Cover Image: I am the Sea

I am the Sea

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Member Reviews

‘I am the sea’ is a masterful manipulation of narrative voice to depict the protagonist’s increasingly fractured state of mind. Stanley’s presentation of breakdown and psychosis is compelling and horrifying. The reader is drawn inexorably into the awful revelation of novice lighthouse keeper James Meakes’ descent into delusion and catastrophic violence. Terse and terrifying.
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Lighthouses have always fascinated me, but there is a dark, creepy quality to them that I felt Matt did manage to depict very well.
It had me gripped
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James Meakes is  sent to Ricksaw Reef. He is a young trainee lighthouse keeper & this is his first posting. He is to replace another crewman who has died. From the start James finds it difficult to adjust to. The principal keeper is devoted to his work but not sociable. The second in command & James's room mate is a rude bully & resents having to teach him. When the weather is bad the lighthouse seems as isolated as the moon. The noises & shadows unsettle James & makes him wonder if they are alone. 

This is a wonderful setting & the author creates a spooky but believable atmosphere of menace, However Matt Stanley seems incapable of using one word when he can usually use five- three of which are obscure! As the book continues these become even more scattered. I can see that the author intended to reflect James's state of mind but it is not a pleasure to read. I did get to the end but was left with the conclusion that the best thing about this book was its cover- it really is beautiful! Thanks to Netgalley & the publisher for letting me read & review this book.
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Liked this overall. Decent premise and execution. It doesn't have the polish of a more experienced author, but it's still well done. Fans of gothic and historical fiction will probably like this most.

Thanks very much for the free review copy!!
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A claustrophobic standoff between a small cast of sinister characters stuck inside a dreary and godforsaken lighthouse located off the harsh and windswept Scottish coast and where fear, suspicion and madness seem to lurk at every corner. 
An unforgettable journey at the end of nowhere, very suspenseful and as twisty and devious as the unpredictable and frightening natural furies battering that bleak and desolate beacon totally lost at sea. 

A gorgeously crafted descent into hell to be enjoyed without any moderation whatsoever!

Many thanks to Netgalley and Legend Press for this terrific ARC.
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I loved the setting and atmosphere of this. I am a sucker for lighthouses and I know one person in particular that I cannot wait to tell because she is similarly a sucker for lighthouses. Ultimately, the story didn't wow me. I thought its modern classics approach was clever and the structure and tension built nicely. But ultimately I wasn't wowed by the characters and felt that it dragged on a little too long. A solid read that I enjoyed but wasn't my favorite of the year.
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I'm afraid this wasn't for me. There's nothing wrong with it and it has been well researched but I couldn't get into it,  sorry.
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I Am the Sea is an interesting story about a guy who starts a job at a lighthouse.  The lighthouse does not have a good history and there have been several accidents and deaths over the years, not to mention he will be working with two very odd men.  Right off the bat, it is wordy so you are either going to get used to it, skim it over, or realize this one is not for you.  I enjoyed the atmosphere, the lighthouse is spooky and the writing style makes it feel claustrophobic at times.  Really great sensory writing.  The plot is unique, however,  I am not sure if I grasped the ending or not, I was skimming a bit, and may have passed over something important.  Anyway, it is a really good book and has a great eye-catching cover.
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Atmospheric but needlessly wordy - I had to stop and look up words which drew me out of the reading experience. Loved the way the lighthouse and environment was described but didn't particularly care for the characters.
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This novel is set in 1870 and tells the story of James Meakes, who is the new apprentice lighthouseman on the bleak and remote Ripshaw Reef. Here he joins Principal Principal Bartholomew and Assistant Keeper Adamson, to replace a lighthouse keeper, Spencer, who died in somewhat mysterious circumstances. 

In fact, the novel opens gloomily and somewhat presciently with Meakes on the mainland looking at the lighthouse through a telescope, and at Spencer’s corpse which “has been tied to the balcony railing for five days, enshrouded in a bed-sheet cerement”, awaiting collection by the same boat which is taking Meakes out to his new workplace and home. 

Utterly cut off from the outside world and battered by storms, the lighthouse starts to close in on its three inhabitants. Meakes soon comes to regard himself and his companions as "three mortal men with the seeds of weakness, dissipation and destruction in their souls". Bartholomew has become institutionalised, and doesn’t want to leave the lighthouse; “He can’t tolerate life on land,” declares Adamson (who may himself be on the run for murder). 

Meakes retreats into his journal, and his own thoughts and suspicions. "There is little comfort in proximity”, Meakes confides. “I would like to talk to the other two, but they are rocks unto themselves, each surrounded by his own whirlpools, eddies and hidden reefs. To approach either one is to risk a wreck."

The novel is told in the first person, and – following the trope of the ‘unreliable narrator’ – we the reader soon wonder if we can trust what Meakes is telling us of events as they unfold. After all, he takes “morphia. Just a half a minim. Just to fend things off." 

Carved into the walls and furniture, Meakes find mysterious messages like “Lord, deliver me from this windowless pit” – have they been left by the previous lighthouseman, Spencer, who he’s here to replace?
Meakes starts to see a strange figure, “a very sickly looking boy: pale, emaciated and perhaps a little palsied. His hair fell across his forehead in a damp lick and his dark eyes were ringed with shadow. He was wearing a curious grey suit and seemed entirely unperturbed. My first thought: he looked as if he had just been disinterred.” The boy tells Meakes, “I’ve been here as long as you, James … I’ve been waiting for you. I am always with you. You know that.” The boy suggests dark and terrible courses of action to Meakes, who comes to despise “that poisonous imp, that moribund homunculus". Meakes also sees a strange, owl-like figure, and surmises that "There is some connection, some strange affinity, between owl and boy. One is the harbinger of the other."

When a lighthouse commissioner arrives, he informs James that his paternal uncle, Mr Fowler, who runs an asylum and has helped James get this new position, has been brutally murdered; yet his letter of recommendation for James was, seemingly, written after his death…how?

The commissoner suddenly disappears while walking on the metal parapet outside the lighthouse lantern: was it a tragic accident, did he just fall? Or was it something more sinister, of human agency or even supernatural doing?

Principal Bartholomew is then injured in an accident, and dies as he’s being transported from the lighthouse to the safety of a ship. Another boat is shipwrecked, and James and Adamson rescue survivors – who soon start to meet mysterious and terrible deaths. 

Before long, only James and Adamson are left alive. Adamson tells James, "You’re just another working part of it [the lighthouse]: another cog, another valve, another door or window." As the fog of madness descends, James thinks of himself as "A prisoner in the tower … But I do not feel like a prisoner. Rather, I see myself Ulysses, Diomedes or Pyrrhus expectant in the wooden horse." 

The wild, ungovernable elements outside the lighthouse are nothing compared to the terrifying events which unfold within, as expertly related in this gripping novel, best read in one sitting to let the atmosphere and creeping sense of dread slowly envelop you.


Thanks to Legend Press, NetGalley and the author for an advance copy in exchange of an honest review.
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If I ever have imprints from constantly sitting on the edge of my seat, it’ll be from this book.
James Meakes, a well-educated young man, is starting as an apprentice lighthouse keeper at Ripsaw Lighthouse. Together with Principal Bartholomew and Apprentice Adamson he is to man the lighthouse until he is called away to his next assignment. But as lonesome as the post seems to be at first sight, as onerous the tasks of servicing the great machinery is, as mind-numbingly the routine is, there is something else here. Something lurking, something not obscured or drowned out by the boom of the waves and something quite beyond the inherent dangers of such a place.
The narrative style has touches of Poe, of Stevenson and the oft quoted Shakespeare.
This is a slow creep of gooseflesh, turning into a full-pelt steam train of terror - all very cleverly engineered.
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Thanks to NetGalley and Legend Press for the advanced copy of this title in return for an honest review.
The premise and concept of this book initially really intrigued me. Three men secluded in a lighthouse with an unusually high number of accidents, disappearances, and deaths and how they dealt with this isolation – a great gothic and spooky mystery! Stanley was able to illustrate this well.
Although I understood that the descriptive writing style was a part of the narrator’s character (James Meakes) and often showed his state of mind, certain descriptive sections regarding philosophy or literature were quite wordy (just don’t think this was for me) and I sometimes struggled with the quite technical terminology regarding the lighthouse itself which lost my attention and concentration on the book. 
Although there is some suspense and the lighthouse is shrouded in mystery for a good portion of the book, I wasn’t pulled into the story and wished it had been more thrilling in that aspect. I do like that over time we uncover more about James Meakes and the minor characters to a degree. It is very much character-driven and I too felt the lighthouse and weather also became characters of sorts which I think was my favourite thing I took from the novel.
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A decent story, and the world is built well, but the overly florid language gets in the way. I have never looked up so many words when reading a novel. At first I found this fascinating but as it continued, it wore on me, and in the end the story and characters were not enough to overcome what I found frustrating.
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This is easily one of the best books I've read this year.   Mr. Stanley writes in a gothic horror, Henry Jamesian style appropriate to both his timeframe and physical setting that is done so well and so artfully that it's a pleasure to savor every word.  He is a master of creating atmosphere and mood, particularly the heightened tension of the primary characters.  But that's not all he does -- he succeeds in depicting the unraveling of the first person narrator in a way that utterly astounding.  Slowly he peels back the layers, one by one, until virtual Armageddon has and continues to unfold before you.  I read this book at the same time as The Rules of Civility by Amor Towles,  and I am the Sea squarely stood side by side with it in terms of complexity, depth and its beautiful command of the English language.   Sorry for all the superlatives, but this book really is that good.  And many thanks to Legend Press for my ARC.
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A lighthouse build on a piece of rock is the only secure element in the middle of a harsh sea. She is a breathing creature pounding at the door, at the windows and at every piece of mortar, banging again and again; nature defying man's build.
Inside, the keepers hold on to vast rules and rituals to ensure that man will win. 

  Just as the storm is raging outside, the same applies in the keepers' mind: a tempest is gathering momentum and and a combination of raging elements propels our protagonist in a downward fall, losing touch with reality and crafting its own to be able to cope with his own history.

 This whole tale is being told in beautiful prose and takes the reader into the peculiar lives of 19th century lighthouse keepers. The minute detail of the workings of such a feat of construction was very intriguing and the language used is reminiscent of Edgar Allan Poe. I would recommend to read this gothic tale during a stormy weekend, feet up and a nicely filled snifter within reach.

 This is the second book that I've read this year that has a lighthouse as a setting. However, it is completely different from The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex. It is another era, another focus and a completely different style, yet both are perfect!

 A sincere thanks to Legend Press, NetGalley and the author for an advance copy in exchange of an honest review.
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Stanley offers gothic suspense tale perfect for a rainy day or foreboding night.  In elegant prose, Stanley spins a highly atmospheric tale that captures the untamed nature of life by the sea.  I found the descriptions of the living quarters and daily life in a lighthouse to be the most interesting aspect of the book, particularly as they helped ground the more fanciful elements of the tale.  If you are looking for a chilling read for a stormy day, I recommend 'I am the Sea'
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“I will grant you that it may be perilous but this is why we are here. We impose efficiency and order upon the deep” 

James is a newly appointed apprentice at the Ripsaw Reef Lighthouse, located on a rock 20 miles off the coast in the middle of the raging sea and often isolated for entire weeks. The novel opens with a gruesome sight: the corpse of the previous assistant deceased in mysterious circumstances, tied to the railings in a white shroud and half eaten by gulls. At the lighthouse, haunted by the sinister sounds of the mechanisms, of the howling winds and waves breaking against the wall, we meet a bizarre keeper often absorbed in strange experiments and a morose assistant with a dark past. Soon mysterious writings appear on walls, a fourth person seem to lurk in the shadows and one corpse emerges at the reef … this is only the start of a gripping, atmospheric psychological thriller. As James investigates, the author gradually lets us in on the secrets of the lighthouse and engages us in a chilling, unnerving game of cat and mouse that kept me on my toes till the last page. 

This fine piece of lighthouse gothic is superbly crafted. In James (the first-person narrator) the author recreates the voice of an educated nineteenth-century young man – at times I actually  felt as if I was reading Poe. James is well versed in letters (the assistant mocks him by calling him poet), and often draws on his vast knowledge of literature – ventriloquizing Homer, Defoe, Shakespeare, Coleridge – to find imagery and metaphors that describe nature, feelings and situations. The result is stunning, rendering James’ reasoning and ratiocinations, at times crystal clear and at times convoluted, and the paranoia reigning at the lighthouse. The sea is majestic and elemental, rendered with painterly precision and memorable strokes. The literary quotes, often very recognizable, are part of an intriguing game of appropriation and intertextuality, and I actually had fun identifying the sources and the echoes. 

We learn that the lighthouse, with its strict routine and rules, is a pale attempt to bring order onto the primordial chaos of the stormy sea, but in this stunning piece of psychological fiction it holds the mirror to what lurks beneath reason. A hypnotic literary thriller, a subtle piece of postmodern fiction and, above all, a testament to the affective, transformative power of literature. 

4.5

My thanks to Legend Press and NetGalley for an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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This book is certainly unique.

Its prose is lyrical - almost whimsical - and adds a deliciously decadent air to the book. Rich with description and free-flowing words, this is the fine wine of the literary world. That being said, it doesn't make it easy to read. It's very classical in its approach, yet at times, it does feel as though you're wading through treacle in search of the plot. 

The entire book is set within the confines of the lighthouse's walls. This unusual setting makes the perfect backdrop to a twisty, Gothic novel, complete with a gloomy atmosphere and foreboding weather. It's intensely character-driven - even with a limited cast - and in fact, the lighthouse and the weather outside almost become characters in their own rights. 

Moving between the mundane and the extra-ordinary, I Am the Sea poses philosophical questions in one breath while quoting famous novels in the next. The narrative thread darts around like the inside of the narrator's mind; often rambling, yet always finding its way in the end. 

This book is excellently paced, rising to the big reveal and a thrilling conclusion. It's tense, suspenseful, and gripping. Uniquely unsettling, I Am the Sea is an intriguing literary fiction novel with a rich, Gothic atmosphere.
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Many thanks for the opportunity to review this book.

I have read several books surrounding lighthouses this year, and this grabbed my attention straight away.

Sadly I felt myself unable to finish this book, through no fault of its own. I found the writing to be beautiful but too wordy and dense for me. I found myself really struggling to get into the story and made the decision to put it aside. I don't feel that it is fair for me to post a review to Goodreads as I didn't finish the book.

I may well pick this book up again in the future and see if I feel any differently as I have been having a bit of a tough time and this may have affected my ability to enjoy this novel.
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I found this was a really interesting book. Lighthouses are interesting, a story of three men having to live together in an isolated place is interesting.  Then, on top of all that there is the main narrative.

I loved the description of the sea and the lighthouse. I felt like the author had done their research. There was so much detail and description. The style was quite poetic and wordy which fitted perfectly.

The story itself was a bit creepy, an isolated place with multiple deaths reported. You wouldn't want that as your first posting as an apprentice like Meakes. 

It certainly leaves an impression.
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