Book Review: The Bright and Breaking Sea by Chloe Neill

Posted January 20, 2021 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 2 Comments

Book Review: The Bright and Breaking Sea by Chloe Neill

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The Bright and Breaking Sea by Chloe Neill
Genres: Fantasy, Military, Action
Published by Berkley Books on November 17, 2020
Pages: 368
Format: Paperback
Source: the library

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Also by this author: Kicking It: These Boots are Made for Stalking, Blood Games, The Veil, The Veil, Midnight Marked, Dark Debt, The Sight, Blade Bound, The Hunt, Wild Hunger, The Beyond, "Slaying It"

First in the Captain Kit Brightling fantasy alternate history series and revolving around a valued female captain in Her Royal Highness’ Navy. It’s three years after the war.

My Take

Sarcasm, snark, and magic…oh, yeah, baby! Neill makes use of Napoleon and his dreams of conquering Europe and gives it a magical twist.

This is so very different — even with the magic *grin* — from Neill’s other series, Chicagoland Vampires and Devil’s Isle. The Bright and Breaking Sea reminds me more of Naomi Novik’s Temeraire.

There’s a comfortable camaraderie amongst Kit’s crew, although Kit does carry one heckuva chip on her shoulder toward the Beau Monde. On the other hand, while she is protective of her command, she can hold back when she needs to. A complex woman. Kit is very protective of her status and greatly resents Grant’s presence, and it’ll take proving on both sides to heal this. We know all this because Neill uses third person protagonist point-of-view from Kit’s perspective, so we hear her thoughts and see what she sees.

“Years from now, Kit thought, they’d tell tales of the scream heard across the ocean.”

I do like a man whose mind is open to change. Yep, Grant has his own mini character arc, allowing for his own growth as well as insight into his family situation. Poor lad, all he wants is to stay home and heal his family estate. All the queen does is send him out time after time.

I love that women, ahem, and men can serve in the Navy. Even better, I love Neill’s presenting Kit as simply a courier, as it provides such lovely conflict amongst the misogynistic. Hah! Hoist with their own petard! Kit’s attitude toward marriage is both funny and realistic. She’d never be happy with a simple life, lol.

Magic, its existence and usage, is a contentious subject with some embracing it, some denying it, and others fearing it. It makes for a lot of possibilities, softened by flashes of humor. Kit is the one who raises her fear of what magic can do to technology, which gives Neill the opening, a bit of foreshadowing for the future of the series.

Okay, then there’s the letdown. I’ve been loving The Bright and Breaking Sea (and still do) until Neill fell into the tired account of Kit realizing she’s falling for Grant.

The action is there but subdued, even the naval battles, but it’s a fast read I could not put down. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this story to upper middle-grade and young adult readers as well as adults.

The Story

Suspicious of each other, Captain Brightling must share command with the unknown, the viscount, Colonel Grant. It’ll be a battle of wills.

It will be a hard decision, choosing between world disruption or massive death…

The Characters

Captain Kit Brightling, a foundling, is an Aligned with a gift. In particular a gift to borrow the sea, to sense her humors. She’s currently in command of the Diana and a member of the Queen’s Own Guards.

Commander Jin Takamura, a former thief, is her second-in-command. The crew includes Sampson; Tamlin McCreary with a gift for the wind; August Smythe is the oldest of them; Simon Pettigrew is the pilot, navigator, and master of maps and intelligence; Banks; Teasdale; Cook (with six daughters); Lieutenants Watson, the young Phillips, and Hobbes, who has a merchant husband at home; Mr Jones is the second mate and bosun; March is the ship’s physick; Oglejack is the the ship’s carpenter; Cordova; and, Fahri.

Jim has a wife, Nanae, and two daughters, Saori and Emi. Mary is their housekeeper. Louisa, a.k.a. Tiny Cook, is a cunning child of the streets.

Colonel Rian Grant, Viscount Queenscliffe, is a warrior tired of it all. His father had wasted the estate. His brother, Lucien, is a losing gambler. Their mother had loved to dig and had designed an amazing garden.

At Queenscliffe (named for an odd story about Queen Morgaine), Jefferson Bailey helps repair the ship; Sprout is Grant’s dog; Mr and Mrs Spivey are in charge of the manor. Cordelia is Grant’s terrifying horse. Matthew Howard is inventing a uniquely powered gristmill. The radiant Tasha Howard is his wife and the daughter of Admiral John Lawrence. Will, a former comrade-at-arms, is the majordomo in charge of the London house.

The Brightling Home for Foundlings is…
…in Moreham Park and owned by Hetta Brightling, a wealthy widow with a conscience who takes in abandoned girls. A member of the Order of Saint James, she’s also sub rosa as an intelligence analyst for the Crown. Sir Harry Brightling had been Hetta’s kind and wealthy husband. Mrs Eaves is the stern, moral-minded housekeeper. The brilliant and inventive Jane is one of the girls, Kit’s sister and closest friend. I do love Jane’s sparkers, lol. The rest of the current girls include the ambitious Astrid, Bettina and Georgina are the active twins, Pari is a pianist and composer, and Marielle. They are expected to adhere to Hetta’s Principles of Self-Sufficiency.

The Saxon Isles are…

…England, ruled by Queen Charlotte II in New London at Exeter Palace. King Richard had been her father. Kess appears to be the queen’s go-to guy. Charles Kingsley works in the Crown Command’s Foreign Office for William Chandler, the Isles’ spymaster. He’s also a very good friend of Kit’s. The bigoted and stunted John Stanton also works at the Foreign Office.

The Isles’ fleet
The Divine is captained by the ludicrous William Thornberry who prefers illogic. Some of his crew disagree, including Midshipman Cooper with her land Alignment. The Lucida is captained by Preston. The Delphine is captained by Smith, who is torn between a rock and a hard place. One of her crew, Jackson, has a land Alignment.

The rest of the Beau Monde are…
…the Isles’ most privileged class, more concerned with their own comfort and ease. Hmmm, sounds like our politicians… Mary Cartwright is a friend of the ambitious Astrid. Lord Langley is interested in Astrid. Lord Dartmouth is giving a ball. Dorian Marten, a friend of Kit’s, started Marten’s, a coffeehouse modeled on Lloyds.

There’s a pub, the Cork and Barrel, in Pencester. The Amelie is a smuggler’s ship. The Seven Keys is an exclusive men’s club. The Prefects is a secret society composed of men who don’t believe a queen can rule. Mrs Eaves consider Portnoy’s Confectioner’s the premier temple of sin. The Juliana is the ship on which Kingsley embarks. Xavier Forstyhe rules the criminal underground. The Forebearer is stolen by a traitor.

The Enemies

Finistère is…
…a pirate stronghold ruled by the Five, famous pirate kings. Donal is one of them. The Chevalier is a privateer.

Gerard Rousseau is the emperor of Gallia with visions of conquering the world and with it its magic for all the power it will give him. Montgraf is the island to which Gerard was exiled. His daughter, Claysta, is queen of Arkanes.

The Guild…
…is a Frisian a consortium of merchants who prefer Gerard’s rule with its greater wealth opportunities. Forstadt is an island off the coast and supposedly a royal hunting preserve. Janssen is an attaché at their London embassy.

The Earlier War
The Ardent had been captained by Perez with Lieutenant Kit Brightling under him. Zadorra was a town near the Gallic border that saw brutal fighting. Contra Costa was a tragedy with its angry magic.

The heroic Lord Sutherland had commanded the army in the earlier war and made good use of the Aligned. Grant had been one of his observing officers. Bourne had been one of them, with a gift to sense movement. Marcus Dunwood, a.k.a. Paolo, was a fellow officer and has continued his intelligence gathering. In the current day, he’s aboard the Sally. Admiral Worsley had led the fleet at Barbata.

The Aligned have a gift for magic. The Unified Church of Isles combined all the gods into one. John Cox wrote the bible on the sea, Cox’s Seamanship. Indigo is a card game. Kanos is the god of the sea and its shorelines.

The Cover and Title

The cover is quite patriotic, starting with its deep blue sky scratching down into a warm brown middle and descending into a white wash. Silhouetted against this is Kit’s white ship, all sails furled. And in front of this is Captain Kit Brightling herself with her short brown hair blowing in the wind, posing with her left hand cocked on her hip and her right holding a red sword pointed toward the ground at an angle behind her cocked right leg. She’s wearing her uniform, a deep navy frock coat with a lighter blue vest and an even lighter shirt with a solid navy cravat. Her trousers are gray with slightly blued knee-high boots. Her coat, trousers, and boots are all scratched in with strokes of black. At the very top, the first letter of the title is framed on each side with a pair of red scrolls. The rest of the title is beneath this with all in a gradating silver to pale gold. To the left of Kit’s knee is the series info in deep blue. An info blurb is immediately beneath Kit’s feet with the author’s name below that with both in red.

The title refers to Kit and what she senses below the surface — The Bright and Breaking Sea.

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2 responses to “Book Review: The Bright and Breaking Sea by Chloe Neill

  1. I am really hoping that Neill gets on with the second in the series. I enjoyed the world Neill built, the equal opportunities for women…and I do like Captain Kit Brightling!

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