Google+ YA Romantics: Just Finished Reading ... When the Sea is Rising Red

Friday, February 24, 2012

Just Finished Reading ... When the Sea is Rising Red

When The Sea is Rising Red
by Cat Hellisen
February 28, 2012
Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers

Source: bought from indie bookstore

Mature content: non-explicit sexual situations, suicide, drug use


Picking out books can be a little like getting dressed in the morning: I often reach for what's familiar and comfortable. So one of my Reading Resolutions for 2012 is to read books outside of my usual comfort zone.

When the Sea is Rising Red is one of those books. Fantasy definitely isn't my go-to genre. But I'm glad I ventured outside my comfort zone, because this book drew me in and kept me intrigued right until the end.


My summary: When her best friend commits suicide to escape an arranged marriage, Felicita is distraught, but understands her friend's state of mind. As a High Lammer -- a marriageable daughter from one of Pelimburg's High Houses -- Felicita faces the same choice: wed her chosen suitor or leap from the cliffs and let the sea claim her body instead. But Felicita sees a third option: she'll fake her own death and start a new life in the Pelimburg slums. So she leaves behind her privileged life and her scriven, a drug-like dust that helps her practice magic -- a right reserved for the upper classes -- and becomes a scullery maid. As she begins her new life in the city, she meets two men: Dash, a charismatic rabble-rouser, and Jannick, a high-born vampire. But when translucent bodies begin to wash ashore on the beach, the slum residents begin to whisper about dark magic, claiming that Felicita and her wealthy family are cursed and must pay in blood. Felicita will have to decide whom to trust and where her loyalties lie.

My thoughts: When the Sea is Rising Red offers up a rich, imaginative blend of legend, history, and magic. The High Houses of Palimburg are reminiscent of the Houses of Capulet and Montague in Romeo and Juliet, while the scriven-sniffing nobility could be a nod to the aristocratic opium and laudanum addicts of the Victorian age. There's a nice touch of political commentary in the form of the class warfare that simmers between the restive slum dwellers and the cloistered aristocracy. Characters from myth and the supernatural are woven into the mix: selkies, boggarts, sea witches and vampires. Yes, there's also a love triangle, but not the typical one.

While the book's sinister atmosphere and vivid setting are standouts, I felt they overshadowed its heroine at times.  Felicita starts out sheltered and naive, trying to break free of the constraints of her gender and class. However, after she makes the choice to take on a new identity, she seems to drift from situation to situation. By the end of the book, she does take control of her destiny, but her choice seems more practical than passionate.

Still, When the Sea is Rising Red is a unique and absorbing read.  If you love fantasy, you should definitely add it to your list. If you're a fan of the paranormal and/or historical fiction, I think you'll find much that appeals here. And if you're a diehard contemporary fan? Why not try something completely different!

Try this book if you liked:


Chime

Girl of Fire and Thorns

Scorpio Races

30 comments:

  1. This book sounds really good. I have been wanting to read it for a while. Like always, awesome review!!

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    1. It wasn't really on my radar, but I'm glad I read it. It's a memorable book!

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    2. Awesome. That's good to hear.

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  2. This sounds really good, I forgot about this book and I like dark reads.
    Thanks for the review.
    Janiera @This is From my Heart

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  3. I have been waiting forever to read this book! Actually, I am still waiting! Thank you for the great review. I'm a sad that the main character sounds a little weak, since I feel I really built this book up in my head. It's hard with so many kick ass chicks in books to be compared to!

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    1. I don't think every heroine needs to be a butt-kicker. I like the quietly strong ones too. This one starts out pretty sheltered, which is realistic for a girl in her position.
      Maybe it was just me -- let me know what you think after you read it!

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  4. This one sounds really good, Jen! I'd noticed it around the blogosphere, but had no idea what it was about now. I think I will be adding it to my TBR. I like the idea of reading something just a little bit different than everything that's out there right now. Glad you stepped outside your comfort zone and gave it a try!

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    1. Give it a try! It's well-written and really imaginative. I think you'll like it.

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  5. there's such a thing as Indie Bookstore??!!!
    so fantasy means magical things... hmm... why is it so hard for me to differentiate paranormal and fantasy?!

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    1. I am not an expert on this -- maybe someone who is will chime in.

      Fantasy is set in a made-up world. Like Lord of the Rings.

      Paranormal is usually set in our world -- but with the addition of paranormal creatures, phenomena, etc. Like Twilight.

      The world of When The Sea is Rising Red isn't entirely our world -- there's magic. But there's also paranormal stuff. So I guess this book is a blend?

      And I say "indie bookstore" to mean an independent bookstore -- i.e. not a chain store. I try to spread my book-buying around!

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    2. So as long as it is set on Earth, it would be paranormal, and if it a make-believe kingdom or world like a fairy world, then it is fantasy? :)

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    3. That's what I would say. But others may disagree :)

      And then there are books like Harry Potter which take our world and then overlay fantasy elements over it.

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  6. Just looked on Wikipedia (LOL -- font of all knowledge) which says that supernatural/paranormal fiction is a sub genre of fantasy. That fantasy is anything magical/not of the "real" world.

    But I'd argue (and again, would love it if someone disagreed ) that in YA, the term paranormal has come to be used for YA books that take place in our world but have paranormal/supernatural elements.

    So Twilight, Vampire Diaries, etc. would be paranormal while Graceling would be fantasy.

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  7. I agree with you about paranormal and fantasy. That's how I distinguish them too. Paranormal=setting is on Earth....Fantasy=setting is make believe.

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  8. Yes, I think your definitions of fantasy and paranormal/supernatural are pretty spot on. I'm waiting patiently to get my copy of this so I'm glad I got to read what your thoughts were first. Seems like a LOT going on, but intriguing too. And that cover! LOVE it! Yay for creepy covers!

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    1. It might seem like a lot, but it all works. And the cover is PERFECT. It really suits the book. I love it when the cover is just right :)

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  9. I just skimmed your review because I still have to write my own.
    There was a quite a bit of genre blending in here. It didn't always work for me but I did enjoy how the characters were connected in shocking ways.

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    1. I hear you. I don't like to read other reviews until I write mine. I want to keep my thoughts fresh. I only read others if I was confused by something and want to get a second opinion.

      Eager to hear your thoughts on the genre blending. As I said, I don't read a ton of fantasy so would love to hear other opinions.

      And yes, shocking. I actually took a line out of the review b/c afraid it was too spoilery...

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  10. I've seen the book around on the Internet. The title & cover first caught my attention. After your review I will add it to my wish list.

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  11. Oooh this sounds really good! =) Definately gonna have to check it out soon!

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  12. This one sounds really interesting. I just barely found out about the book. At first I didn't think it would be paranormal until I get to the part in the description about a vampire. I like that it mixes lots of different paranormal elements and the story sounds really unique. And oh of course it has a love triangle! GRRRR But I'll still probably read it.

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    1. I would love to hear what you think since you read way more paranormal and urban fantasy than I do.
      And the love triangle isn't the usual kind -- at all :)

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  13. I'm slightly intrigued by the love triangle not being the usual kind at all. I'm trying to NOT read love triangles (it's hard!! there's so many and so many great books have em!) but if you say it's different, then mayhaps I will not put it off to read.

    I've been interested in reading this book for a while, and it's totally in my comfort zone. I love me some fantasy/paranormal. I'm definitely on a kick, there was once a time when I scoffed at the idea of reading fantasy and would rather read "as real as you can get" fiction. Now I can't even get into a book if it's not fantasy/paranormal. I'll burn out eventually...

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    1. The love triangle is one of the most interesting aspects of the book. I can't say more without a spoiler, but DON'T let that dissuade you from reading it.

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  14. This is on my debut author tbr list, but I wasn't completely sure I was going to read it and was worried a little about content. Thanks for the review since now I know what to expect if I decide to read it.

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    1. It is a little edgy, but nothing too explicit!

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