Author: Cat Hellisen
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Release Date: February 28, 2012
Read it in: 1 day
Honestly, I thought that this book was brilliant. That would be my first reaction after reading it. And after that, I would say that it was very unique and refreshing after reading so many YA books that all seem to run together with the same kinds of characters and plots-- I really was blown away. I originally took an interest in this book after I saw Rae Carson's review for it (author of The Girl of Fire and Thorns-- another awesome book) and I ended up reading it in less than 24 hours, which is almost unheard of for me, it was just that amazing!
So what is so great about this book you ask? Well for starters, I thought that it had the most perfect mix of subtle creepiness and dark, dreamy atmosphere. It was the world of Pelimberg-- which almost seemed to take on a character itself with its atmosphere and mood-- that really drew me into the story. The plot centered around a girl named Felicita whose home is a nightmarish place of slums and magic and vampires and sea witches. When the Sea is Rising Red was very much like an Edgar Allen Poe story--the dark and dream-like quality and just the whole eerie sense of foreboding that builds the plot really pulled me in and didn't let me go. There are vampires, selkies, magic, nightmares, and an evil sea witch intent on revenge. There is a Red Death plague rising from the sea, killing off anything in its path. All of these elements combined to create one awesome story and a unique world that is hard to forget.
I also fell in love with Hellisen's writing style and thought that it was totally addicting and hypnotic. This worked perfectly with a story that is filled with hallucinogenic and dream-like states and a plot that builds up suspense slowly but with increasing urgency. Added to this, the writing seemed very Victorian in its style and character dialogue, which is always a plus for me with any book!
Felicita, Dash, Jannik, and the other characters were very intriguing, mainly because they seemed more like actual people than characters you're reading about in a book. They weren't censored or sugar-coated, and they had me totally invested in what was going on to them. Felicita proved herself to be a survivor, and even though there wasn't anything about her that made her stand out as an awesome heroine, I liked her simply because her character wasn't forced. I felt like the author didn't try too hard to make her characters likable, but more to just make them real, and I definitely appreciated that.
Be warned: This book is definitely on the darker and more mature side of YA fiction-- there is sex, swearing, suicide, and lots of drinking laced with hallucinogenics. To put it simply, this book does not censor much of anything. Honestly, it was that kind of edginess that made me like the book even more. Much of the plot centers around upper-class magical families like the one Felicita is from, where the only way they can actually do magic is by snorting a very addictive powder called "scriv." When Felicita runs away to escape an arranged marriage, she is cast into the darkest places of society, and one of her only means of escape from the cold and cruel world is through the drugs of the proletariat-- I wouldn't say that this was glorified in any way; it's just part of the world Felicita belongs to.
So overall, I really enjoyed reading this book from beginning to end. I thought it was very unique and Cat's writing style was instantly alluring. I would recommend this book to some of my more adventurous fellow readers, since there are a lot of mature themes in it. But if you're looking for something that stands out from many other YA novels and has a slightly creepy feel to it, I would definitely say check this one out!
Totally dark and creepy to match the story, the cover for When the Sea is Rising Red captured my attention right away. I personally love this cover because it's so chilling, although I've heard other readers say they think it's deceiving because it doesn't really hint at the fact that the story has a Victorian vibe to it-- the cover looks more modern. But I really love it and think it's very eye-catching!