I’ve selected some quotes that represent the story or stood out to me in some way. All quotes without quotation marks are narration from Xiang’s perspective. Dialogue is attributed to a character where applicable.
Note: These are spoiler-free, so don’t worry. Also, the quotes are taken from the final published version.
I close my book, whispering the words of the poem I’ve committed to memory, each verse filled with a longing I’ve never truly understood: “Once you’ve experienced ocean, nothing else is considered water.”page 12
I gasp as the horizon comes into view, and beyond the mouth of the river, the glittering ocean approaches. Hundreds of flickering lights gleam from streets unseen, softly glowing against stone, and distantly I can make out the cheerful red of lanterns and banners streaming from buildings. There’s the border of a massive stone wall, ambling as it tracks through the forest, and clusters of buildings rising up on the hills leading to the ocean. I can see the shadows of ships’ masts and the outline of docks, just barely.
I love it.
I love the motley crowd, the unruliness of the patrons, how there are just…so many people who have seen so many things. I want to see what they’ve seen, hear their stories. I want to know where those sailors in the far corner have been, what enemies that would with the sword has slain, what lost romances the singer on the dais is yearning for as she pours it all into her song.page 82
“Emperors and kings and officials…they all want the same thing from their people: constant tribute, money or grain or people for their endless wars. On the water, we aren’t a part of any empire. Our home is the sea, our port wherever we choose to travel.”Anh, page 101
My cheeks burn, and I tell myself it is the wine, but that feeling again raises its head, making itself known, that deep unbidden yearning in my heart I have never voiced. The simple touch seems at once too much, the warmth of her, and I both want to move away from the intensity of it and to also linger here in this moment forever.page 105
I reach out my hand, and I feel I can almost touch the sun as the ship speeds toward the new day—the swift wind, the great expanse of water ahead, and the great unknown rushing up to meet us.page 177
I know now what I knew then but was too afraid to admit: I had wanted her, the way the poets would write about. I wanted her steady companionship, her bright laughter as we raced through the fields together. I wanted her like a lover, to hold her face and sweep her hair out of her eyes and draw her in for a soft kiss.page 236
“Who is more the thief: the government that preys on its own people, or those who must become thieves in order to survive?”Xiang, page 241
“You all are here for a reason—whether it be your blood cast you out, your emperor did not do as he promised, or your king found you lacking—well, I did not! The sea cares not of your status, of whom you love! On this ship we work hard, and no emperor, no king, no navy lapdog could tell us what to do!”Captain Hoa, page 268
I have felt untethered all my life, drifting endlessly, and here, finally, is a safe place to land, a quiet harbor to protect me from the turbulence of the sea.page 304