For What It's Worth

For What It's Worth

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Review: When the Sea is Rising Red by Cat Hellisen

11388429 After seventeen-year-old Felicita’s dearest friend, Ilven, kills herself to escape an arranged marriage, Felicita chooses freedom over privilege. She fakes her own death and leaves her sheltered life as one of Pelimburg’s magical elite behind. Living in the slums, scrubbing dishes for a living, she falls for charismatic Dash while also becoming fascinated with vampire Jannik. Then something shocking washes up on the beach: Ilven's death has called out of the sea a dangerous, wild magic. Felicita must decide whether her loyalties lie with the family she abandoned . . . or with those who would twist this dark power to destroy Pelimburg's caste system, and the whole city along with it. 

Review:
When the Sea is Rising Red is a richly atmospheric debut novel that blends elements of fantasy, paranormal and a touch of dystopian. The characters are so intricately intertwined that their actions have a profound impact on each other in ways no one could foresee.

After Felictia's best friend Ilven commits suicide to avoid an arranged marriage, Felicita, fakes her own death and runs away from Pelimburg in an attempt to avoid the same fate. She's wants to be able to control her own destiny rather than have it dictated by her cold, abusive older brother. 

Felicita is an intriguing character. She comes from a life of privilege and magic but has never experienced true freedom living in Pelimburg's patriarchal society. She adapts fairly quickly to life on the streets without any of the luxuries she's accustomed to and Felicita's world view is widened as she interacts with the people she once thought beneath her.

On her journey she first meets Jannick, a vampire, or "bat", who seems to be a kindred spirit. Jannick comes from a Matriarchal society where a males worth is measured as their value as a breeder. Jannick and Felicita, although from different castes, share the same societal burdens. They aren't allowed to form relationships of their own choosing and must conform to their families will. Their friendship slowly blossoms and was a pleasure to read.

Then there's Dash, a Hob and charismatic leader of a small group of misfits. Felicita joins their makeshift family and becomes close to Dash until he starts acting strange and distant.  Dash has a revolution to lead and revenge to exact, making his intentions towards Felicita unclear. Felicita is a War-Singer, meaning she can use magic to control the air around her, making her a powerful potential weapon in Dash's army.
 
There are some very interesting plot developments and really good twists in this novel. Unfortunately just about everything I could possibly say would be a spoiler. 

I'm not normally a huge fan of high fantasy because of the overly descriptive prose. It seems like each blade of grass, each cloud description can take 3-4 pages. In When the Sea is Rising Red however, I felt the opposite. I wish it was more descriptive. There are sea witches, unicorns, Hobs and more but I could never really visualize any of these things or the city of Pelimburg.

Although I liked and rooted for Felicita, I was far more interested in Dash & Jannicks struggles but this is Felicita's story so we don't get to learn as much about them. As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, the characters fates are irrevocably intertwined but when the BIG revelations were revealed they seemed to be passed over very quickly in favor of the dramatic fantasy scenes which just didn't hold my interest as much.

The ending was a little bit of a letdown compared to the wild emotional swings earlier in the book but the author leaves the door cracked open for further installments. I felt that this book could be read as a stand alone even though I believe it is book one of a new series.

Rating 2 out of 4: When the Sea is Rising Red has a very complex world and plot that might be better suited for older teens.There was no way I could put this book down without finding out what happened to the characters even though the story never quite clicked for me.  I should also mention that the majority of Goodreads reviewers felt the exact opposite of me regarding the world building so I would give it a shot especially if you are a fan of fantasy and "OMG what just happened?" plot twists.

Cat Hellisen website | Twitter
Buy the book!  When the Sea is Rising Red
Source: ARC provided by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) for my honest review
YA Debut Author Challenge book

17 comments:

  1. I feel the same about fantasy -- I'm more interested in character and plot than the details of a made-up world. But I really admire writers of fantasy -- they have more imagination than I'll ever hope to have.

    I didn't know that this was part of a series. Not really sure how that would work -- maybe loosely interconnected books with crossover characters?

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    1. I thought it was a stand alone but then I read in a review that there would be a sequel. I couldn't find anything official though.
      Depending on where the story was going I think I would give it a go and see if I liked the next one better. It's a really unique story/world and it's nice to find something different these days.

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  2. Ugh I hate when everyone loves it and you don't. I am very picky about my fantasy and book :)

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  3. *sobs*

    I had really high hopes for this one, mostly because of the gorgeous cover and well, my addiction to VAMPIRES, but not so much anymore. I usually one to get annoyed with overly done descriptions, too, but to not have enough is just as frustrating.

    Bum deal, but I'm glad to know I don't have to rush out and grab this one. Thanks, K.

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    1. You might still like it Missie but there isn't much on the vampire side which was a little disappointing to me. I loved that character and wanted to know more about their society.

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    2. Yeah, I would have wanted to know more about the vampire society too. Maybe I'll give it a go when book 2 comes out and I read a review for it. LOL

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  4. I tried reading this but couldn't get into it. I really should give it another go but after reading your review, I don't want to. :-P

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  5. I am so excited to read this--I'm a huge lover of fantasy. You're so right that some fantasy authors describe everything to death and I'm sort of glad that's not the case here...but now I'm a bit worried about the world-building. Hmph. Well, I think I'll still give it a try. It was great to hear what you thought of it!

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    1. If you're a fan of fantasy then you will probably love it.
      I seem to be the only reviewer that didn't feel it was descriptive enough so I wouldn't worry about it.

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  6. I've heard mostly good things about this book. It's actually one of those books that I'm set on reading, regardless of the reviews I read (though I always appreciate reading your opinion, Karen)!

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    1. Almost everyone loved it and felt completely immersed by the descriptions so you will probably really like it.
      Let me know when you do.
      I loved a lot of things about it but in the end it just didn't work for me.

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  7. I'm incredibly intrigued! So many of the details sound like genuinely new twists on fantasy, but there's something about the description that isn't fully clicking with me. Imma leave it alone, most likely. :-)

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  8. It sounds good, and then there are those hm parts. So not a book to buy, but still a book I want to read

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  9. I've seen mixed reviews on this one. Not sure if I want to read it yet. Nice review.

    Magical Urban Fantasy Reads
    bookluvrmindy

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  10. Nice review/ i still wanna read it though

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  11. Still have to review this, lol... and I really don't want to after reading your review.

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  12. I AM a fan of fantasy AND OMG WTF happened plot twists. If a plot twist could be made into a man I would probably jump him.

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