I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. This did not affect my opinion of the book in any way.
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Published: February 2022
For generations, deadly storms have ravaged Mina’s homeland. Her people believe the Sea God, once their protector, now cursed 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…
The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea is a magical feminist retelling of a classic Korean legend, perfect for fans of Uprooted and Miyazaki’s Spirited Away.
I love Uprooted and recently discovered the wonder that is Spirited Away, so when I first saw this book it felt as though it had basically been written for me! And I am really glad my NetGalley request for this was approved because The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea was exactly the kind of book I needed, with a story that is just as great as its breathtaking cover.
I absolutely loved being immersed in the world of this book and following Mina in the Spirit Realm. Some of the initial descriptions of the Realm definitely reminded me of Spirited Away, so much so that I could almost picture it in exactly the same way. The story soon continued on its own independent path, and it was so engaging and fast-paced that I may possibly have forsaken other duties just to continue reading as I was so engrossed in the action.
The characters were delightful, and I was especially taken with the protagonist, Mina. She is everything I want in a main character: smart, generous, kind and brave. Plus, she is an excellent storyteller, and that never hurts! The rest of the cast was varied and just as compelling, even though there were a few characters I would have liked to see developed a little further. I wasn’t wholly sold on the romance at the beginning, but it completely won me over in the second half of the book! And I absolutely adored the focus on family relationships and friendship: they were so wholesome and heartwarming and gave me all the feels. There may have also been some tears… mostly happy tears, though!
I loved the setting and I found the descriptions to be beautifully delivered, lush and very evocative, but at the same time the worldbuilding is the aspect I had the most issues with. In a sense, it felt as though the book’s fast pace worked against it in this respect, as it often seemed rushed and I couldn’t help feeling as though large parts of context were missing. I won’t go into any more detail to avoid potential spoilers, but I’ll just say that I’m still wondering about the motives behind certain characters’ actions and decisions.
Still, I had a great time with this book and I loved getting lost in it. Magic, action, love, grief, honour, family, gods and goddesses and even a dragon: this book has it all! Plus, I loved discovering more about the original Korean legend that inspired this retelling. Definitely recommended to anyone looking for a magical easy read.