By: Kathryn Hillard Klos
Publication Date: June 2011
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: July 31, 2011
In this satisfying conclusion to the Storyteller trilogy, the reader finally learns what happens to the “twins,” Spencer and Mardan, if humans and Banli will ever learn to get along, and if WorldGuard will continue their rampage against the Banli.
Readers of this series will know that Spencer and Mardan are not truly twins, as Spencer is human and Mardan, Banli. Rather, Maryan, the protagonist from the first book brought the two together when they were infants, to be raised as twins in the hope that their sibling love might help bring humans and Banli together. Now, in On the Strangest Sea, the pair has grown and both are falling in love. At the same time, each needs to discover who they truly are, Banli, human, or a mix of both.
Spencer, while human on the outside, feels more Banli and indeed, his heart tells him he is Banloid. He has fallen in love with Maryan’s adopted daughter Derres, a Banli woman and while this may sound ideal to help bring peace, Banli have a rather unique mating tradition that might make things difficult for the couple. Feeling that his brother Mardan is a better mate for Derres, Spencer decides to leave and take a job with WorldGuard. By joining this company, Spencer will remove himself from the mix, and also be able to report back to Maryan and others if/when WorldGuard might be moving against the Banli.
Meanwhile, although Mardan doesn’t have the inner struggles that Spencer faces, he must deal with the knowledge that the Banli, a naturally peaceful race, has been hijacked by those who changed the race’s mating and cultural rituals to much more aggressive forms. While Maryan and her group of Banli and humans have been able to prove that the Banli are really a loving, compassionate people, Mardan knows that convincing others will not be easy. Then there’s Derres…does Mardan love her or another?
As the story continues, Spencer is able to meet his aunt, Sandra Zimmerman, who has a huge chip on her shoulder about her late sister Lucy. Spencer has hopes that Sandra will introduce him to his grandparents, but the bitterness she has pent up over the years to Lucy, and thus to Lucy’s son Spencer, stands in the way.
The story goes back and forth between Spencer and his adventures with WorldGuard, and Mardan who is back on the planet of Kansas where he grew up. Mardan has found his true love and the reader is given a close-up, and touching inside look at Banli love. At the same time, Spencer tries to keep his true identity hidden from those at WorldGuard because he knows, as the son of Paul Spencer; he would be hailed as a hero’s son (Paul is credited with saving many Zaiuni – a humanoid race – from the brutal clutch of their Banli captors). Unfortunately, keeping one’s identity secret is not always possible and while Spencer is initially upset that his WorldGuard superiors and co-workers have discovered who he is, he soon learns that being hailed as the son of a legend has its advantages. Arriving at the planet of Dellatis, which is covered by a WorldGuard policy, Spencer and his fellow employees are expected to eradicate the “vicious” Banli from the planet. In perhaps the most exciting episode in the book, Spencer is able to use his new found importance to lead a two-man expedition and perhaps save a small band of misunderstood Banli.
While there are some action sequences in On the Strangest Sea, this is primarily a book about relationships. Mardan and Enja, the woman he has chosen, Spencer and Derres, if he can ever get back to her, and Maryan and her group of Banli and Zaiuni, are the central points of this story. There is also an unexpected and touching chapter near the end with Maryan and a Zaiuni who is shunned by others.
In this book, the author has settled into her world of Banli and Zaiuni and her writing has matured to the point where the reader can truly get lost in the story. This is also a series that must be read from the beginning – don’t start on this book or you will miss out on much of the Banli/human relationship that the author has taken time to build.
Quill says: On the Strangest Sea is an enjoyable, and fun, conclusion to an imaginative series by author Kathryn Hillard Klos.