termed a cheat.
Overall, The Bright and Breaking Sea is a classic adventure novel in the making by an experienced hand at fantasy. Readers of many ages will enjoy it greatly if they share an interest in such material, and likely come away wanting more.