Don’t chase fate. Let fate chase you.
For generations, deadly storms have ravaged Mina’s homeland. Her people believe the Sea God, once their protector, now curses them with death and despair. To appease him, each year a maiden is thrown into the sea, in the hopes that one day the ‘true bride’ will be chosen and end the suffering. Many believe Shim Cheong – Mina’s brother’s beloved – to be the legendary true bride. But on the night Cheong is sacrificed, Mina’s brother follows her, even knowing that to interfere is a death sentence. To save her brother, Mina throws herself into the water in Cheong’s stead.
Swept away to the Spirit Realm, a magical city of lesser gods and mythical beasts, Mina finds the Sea God, trapped in an enchanted sleep. With the help of a mysterious young man and a motley crew of demons, gods and spirits, Mina sets out to wake him and bring an end to the storms once and for all. But she doesn’t have much time: a human cannot live long in the land of the spirits. And there are those who would do anything to keep the Sea God from waking…
Thank you NetGalley and Hodder & Stoughton for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
This was a refreshing and quick read for me, with the story unravelling at a good pace yet lingering on the details enough to create an interesting setting and characters. I was initially thrown slightly by the way Mina’s story opens as she follows her brother out to sea and decides to dive in to save his beloved. I was expecting a little more backstory, and so I was concerned that I wouldn’t connect with Mina and her quest. I needn’t have worried; there was plenty of mystery (and a dragon!) to keep me engaged as Mina descends into the Spirit Realm and once there her mind unpicked both her current predicaments as well as the past that led her to that point.
Mina is a resolute and strong main character, but she is also full of compassion and hope despite the hard times she has seen during her short life. She prays to the Sea God even after the storms that ravage her village and take a maiden each year, and she still believes in the power of stories when others dismiss them. I really liked that stubborn element because it was never taken to the level of being annoying, but made her the perfect catalyst for the Spirit Realm which has become stagnant in the 100 years since the Sea God fell into his enchanted sleep.
When Mina arrives and follows the Red Ribbon of Fate to the Sea God’s palace, she finds herself intercepted by Shin, a powerful and mysterious young man (we love a brooding young man) who ensures that no chosen Bride remains connected to the Sea God, because it would keep him temporarily mortal and open to threats from rival houses that seek control of the Spirit Realm. Instead of simply accepting things as they are, Mina decides to unravel the mystery and, with the help of a few mischievous spirits and a few mythic creatures, she begins to piece together the past.
The Girl who Fell Beneath the Sea was full of whimsy and held the perfect balance between slow, myth-like storytelling and fast-paced action and plot twist. The romance was thrilling, the supporting cast was entertaining, and the world building was full of wonder. And Mina, our heroine, was a delight to spend time with. All in all, this was marvellously escapist.
Published: 22nd February 2022 by Hodder & Stoughton
Genre: fantasy, young adult
Narration style: first person, single point of view
Format read: eARC
Content Warnings: sacrifice, grief, some violence