publisher: Farrar, Straus, & Giroux BYR
release date: February 28, 2012
hardcover, 296 pages
intended audience: Young adult (suggested for 15+)
source: from publisher for honest review
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 had me riveted to the page. It took a little getting use to, because it is fantasy in its best form, with a world that is completely built from the blank page up. There are words to learn and entire social structure to straighten out in your mind, but once you get it all straight, it sucks you in and you're completely immersed into the gritty, magical, myth-ridden world of Pelimburg. The setting is so expertly imagined and fleshed out that you could almost forget this isn't historical fiction if it weren't were for the magical drugs, the vampires and selkies among the crowd, and the bodies washing ashore that have been completely drained by boggarts until they resemble jellyfish.
Felicita runs from her privileged home and a cruel controlling brother after her best friend takes her own life to escape an arranged marriage. She has magic, but is completely unable to use it without a drug called Scriv, most of which is controlled by the rich so that they can control the poorer citizens. She is almost always conflicted on her decision to flee...life is certainly not easy in the place she has run to and her loyalty to her family name proves to be deeply embedded. Sometimes it gives her character a vulnerability and weakness to be so conflicted, but it also gives her a good amount of realism, as something as huge as running from everything you've ever known is never cut and dry. Still, she gets by and finds a place among a group in the slums of Pelimburg. The leader of the group, Dash, is mysterious and confident and has a lot of pull, and Felicita is drawn to him.
She also befriends a "bat", the vampire Jannick. Vampires, surprisingly, are at the very bottom of the social ladder of Pelimburg. Theirs was my favorite relationship of the story. It's all very unorthodox, but they find some common ground and build a very bizarre sort of friendship.
But this was not a love story---not with Dash or Jannick. It was about bravery, magic, facing the unknown to reach your freedom, myth and a strongly superstitious society, and keeps you guessing how much of those superstitious are real. It was about a society in complete social turmoil that at times resembled the despair and epic feel of Les Mis. It's about a girl who's trying to decide where her loyalties lie, what she believes in, and how she wants to live her life. It was a lot to pack in to a story of less than 300 pages, but I think Cat Hellison pulled it off beautifully. I don't know if this is a stand-alone, but I thought the ending was perfect...it ended in a way that completed the story and was satisfying, but could also conceivably leave an opening for more story.
An excellent debut, one that I definitely plan to read again.
Favorite passage: "I find out that I'm dead while eating spoonfuls of shaved ice from a paper cone. My official death notice. Lemon flavored."
Visit Cat Hellison's site: www.cathellisen.com
Since I really loved this one and plan to buy a finished copy, I've decided to give my ARC away to one lucky winner!
Fill out the form HERE if you want a chance at it!
US only • Must be 13 or older • Contest ends 3/27/12
Good luck! :)