The Waterless Sea continues the story of Calwyn and her friends after defeating Samis in his quest to learn all ten chantments. Now, Calwyn and Co. are on a quest to rescue two children from a country that enslaves chanters and uses them to keep the crumbling empire together. And that’s the part that’s probably the weakest part of the book: the motivation behind the quest. Oh, it’s established and explained at the beginning, but even knowing everything going on and knowing the characters, it seems a little thin that they would travel around the world simply for two children, when there are likely plenty of other children in other areas in similar plights that they haven’t bothered to go and rescue.
Motivation aside, Constable builds another great fantasy with the gloomy, dying country of Merithuros. Perhaps what brings the characters there is a hard sell (at least, for me it was), but once there, the unfolding of events is seamless. Constable’s prose is as haunting and beautiful as ever, and Calwyn continues to shine as the protagonist. Plus, I enjoy that her relationship with Darrow doesn’t stand in her way. Darrow gets his own bit of story in this novel, not really enough to establish more than background, but it at least fleshes him out a little bit and makes him less mysterious.
And the ending—well, I certainly wasn’t expecting it. That is, I was expecting some of what happened, but not the bittersweet note. And it makes me even more eager for the third book, to see what happens next for Calwyn. I haven’t felt this way about a fantasy series since I read Juliet Marillier’s books, and I love that middle grade fantasy books can still make me feel this way—excited, enthralled, and eager!