Eight years ago, Reyna was nearly killed. Although she was only a child, she helped her older friends King Ulises, Lord Elias, and Lady Mercedes stop a deadly conspiracy and rescue those believed lost and gone. Now at seventeen, she has almost completed her training as a cartographer and has her sights set on making her mark on the world. Adventure comes when she least expects it and brings with it the threat of death and danger. One late night her ship is besieged by a murderous menace and his singing companion. Reyna barely escapes and washes up on the shores of the kingdom of Lunes where she meets the grumpy yet loyal Prince Levi. Someone has been attacking ships in the Sea of Magdalen for months, and the Lunesians are somehow involved.
Soon, she’s back at sea, this time with her closest friends and newest allies in tow. They must battle hungry sea monsters, explore a land no foreigner has set foot on in several lifetimes, and root out the evil hiding in plain sight. Dark secrets and wicked betrayals haunt the mysterious kingdom of Miramar. Prince Levi joins her on her quest, as do her del Marian friends Blaise, who dreams of becoming a doctor, and Jaime, who wants to find his own place in the world. With Lady Mercedes laid up with a difficult pregnancy and Lord Elias and Jaime captured by sinister forces, it’s up to Reyna to save her compatriots and stop the villain before it’s too late…and maybe fall in love along the way.
The first book in Makiia Lucier’s Tower of Winds series, Isle of Blood and Stone, was the perfect summer beach read: cozy but rollicking, exhilarating but soothing, romantic yet action-packed. Happily, Song of the Abyss continues that trend. It is one of those rare sequels that is just as good as its predecessor. Lucier deftly expands the world without flooding the reading with extraneous information and builds on the momentum of the first book while hitting many of the same beats. Where Isle of Blood and Stone had only a dash of historical fantasy, Song of the Abyss is practically brimming with it. From bloodthirsty sea monsters to underwater spirits enchanting songstresses to magical trade exports, this time the fantasy themes are main players rather than intriguing extras.
Reyna and Prince Levi make for charming protagonists. They also very different personalities from Mercedes, Ulises, and Elias, meaning this is not a simple rehash of the first book. They are as headstrong as Elias, determined as Mercedes, and thoughtful as Ulises, but with their own passions and idiosyncrasies. Reyna and Levi are cautious and observant, having learned early in life that recklessness and unnecessary risk can get you killed. Reyna’s hard truths came to her during a brutal attack in Isle of Blood and Stone, while Levi’s were learned by working his way up the ranks as a sailor. Each could have taken the easy way out and used their connections to skip to the top of the ladder, but they’d rather earn their place through diligence and effort.
The kingdoms brushing up against the Sea of Magdalen are all, to varying degrees, patriarchal. Sometimes this means Reyna being hassled for wanting to wear pants instead of dresses and other times it means arrogant men making sexist comments. At first blush, it can feel frustrating, yet another YA fantasy mired in “a proper young lady doesn’t behave this way.” However, I’d argue that something else is going on in the Tower of Winds series. I think we’re so used to historical fantasy relying on modern interpretations of feminism that it’s harder to spot when an author takes a different tack.
There are no feminist revolutionaries in the Tower of Winds series, but there are lots of women pushing back against stereotypes and resisting the gendered roles dictated by their society. Many of the women characters do want to get married and have babies as well as have stimulating and challenging careers independent of motherhood and wifehood. They don’t want to choose one or the other but both and in their own time. Importantly, the men Mercedes and Reyna end up with are the ones who respect their independence and value their freedom to choose. They don’t make demands or ultimatums rooted in patriarchal nonsense but support the women they love as they live their lives in ways that they find personally fulfilling.
Revolution will come soon enough, and the actions of women like Reyna and her bestie Blaise are laying the groundwork for future efforts. They prove that women can be more than what their society has permitted them to be. Future generations of del Marian women will take that knowledge and use it to change the world. But for now Lucier’s women have found ways to carve out a safe space within the patriarchy.
Although there will be no more Tower of Winds installments after this—be still my weeping heart!—Lucier left plenty of room to explore should she choose to return one day. I could go for an endless series of standalone novels set in the vivid world she’s built. Lucier has only scratched the surface of possibilities. Every now and again I catch myself thinking about the characters and kingdoms and wondering what wild and exciting thing they’ve gotten themselves tangled up in now. Wherever Makiia Lucier chooses to go with her next young adult novel, you can bet I’ll be there ready and waiting.
Song of the Abyss is available from HMH Books for Young Readers.
Alex Brown is a high school librarian by day, local historian by night, author and writer by passion, and an ace/aro Black woman all the time. Keep up with her on Twitter and Insta, or follow along with her reading adventures on her blog.