Summary: Mina’s people believe the Sea God, once their protector, now curses them with death and despair. In an attempt to appease him, each year a beautiful maiden is thrown into the sea to serve as the Sea God’s bride, in the hopes that one day the “true bride” will be chosen and end the suffering. Many believe that Shim Cheong, the beloved of Mina’s older brother Joon, may be the true bride. But on the night Cheong is to be sacrificed, Joon follows Cheong out to sea, 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 seeks out the Sea God, only to find him caught in an enchanted sleep. With the help of a mysterious young man named Shin—as well as a motley crew of demons, gods and spirits—Mina sets out to wake the Sea God and bring an end to the killer storms once and for all.
Genre: fantasy, young adult, retellings
If I’ve learned anything in the last year, it’s that I am an absolute sucker for young adult fantasy retellings. As a reader, I gradually moved away from YA and fantasy when it felt too bogged down and moved on to more mature stories, but why the heck did I do that?? These books all have gorgeous covers that reel me in, and then I’m completely drawn into them with their beautiful prose, heartbreaking stories, and fantastic world-building. The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea is no exception to this rule.
I’ve heard a lot of people compare this book to Spirited Away, and while I do see some correlation since both stories take place in a spirit world of sorts, it’s more so the feelings that come with the atmosphere and heartache of this story that make them so similar. Spirited Away is one of those movies that I’ve seen hundreds of times, and I love the rich atmosphere, the loud colors and noises of the fantasy world. It’s boisterous and chaotic at times, but also serene and soothing. It’s a story that stays with you long after you’ve seen it. The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea gives me the exact same feelings. I wanted to stay in this world forever.
Everything in the book’s summary happens almost right away, and we’re immediately swept into the Spirit Realm with Mina. Considering the overall plot is for Mina to break a curse put on the Sea God, this story moves incredibly fast. I was impressed with the amount of non-stop action, although at times I did feel like it could have been more fleshed out. Fight scenes are over almost as quickly as they begin, conflict is generally resolved with ease, sometimes a scene would end with a chapter, and the story jumped to the following morning or a brand new scene with the next chapter. I understand this created strong pacing for the story, but this story could have been twice the length with more in-depth scenes and I would have loved it even more.
Because of how quickly the plot moved and how much was happening in the story, I felt like there weren’t enough explanations for certain situations, and they never really got resolved. I also initially found myself overwhelmed with the amount of characters that were introduced so early on, especially since they all have their own powers or backgrounds as non-humans. It was difficult to keep track of, and like I said, had this story been longer or maybe the focus had been more on smoothing out the characters and any unanswered plotlines, it would have been a five-star rating.
But that’s not to say I didn’t love this story, because I absolutely did. It was magical and dark and romantic and heart-wrenching. Mina’s ties to her family were so pure and genuine that multiple scenes broke my heart and then had me smiling and blossoming again with her. The romance plot was perfect in that it was mostly the main story arc without ever feeling overwhelming or unrealistic, and I was rooting for Mina and Shin the whole way. Some of the major twists were predictable, although early on I guessed them and found myself enjoying the story so much that I didn’t care to guess how it worked out. This book was truly a rollercoaster of emotions, and it’s a ride I wish never ended.
I was angry at the fate I’d been given. Because I realized that in order for you to have what you want, I’d have to lose the only thing I’ve ever wanted.