By Sea & Sky
The Sky Pirate Chronicles Book 1
by Antoine Bandele
Genre: Fantasy Adventure, Pirates
With no magic, no brawn, and no pirate crew, Zala seeks to steal back the one treasure that matters to her most: her husband.
To succeed she needs a ship—and not just any ship, but the latest, secret invention by the Vaaji Empire. An airship.
Zala will have to use her wits to overcome scoundrels and nobles alike on her journey through the clouds.
But if she’s smart enough, she may just have what it takes to save her husband—and go down in history as the first sky pirate.
Delve into a pirate fantasy inspired by the West Indies, The Swahili Coast, and Arabia, where Zala will encounter ruthless raiders, arrogant aristocrats, and imperial secrets.
By Sea & Sky is Antoine Bandele’s sophomore novel, the first in the Sky Pirate Chronicles trilogy, a pirate fantasy.
I really enjoyed this unique fantasy novel. It’s so rare to find a fantasy story that isn’t set somewhere reminiscent of Europe, but this setting bears not the slightest resemblance to it. I grew up in East Africa, so when I read the blurb and saw that part of the setting was inspired by the Swahili coast, I was immediately intrigued. I could hardly wait to start the book, and I wasn’t disappointed. It was really fun to see fantasy terms that were based on Swahili words, and to meet characters that don’t look or act European. Actually, the characters’ races was another of my favorite parts of the story. I can only think of a few other fantasies I’ve read that had non-white characters, and none at all in which none of the characters were white. (And why should we assume by default that people would have white skin in a totally different world, anyway?) A variety of human cultures and magical beings were represented, all of them distinct and well-developed. There were enough details about history, geography, government, and religion to make for some great worldbuilding without bogging the story down with them.
My personal preference is for more emphasis on characters’ interpersonal relationships and less nonstop action, so some of the battle scenes seemed to drag on a bit, but that’s just me. The story opens with a particularly long battle sequence, and while I might otherwise have been tempted to put the book down after a chapter or two of fighting, the lead character kept me turning pages. Her love and loyalty toward her husband, and her determination to get the ingredients for the medicine he desperately needs even when surrounded by battling pirates, make her a relatable character whom I couldn’t help but care about.
The book could have used a better edit, with grammar and punctuation errors sprinkled throughout. But I’m an obsessive-compulsive proofreader, so these things jump out at me. The errors weren’t bad enough that they’d be likely to bother most people. Overall, I recommend By Sea and Sky to anyone who likes action and adventure or fantasy in a refreshingly unique setting. (And I suggest flipping to the end of the book first to see a great drawing of the three main characters, if you want to be able to picture them clearly as you go adventuring with them.)
ANTOINE BANDELE IS AN AMAZON BESTSELLING AUTHOR IN AFRICAN LITERATURE.
He lives in Los Angeles, CA with his girlfriend, where he produces work on YouTube for his own channel and others, such as JustKiddingFilms, Fanalysis, and more. During the summer he is a camp counselor. Whenever he has the time he’s writing his debut series: Tales from Esowon.
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Welcome to Realm Explorers! In this weekly series, we visit a variety of unique worlds created by talented science fiction and fantasy authors. Enjoy your travels! And don’t forget to read to the bottom of the post to find out more about each author and see how to purchase the featured book.
Author’s name: Antoine Bandele
Title of book and/or series: By Sea & Sky: An Esowon Story (The Sky Pirate Chronicles Book #1)
Brief summary of the story:
With no magic, no brawn, and no pirate crew, Zala seeks to steal back the one treasure that matters to her most: her husband.
Brief description of the world or location you created for this story:
African fantasy world inspired by mythology and folklore from the African diaspora and Pan African countries.
If we were to visit Port Kidogo as tourists, what would you recommend that we see or do there?
I’d definitely suggest hitting up the Seaborne Inn where you can get the best drinks—if not the best food. You’ll want to stop here mostly to get the lay of the land. There’s always gossip brewing about the latest on the island… just don’t piss off the brewmaster who frequents there or he might slip something nasty in your drink.
What dangers should we avoid on The Ibabi Isles?
Unless desolation and barren islands are your thing, I’d suggest staying far away from here. Some even say the lands are cursed by the merfolk who used to live near its depths.
Is there a distinct or unusual type of food or meal that we might be served in Jultia?
In Jultia, you might be surprised to find that there are no forks or spoons or other eating utensils. Almost all food is consumed by hand or by a spongy sourdough called injera (inspired from real live injera from Ethiopia), which often wraps around meats and veggies during meals.
What types of weaponry or fighting styles are common on The Sapphire Isles?
The thing about the Sapphire Isles… it’s an intersection of many other regions. You’ll see Northern straight swords, Eastern curved sabers, Ya-Seti recurved bows, and Southern Spears. While the kinds of weapons you’ll come across are diverse, the fighting style is all the same. Many on the isles call it the “palm wine dance”. Almost everyone seems half drunk when they fight one another, even in brutal competition like the fighting arenas near Port Zanziwala.
What types of vehicles, animals, technology, etc. are used to travel in or to al-Anim?
Though merely at the start of its major use, the Vaaji have started to construct airships to transport themselves from their coastal desert nation all across Esowon and beyond.
|Shomari (a pakka) and Fon (an Aziza)
What types of plants, animals, or sentient races might we encounter in Esowon that we don’t see on Earth?
In Esowon, especially in the more densely populated cities and towns you might find an aziza (usually half or quarter). These diminutive fae creates come from the Kunda Jungles, but many of those who are half or quarter breed have been disbanded or exiled from the ancient jungle and forced to live among humans and pakka. The pakka, also known as cat-people, are more common than the aziza. They stand slightly shorter than the average human but they are far more dexterous and nimble.
What role, if any, does magic or the supernatural play in the lives of people in Esowon? If there is magic, please give some examples of what it involves or how it’s used.
Magic is a dying thing in the world of Esowon. In centuries past almost everyone had it, and almost everyone could do extraordinary things (i.e. manifesting storms/moving mountains/predicting the distant future). But during the timeline of By Sea & Sky, nations that were built on magic are looking for alternative ways to dominate… the primary focus being technology. Many marriages are now determined by how much magical blood is within the bride and groom.
Is there any advanced or unusual technology in Esowon? If you haven’t described it already, please give some examples.
Yes, the mentioned airships are new to the world of Esowon. These ships are fueled by old magic in the form of skyglass found throughout the world (usually compacted within old mountains).
Tell us about any sports, games, or activities that are available for entertainment in Esowon.
The Vaaji favor a game called King’s Way, which is very similar to Earth’s chess. Southern Esowoni enjoy a game called stone and marbles, which is based on mancala.
Are the days of the week and months of the year the same in Esowon as on Earth? What holidays or special events are celebrated regularly there?
Though Esowon has similar days and weeks to Earth, the people do not refer to months as months, but rather as moons. In fact, weeks aren’t weeks all the time. Sometimes, individuals (usually of the Old Faith) will say Àyá’s cycle instead of week. You see, this world has two moons. The big moon, or Yem’s moon, revolves around the world every 28 days, while Aya’s moon revolves around the planet every 7 days. So the people of the world have a perfect measurement of their weeks and months (yes, in reality this would break their world, particularly their ocean currents but… magic).
Is there a particular religion practiced in Esowon? Please describe what it involves.
There are many religions in the world of Esowon, but the two focused in By Sea & Sky are Jo’bara (the Old Way) and al-Qiba (the One True Faith). Devotees of Jo’bara believe in the continued influence of the Old Gods, even though said deities have been gone for thousands of years. Devotees of al-Qiba only put their faith in one God name Shati (or Shati’ala if you use Her honorific). Shati is known to have given humans magic way back when humans were nothing more than primitives beating stones together. And thus, those of al-Qiba pledge faith to her, and her alone, as she gave humans not only magic, but free will, and more importantly, their inventive minds.
What is the political or government structure on The Sapphire Isles? Who is in charge there at the moment, and what kind of leader is he/she?
Currently the reigning “government” on the Sapphire Isles is the golden lord and his Golden Court. Under him are several tide lords who oversee the seven major isles of the Sapphire Seas. The political structure is based around a meritocracy of earning gold for the golden lord. It is the aspiration of many “aggressive entrepreneurs” (aka pirates) to bring enough plunder to Golden Lord Zuberi to be accepted to the Golden Court in Port Zanziwala. At this place, it’s said that a person can live well into old age without worry about coin ever… so long as Lord Zuberi likes what you bring him.
Are there any other unique cultural practices that we should be aware of if we visit the Sapphire Isles?
Were you to visit Port Kidogo or any of the smaller towns, there is an old tradition called Six-Nights which is a huge event when there is a major loss of life or an important figure has died. It might be better if I just leave an excerpt from the prequel novella, Stoneskin, about this tradition…
The whole of the Six-Nights celebrated among the islanders was dedicated to two Gods: Ibanujẹ, the Goddess of Grief, and Ùkú, the God of Death. Six colors ranged throughout the festival, from the deep blues of denial, the stark reds of anger, the neutral grays of bargaining, the muted ash of depression, the vivid yellows of acceptance, and the simple black of death and finality. Each color lined the square by way of flags and tapestries strewn about storefronts, stoops, and tavern doors. Each night was dedicated to one face of grief, then ending with an homage to Ùkú’s power, so that He may take their loved ones into the ancestral planes.
Tonight, the rich colors of blues dominated the decor, whether it was adorned along a building’s banners or sewn into gomesi dresses worn by the women or kanzus by the men. The blue represented the face of denial. It was important everyone knew what they were fighting against. Everyone knew how easy it was to go numb, to feel like everything was meaningless. Jelani had felt that deeply throughout the day. The point wasn’t to forget the dead or to forget the event. The point was to make sure the dead didn’t die in vain. The point was to stir up the senses, to shake the weight of that overwhelming apathy that could so easily overshadow everything in one’s life.
Has anything in your actual life inspired the locations, cultures, etc. in your book?
I’ve certainly been inspired by my real-life research but not much in the way of my real-life experience (that’s reserved for my contemporary young adult novel I’ve also got).
What, if any, “hot-button” or controversial topics do you touch on in your book?
There aren’t too many hot takes in this book unless you have an issue with same-sex relationships.
I’ve been a creative kid, whether writing stories, drawing comics, or directing home movies. I remember the first time I thought I was a “published” author. My father took my brother and me to an office supply store, where we got our books (which were made out of wide-ruled notebook paper) laminated and copied.
It felt so legit.
In elementary school, I kept filling out more notebooks with my stories. I was even brave enough to share those stories with friends during recess. The underside of the playground slide became my own library, but the only inventory was my books. They were stories about kung fu fighting teenagers who were stuck in their own dreams (still might develop that one day), or fan fiction covering my favorite franchises.
Growing up in Los Angeles, only a few miles from Hollywood, I started flirting with the film industry. This became my focus throughout my young adult years. I majored in Multimedia at California State University Northridge (though my diploma is still incomplete). That eventually got me on YouTube which (for most filmmakers in those early days) was the best place to archive and share your work. YouTube has turned into a different beast today, but I still seek out that sense of community it had among like-minded individuals.
If there is one thing that encompasses my life so far, one theme, it would be the pursuit of art. Whether I’m writing, drawing, editing or otherwise (though I really wish I had a talent for music), I’ve always been drawn to crafting art. That’s all I’m really about when it comes right down to the bare bones, everything stripped away. I’m fueled by creating make-believe, letting my imagination take me to wonderful worlds filled with characters who speak to my inner muse.
So join me here on my small corner of the internet (a bit of an upgrade to the underside of a playground). I want to share my creativity with you.
Where, and in what formats, can we purchase your book(s)? Please include links.
If you want to support me directly, the best way to do that is through my website, where I sell signed copies and audiobooks direct.
Where can readers connect with you online?
The best way to contact me, my home base, is my website:
I hope you all enjoyed the trip to Esowon. Questions about the world or the book? Ask them in the comments and the author will get back to you!
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-Annie Douglass Lima