Author: Axie Oh
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pub. Date: Feb. 2022
I really loved this book! I’ve been hearing a lot of really good things about it and after reading and loving Daughter of the Moon Goddess, I decided to pick this one up. It’s a short standalone fantasy and I really wish there were more books like this out there. You rarely find standalone fantasy books and I think it’s really special when you find a beautifully written one like this.
The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea is about a 16 year old girl who sacrifices herself to be the Sea God’s bride. Her village has been at the mercy of the sea for 100 years and every year they sacrifice a young and beautiful bride to try and please the Sea God and stop the storms. This year’s bride, Shim Cheong, is in love with Mina’s brother, so Mina jumps into the sea in her place and enters the Spirit Realm. There she discovers that things aren’t quite as they seem on the surface and she starts searching for a way to free the Sea God from a deep slumber and save her village.
The writing is definitely the first thing I want to comment on because it is really beautiful. The story of Mina’s journey through the Spirit Realm is interspersed with stories that her grandmother shared with her as a child. The author connects myth to reality and uses the medium of stories to uncover the truth of the spirit realm. The story is filled with magic and the beautiful prose used by the author only elevates the setting.
It’s hard for me to say whether it’s a character or plot driven novel because I think it is such a good blend of both. The story starts off with a bang and we’re quickly introduced to a whole new world. There is lots of action throughout the book and the world building is very well realized without being confusing. We’re introduced to lots of new characters, but it’s never overwhelming. The book has a lot of depth and Mina’s character not only grows throughout the story, but her storytelling also inspires growth in others.
Overall it’s just a really smart book. There are a few twists within the story, some of them are easy to see coming, while others surprised me. I loved the inclusion of the ancestors in the story and even though I saw the main twist coming, the how and why were still a mystery to me until the very end. It’s a smart book and together all of the elements add together to build something truly magical.
With a 16 year old protagonist, it sounds like YA, but it didn’t read that way to me. There are definitely books out there that feature children or teenagers that are still written for adults. I don’t necessarily think this is one of them, but the magic and prose combined made this not your typical YA novel. It’s my first 5 star read of 2023 and I’d definitely recommend it. I’m strongly debating whether I might be ready to make a soft launch back into the world of fantasy – for me I think it’s more about being intentional about what fantasy books I read and picking up ones that interest me and not just because they’re hyped up on social media (looking at you SJM and JLA). That said, this one deserves the hype.