In 2007, I had just started reading The Fox by Sherwood Smith (the mmpb will be rereleased in April) when I signed with my agent. I’d enjoyed the hell out of Inda, the first in the series despite the long section set in military school. I’m not a big fan of school stories, but Inda won me over.
The Fox is even better. I don’t want to go too deep into it, but it’s a fantasy set mostly on sailing ships with lots of politics and action. The best thing is that the characters are so very real.
You hear a lot about gritty/realistic fantasy, and it’s always so cynical, as though realism is people behaving really badly. The characters in these books cover a wide range in a way gritty fantasy usually doesn’t–using omniscient POV, which isn’t used often enough.
And the world-building is terrific, yes, and there are so many characters it sometimes is hard to keep track. The hero is one of those super-capable types that make fantasy fun, but he has enough quirks that he rises above the generic hero stereotype. The whole thing is terrific.
There are two more books (which I’ve already bought) and the series is complete. You should totally read it.