reviews of SeaWAR

This review by Amy Nightingale was uploaded to Compelling Reads website on 1 September 2014:


This review by DJ was uploaded to the Edinburgh Book Review on 11 June 2014:

“SeaWAR is the much awaited second part of Sarah Holding’s SeaBEAN trilogy. In the first book, Alice discovered that she and her friends can travel to any place in the world with a black futuristic cube called the C-BEAN. While this alone is very exiting, now Alice meets Karla, the mysterious German inventor of the C-BEAN. While she arrives at St. Kilda to provide some much needed repairs to the device, something strange happens: from 2018, Alice and Karla travel back to 1918!

This is the start of a truly fast-spinning trail of adventures. Together with Donald and other St. Kilda students they meet in 1918 and travel deeper down the road of history to the Grand Exhibition in 1851. This is cause for much joy and wondrous awww’s (including from myself) – but soon Alice discovers that travelling through time also has a serious side to it. She and Donald end up in dangerous situations – and claustrophobic Karla is not exactly a helping hand. By travelling to and from various different years, she is confronted with a starving population on St. Kilda, two world wars and nuclear tests that could seriously harm the future. Can Alice save her home island and the people she loves?

SeaWAR contains a lot more action than its predecessor, making it a very exciting read. There is a lot at stake and sometimes it even gets a bit scary. Luckily, Alice gets a lot of help from her friend Charlie, and it’s nice to see that their friendship develops further as their adventures get tough. Another character that gets more attention is Old Jim, as we finally discover his life’s story. I felt it was deeply moving, and I think the writer has succeeded in incorporating such an emotional topic in a children’s novel.

SeaWAR is a great book that covers a lot of different aspects, like time travel, ghost stories, friendship, ecology and family history. This might seem too much for only 164 pages, but Holding has done a fantastic job knitting them all together in a marvellous story. Personally I would have liked to stay at the Great Exhibition a bit longer – and other readers might prefer to look at other times and places more closely. But I feel that the writer really has got what it takes to whet the readers’ appetite for further reading, which I find a positive asset to a novel which is aimed at children. After reading SeaWAR, I’m sure every child will want a C-BEAN. Actually, I want one too!”


This review was added by Janette Skinner on The Best Book Review website on 7 May 2014:

“This is the second book in a trilogy, and I was gifted this book to read and review. I reviewed the first book in the series, enjoyed in immensely and gave it five stars. This is in the same format with the same stylish heat sensitive cover, which is really impressive, and contains all the old characters and a lot of new ones.

This is a more intense kind of grown up story which moves at a fast pace through time, backward and forwards and has lots of scary and exciting adventures. Alice makes some new friends from wartime and also gets to know Karla, the SeaBean’s inventor and designer, who seems at times secretive and mysterious.

The capabilities of the Bean continue to surprise, and the story is inventive and original with lots of technical detail which will delight children of today. The characters develop nicely and there is a clever mixture of historical fact amongst the fiction which is portrayed in a way that will give young readers some understanding about war and espionage. A great way to learn about important historical events by actually feeling you have been there, and it also highlights environmental issues such as nuclear waste dumping.

In the end we get a mark four upgrade of the Sea Bean and more mystery surrounding Karla and her origins. I will look forward to the third book, SeaRise, and hope to get an opportunity to review that also. I feel this is so well written that all the impossible things that happen seem totally normal.”


This review by Safie Maken Finlay was uploaded on The Swallow’s Nest blogsite on 22 April 2014:

“St. Kilda is a barren and isolated archipelago on the westernmost point of Scotland’s outer Hebrides. Astonishingly, considering its remote location and lack of flora and fauna, the island was inhabited at least as far back at the Middle Ages, and there are signs that people may have lived there since prehistoric times. This becomes difficult to believe when reading Sarah Holding’s books SeaWAR and SeaBEAN, both of which are strongly centred around St Kilda. Sarah Holding is a skilled writer, and she manages to evoke the area’s barren and windswept nature very effectively. In SeaWAR, one notable plot strand involves the planting of the island’s first ever tree. Remote and mysterious, St. Kilda’s makes a wonderful location for a children’s adventure story, but life on these islands must have been next door to impossible before technological advances such as the Internet arrived to eliminate distance and destroy physical borders.

SeaWAR is the second book in a trilogy of children’s books that began with SeaBEAN and will end with the intriguingly named SeaRISE. The books tell the story of Alice, an 11-year-old girl living with her family in a small community on St Kilda in the near future. In SeaBEAN, Alice and her friends discovered the C-Bean, a mysterious cube, not unlike Dr Who’s Tardis, which has advanced technology capable of transporting the children to different places in time and space. SeaWAR begins with the cube stranded and unusable on a rocky outcrop. After the enigmatic Karla arrives from Germany to fix the C-Bean, an unexpected factory reset is performed, and Alice and Karla are plunged back in time.

What follows is an engaging, fast-paced time-travelling adventure. Once again, St Kilda itself takes centre stage, as the C-Bean transports Alice to various different points in the history of the island, showing the desperate hunger and suffering of the 19th century, the dangers facing its inhabitants during World War 1 (when the island became a focal point of military pursuits in the North Sea), the evacuation of the island in the 1930s, and nefarious nuclear testing during the Cold War.

Sarah Holding’s SeaBEAN was an original and thought-provoking children’s book. Liberated, as sequels often are, from the need for exposition, SeaWAR contains more action and moves forward more rapidly than its predecessor. The plot is complex, and the time adjustments could be confusing for some young readers, but the book is also entertaining and eminently readable. Once again, it features a touch-sensitive cover, which positively glows if you leave it on a sunny windowsill (a discovery made by my children). SeaWAR will engage the interest of readers aged 9 and over who enjoy intelligent adventure stories.”

Review by Safie Maken Finlay (Safie is a regular contributor to the Swallows Nest and author of the fantasy adventure The Galian Spear. She is on Twitter @safiemfinlay)


This review by 10-year-old Mia Madden was uploaded on 10 April 2014:

“The second instalment in the SeaBean Trilogy and we are back with Alice, Charlie and the children of St. Kilda and their adventures in the C-Bean.  This time the machine resets itself and brings Alice back in time, to 1918 where she meets 11 year old Donald and his classmates.  Spix the parrot also tags along and the adventures just keep coming and coming!

Book 2 is choc-full of time travel fun and mystery and once again highlights the importance of the environment.  Alice encounters a whole new life on St. Kilda and makes some amazing new friends, from different eras.  We are introduced to Karla, the creator of the C-Bean and she seems to have something to hide…. Can Alice and her trusty friends figure out what her plans are for the future of the C-Bean?

This book was a real page turner, with great cliffhangers at the end of each chapter.  There was a lot of information to take in, so may be more suitable for age 10+, or to read aloud with an adult.  Like the last book, this one has a thermochromic cover which changes colour with body heat. Seriously cool!

I reviewed the 1st book in the Trilogy and my review was even quoted on the back of this one, as well as on some bookmarks!!!  I really, really recommend this series as it is simply awesome and I cannot wait for the third book, SeaRISE.”


This review was uploaded anonymously on 30 March 2014:

“SeaWAR has pulled me out of my funk. When I opened the unexpected package that thunked through my front door last week to find a new shiny copy of SeaWAR, spine unbroken and smelling strongly of  factory fresh paper and ink, I knew I had only one course ahead of me: a deep bubbly bath in which I could read until my toes wrinkled, and then a bit more.

The second instalment of Sarah Holding’s SeaBEAN trilogy finds protagonist Alice on a quest through history on her island home. The C-Bean’s newfound ability to travel through time as well as space is the driving force of SeaWAR. Mixing the real history of the small archipelago of St Kilda with an imagined future creates a rich and compelling narrative of intrigue and revelation.

The mysterious near-future technology of the C-BEAN is explored further in SeaWAR, but more questions are raised than are answered. Just who built the C-Bean? Why? Even when is suddenly under question. The marvel of technological advancement that is represented by the C-Bean is a nice juxtaposition against the environmentalism that it at the heart of the novel. It is technology that has brought Alice and her family to the island, but has the same scientific quest played a hand in evacuating St Kilda in the first place? At what cost comes knowledge? Each landmark of the island has a personal history to it, too, and Alice is drawn into these stories as she travels throughout the 20th century.

Alice continues to be a wonderful protagonist for young readers. She’s upbeat and likeable, broadly enough drawn that readers can easily place themselves in her shoes but  with a strong and consistent voice  that helps her jump from the page. Though her schoolmates play a smaller role than in SeaBEAN, her new acquaintances more than fill the void. There’s the curious figure of lady Grange, imprisoned on the island in the early decades of the 20th century, the equally curious Karla Ingermann, the children and adults of St Kilda’s past add a depth of perspective to the narration.

SeaWAR is just as compelling as its predecessor and just as quickly paced. In short it’s a cracking read. The settings are distant but familiar, with always a foothold available for young readers. There’s plenty to get your teeth into, with perilous missions, acts of heroism and  With the final part of the trilogy, SeaRISE not yet available, a second read of SeaWAR is definitely warranted; there is bound to be more to discover.  SeaWAR absolutely deserves 8 out of 10.”


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