I love books like this; you know, the kind that improve drastically upon an already pretty brilliant first novel in a series, the ones that aren’t what you expected and instead are even better. Steel Tide by Natalie C. Parker is like that for me. I wouldn’t quite say that the series is perfection or scream that it’s become one of my all time favorites that I’ll reread multiple times over the next year, but I will say that Parker did an excellent job with her follow up novel to Seafire.
The story opens up where it left off, with an injured Caledonia Styx having jumped from the enemy’s ship and escaped beneath the waves of the ocean. There were a number of places where she could have ended up, but in the hands of defected blades was probably not what she or anyone else would’ve expected. Soon finding herself pulled toward the question of what happened to her crew of sisters after she’d left them, Caledonia will lead this new crew of unexpected allies against the tyrant who has hurt them all, Aric Athair.
I loved so much about this story. In every way it was an improvement upon the first and, as I’ve already said, the first was pretty exceptional. Where in the first novel I found myself mildly annoyed by Caledonia and Pisces, I fell in love with them both in this one. Even better, I feel in love with the crew of Bullets Caledonia finds herself in the care of after she washes up on shore unconscious from her injuries. I cannot even begin to describe how deeply I cared for these new characters. In so many ways they were just wonderful.
And of all these characters, the one I loved most was Pine.
I loved him so much, in fact, that I was legitimately ready to throw my hatred of love-triangles out the window and hope for him to take on the larger role of becoming a love interest. Unlike in the last novel, where I saw and felt no chemistry between Caledonia and Oran, I actually saw and felt it between Caledonia and Pine. Of course, if this is your hope, it’s not to be as Pine has eyes for another–I won’t say who, though. And ultimately I’m still left feeling as though ship in this novel is a large flop. Floppier than a fish on a deck.
I just don’t see why they give a damn about each other.
The most fortunate thing about this, though, lies in the fact that Seafire and Steel Tide are not love stories. The relationship takes a backseat to everything these characters have had to deal with. And I would say that the shining point of Steel Tide is the concept of consent, something that is peppered throughout the story and I could not have loved more. Characters who have had their consent stripped away over and over in the past are now determined to have it within their future. Incorporated through every aspect of the decision making, consent takes a center focus for the majority of this novel.
It was amazing, it was brilliant, it was needed, and it was something I will forever look upon this novel with gratitude and pride for. I don’t have enough words to express how grateful I feel for the fact that this concept was brought to light and addressed so many times within the course of a novel to present it in such a positive and necessary way. If nothing else, Steel Tide deserves a standing ovation for this. I never realized how desperately I needed this commentary until now.
The rest of the story comes from the plot which, while not exceptionally unique, is wonderful all the same. Murphy’s Law seems to be hitting the characters still, but a little less obviously than it did in the last novel. The progression keeps you on the edge of your seat, eagerly turning pages to uncover more. And then the ultimate villain of the story is revealed and while I have to admit that I probably should have seen it coming, I genuinely did not. And that, in and of itself, kind of amazed me.
Keep these books on your radar and on your shelves. Believe me, they’re well worth it.