Mar 6, 2012
Review - When the Sea Is Rising Red by Cat Hellisen
February 28th, 2012 by Farrar Straus Girous
After her best friend ends her life rather than be forced to marry, Felicita fakes her own death and walks away from her extravagant and spoiled life to pave her own path. She would rather spend her life on the streets than wait for her brother to marry her off and be forced to lead a dull, loveless life. Felicita walks away from absolutely everything goes into hiding among the destitute Hobs in Old Town. Her first few days are not easy, but luckily she is taken in by a group of misfits who seem to be under the care of a charismatic young man named Dash. After bodies start washing up on shore, the town begins to think that an old prophecy is coming to flourishion. Felicita is afraid of what this means for her family and she must decide where her loyalties lie.
This book has so many strong suits! The alternative historical setting is interestingly rich with a culture that is new and so very intriguing. We are swept away to a whole new world full of fascinating, dangerous people and creatures. Hellisen gives us characters that range the entire spectrum. What is even more notable is that everyone and everything has a purpose for being there. We aren't introduced to one unique being after another just for the sake of filling pages. These characters are vital to the storyline and some hold a mysterious air that leaves you wanting to know them more.Vampires called bats, poets called crakes, and people who seem ordinary like you and I, but turn out to be something different entirely. Felicita herself is a unique character. She has magic all her own, but it can't be called up without Scriv - a drug that allows her to control the air around her. A drug that her brother controlled in her own home and that comes with a high price in Old Town. Felicita is head strong, but recognizes her weaknesses and shortcomings from being raised in a privileged home. She isn't completely naive and we see her struggle to remain unnoticed and her dissonance about returning home.
Felicita's relationship with Dash and the other Hobs becomes increasingly complicated as time goes on. She is determined to pull her weight and yet she is reminded every minute that she isn't like everyone else even though she tries so hard to just blend in. Felicita does a fantastic job at being anonymous - at first. Dash catches wind that Felicita is hiding something and when he thinks he knows for certain (using his bedroom eyes), he plans to use Felicita to change the way of of life in Old Town for every Hob. Too bad for him, Felicita is a special, young girl who has a mind all of her own.
This book really reminded me of Graceling. The alterna-world, the diverse characters, and the rich and sophisticated writing style - it is all there! Fantastic debut and with an ending like this one, I only want more!
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You can find Hellisen at her website