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Synopsis

The Kraken Slayer takes place in a time and place similar to early 19th century America. The main characters live on the New Continent, which is divided into four political Clans. Although they are supposed to be united as one nation, the Clans harbor so must mistrust and hatred for one another that they act as nations unto themselves. Skipper, the main protagonist, lives in a tavern called The Silver Dolphin, which is located in Harbor Town. Harbor Town is the port district for the city of Nefron, which is the capital for the Clan Nefron. Nefron is the largest and most powerful of the four Clans and is ruled by its military. Despite keeping a tight grip on its lands, Nefron is experiencing difficulty with controlling piracy on the high seas. The piracy epidemic is so severe that sea commerce has come to a standstill. Nowhere is the economic impact felt harder than in Harbor Town, where sea trade, fishing, and whaling are vital industries. Although Skipper is a teenage runaway making a living as a fighter for money, he has very little interest or knowledge of the events around him until he meets up with Elsan Tanneman, an idealistic sea captain and master shipwright. Tanneman believes he has the answer to Harbor Town’s woes: a new kind of ship, not simply made of wood, but armored with iron plating to withstand all but the most severe barrages of cannon fire. Tanneman has contracted with the Navy to build a fleet of these armored ships, but he is secretly building another ship which is larger and even more heavily armored. He tells Skipper of this ship one night after watching Skipper win one of his fights. He also tells Skipper why he built it: he wants to hunt for krakens, which most people believe are myths. He wants to slay one and bring its body back as proof of its existence. He claims his late brother once saw one of these great beasts, just before it destroyed the ship he was on and killed every other soul on board, leaving him as the sole survivor. Tanneman wants Skipper to join him on his kraken hunt because he senses in the young man the ability to conquer any obstacle that confronts him; but Skipper finds Tanneman to be too eccentric and declines the offer. That night, however, would not be the last time that the two meet. Eventually Skipper’s and Tanneman’s lives become intertwined by the social, economic, and political forces surrounding them. As Harbor Town decays further, even erupting in a race riot between Whites (white-skinned humans) and Drogs (massive grey-skinned natives of the New Continent) Skipper joins forces with Tanneman and helps him complete his giant ship with the aid of others. Tanneman has many recently-released convicts working for him as cheap labor. Some are friendly, and some are not so friendly. There’s Jervis and Bob, who become good friends with Skipper, and then there’s Chet and Deech, a pair whom Skipper never liked from the first time he met them. There’s also Luther, a Drog who mostly keeps to himself, but Skipper remembers him from the night of the riot. Tanneman has a few trustworthy old salts who have been working for him for years, like his gruff first mate Roscoe, the boatswain Berry, and the brothers Vorstaf and Brostor, two gentlemen from the faraway city of Shaanheim. The brothers haven’t been back to Shaanheim in thirty years because of the rampant piracy that has prevented them from crossing the Great Ocean; but they hope that this new ship of Tanneman’s will be the impregnable fortress that finally gets them home. Tanneman has working for him Dr. Morten Fry, an ousted marine biologist from the academic Clan Welberg. Fry also believes krakens exist and has developed a number of theories about their behavior and their physiology. Exiled from Clan Welberg for preaching pseudoscience, he and Tanneman naturally came together in the joint endeavor to dispel all myths and superstitions surrounding krakens. Finally, Skipper meets Sara Tanneman, Elsan’s daughter. She’s a brainy sixteen-year-old on the cusp of graduating at the head of her class, and her father has taught her everything he knows about sailing and navigating. When she meets Skipper for the first time, it’s a bit awkward. Tanneman names his new ship Isan after his late brother. As the ship moves toward completion, Tanneman grows suspicious that there are spies in his shipyard. He knows he cannot trust Adm. Meelis, who covets the new ship, and he knows Meelis will go to great lengths to get what he wants. What Tanneman doesn’t realize is how right he is. Unbeknownst to him, Meelis arranged that one of Tanneman’s new workers fresh out of prison would be a spy planted in the workforce to relay technical data about the ship to a contact outside the shipyard. Despite the suspicions he has, Tanneman is unable to tell who the planted spy is. Once the Isan is completed and Skipper is certain he’ll be going with Tanneman on the maiden voyage, Skipper decides to venture into Harbor Town one last time. He doesn’t recognize the place anymore. After the riot, more business closed down. The army moves through the streets, waiting to arrest anyone for acting the in the least questionable way. People are scared to leave their own homes. Skipper sees how wrong it all is, and he sees how it must change if the people of Harbor Town wish to regain their way of life. He realizes that he might actually play a part in the change if he is to set sail with Tanneman, and he’s excited by the prospect. Sara and Skipper have warmed as friends, and she decides to tell Skipper what her own hopes are for the voyage. She shows to Skipper an old journal that once belonged to her father’s mentor. In the journal are many notes about a place called the White Kingdom. Like the kraken, the White Kingdom is also shrouded in legend. It is supposed to be the place where mankind once lived together with God and other divine beings. There, under God’s Holy Mountain, mankind was taught the secrets of the universe, but then something happened, and all that knowledge was lost. Mankind left the White Kingdom, never to return again. But Tanneman’s mentor believed and now Sara believes that the White Kingdom is real and hidden far away in an endless mountain range. Sara thinks some of that lost ancient knowledge is still there, waiting to be rediscovered, and she marvels at what there may be to learn: ways to end all wars, all poverty, all illness, all hunger. Maybe suffering as a whole can be conquered, Sara supposes. Since their destination is Shaanheim, which if far to the north, she thinks that more clues to the White Kingdom’s location can be found there. It is Skipper, Tanneman, and his daughter Sara that drive The Kraken Slayer forward. Each decide that it is not beyond them to make their world better in some way. For Skipper, he sets off on the voyage to make Harbor Town better. For Tanneman, he wishes to make the Great Ocean better. But for Sara, she wishes to make the entire world better. Each character bears his or her own unique mixture of realism and idealism, just as we do. What good would our dreams be if we didn’t have the good sense and judgment to know what is attainable and what is not? What good are our actions in this world if we don’t do them in the name of a higher purpose? Any one of us could be a Skipper, or an Elsan, or a Sara. We can relate with any one of them as they embark on this great voyage in the hope of restoring something that was lost. Of course the journey is littered with peril. Somewhere out there, there are pirates. There may be krakens. Everywhere are there people who are not to be trusted. Some of these people are readily apparent, while others may be sleeping in the nearby bunk. Start the journey with The Kraken Slayer, and find out what goodness in life the protagonists are able to salvage from the dangerous ocean, and what prices they must pay for it.

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