Thursday, February 16, 2012

ARC Review: When the Sea Is Rising Red by Cat Hellisen

When the Sea Is Rising Red
Author: Cat Hellisen
Publication: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) (February 28, 2012)


Description: 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.


My Thoughts: This was a complex fantasy about a young woman who has to remake her life. She runs away from home in grief for her lost friend who commits suicide to avoid a forced marriage and to escape an unwanted marriage herself. She wants freedom and finds that it isn't so easy to claim. She runs to the poor part of town where her kind are not welcomed. There she makes friends and learns about the lives of the ordinary people of the city as she works doing dishes in a tea shop. 


Felicita meets Dash - a hob - who takes her in and makes her part of his crew of half breeds and hobs. He both fascinates her and confuses her and he has quite a hidden agenda. She also meets Jannick who is a vampire - called "bats" in that city. They are a despised minority. They also have a social order that is the reverse of Felicita's. In his world, the women have the power and the men are deemed worthless except for breeding stock. Jannick admires her because she ran away from her old life.


The story is filled with characters with different kinds of magic. Felicita is a War-Singer. When she takes a certain rare drug - scriv - she can control air. However, the drug is very addictive and Felicita spends a lot of the story craving it. Her class is the only class that is allowed to do magic. It is the highest class in the city. In fact, her family founded the city but has sort of fallen on hard times. The hard times are being made worse by Dash's actions as he looks for revolution and revenge. Dash has gathered other magic users around him including a woman who binds nightmares in her hair. When she looses it the nightmares run loose too. Even Jannick has a sort of innate magic that calls to Felicita - which is a source of irritation to his sister who has none yet who will have the power in the family.


This was a fascinating story with memorable characters. It was also complex as we tried to figure out what Dash was up to and what the relationships were between the various characters. It is difficult to watch the struggle Felicita has as she tries to make a new life for herself. I recommend this story to readers who like complexity and intrigue.


Favorite Quote:
I want to sleep, to go lie down and wake up in my turret room, the servants bringing me tea in bed, warm blankets, goose-feather pillows. I want to be clean, to wear clothes that aren't wrinkled and stained, that don't smell like cheap soap and sweat and tea and fish and grease.

I want to tell Owen that I'll do as he says, marry whoever he wants, as long as I can still have scriv.
I received this ARC from Macmillan Children's Group in exchange for an honest review. You can buy your copy here.

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