This is not like any other Pirate story you have read before! This is a pirate fantasy inspired by the West Indies, The Swahili Coast, and Arabia, full of sea, sky and magic!
Zala and Jelani are part of a pirate ship crew out of desperation. Jelani is a sea whisperer and every time he uses his power in a certain way, he turns more into stone skin. Zala, who loves her husband more than anything, is trying to find an antidote for his condition. So even when their crew is in the midst of a battle, she is out in the search of ingredients of the potion that will give Jelani his skin back as well as his life. Because, as his skin turns to stone, his life slips away. Until a day their pirate ship is being attacked by an airship. Then everything goes downhill. Some of the pirates find themselves out in the sea or at a nearby island. Some others are held captive by the airship. Their captain is gone and they need to find a way to go back to Kidogo without being attacked by other pirates or the navy.
Karim is second in command in one of the empire’s ships. As a matter of fact, this ship is rather special, as it is the empire’s first airship! It’s their first mission in the new craft and they are still testing its abilities. Karim is trying to prove his worth and deep inside he knows he is destined for greatness. Only that, the right people must recognize his value. When they have a go on a pirate ship and their captain is injured, Karim becomes acting captain and does his best to complete the mission. His way of thinking is different than his captain’s but his crew respect him as they respect hierarchy so they follow his lead.
The story follows Zala and Karim and we get to see each side of the story. Each one of them has their own reason and their own motives, even though the are on opposite sides, I can understand where each one stands and I respect them for what they are doing and the decisions they make. We don’t get to see much of the the character development, but we start to get to know them and the code they live by.
I was glad to see a story that does not evolve around European pirates. The different cultures that inspired the story give a colorful tone and the language is so different than what we’ve used to. Sure, pirates love rum and so do these pirates, but the words they use for everything is so new and exotic that brings a new fresh view of the theme.
The world building is not an easy one. The fact that everything is dashed with unknown words, or at least words that are so unlike I could think or have heard of, given they don’t come from a western language, made it a bit more difficult to understand. The fact however that there were magical or inhuman creatures really caught my attention and made it easier for me to absorb the different meanings.
I really enjoyed listening to this audio book. The narration is a charm! John Rogers makes his voice sound as if he is actually from somewhere in the Swahili Coast! It really lightens up the whole story! It was very easy to recognize the characters, as for every one of them there was a different tone in the narrator’s voice. One of my favorite things in audiobooks is the emotions that go into the narration that can help create a more vivid picture of the story. This part was greatly depicted while listening to “By Sea & Sky”. I could feel like I was part of the fight. I became one with the crew and part of the ship! It was an amazing experience! I highly recommend it!
Thanks to NetGalley and Bandele Books for the opportunity to listen and review this audiobook.