Review: When the Sea is Rising Red by Cat Hellisen
When the Sea is Rising Red by Cat Hellisen
February 14, 2012
Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
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.
I have been looking forward to reading WHEN THE SEA IS RISING RED since I first spotted it in the Macmillan catalog. The premise drew me and I couldn’t wait to dive in! Unfortunately, the novel fell a little short for me. In the beginning, the story building is goes at a perfect pace to draw the reader right in. However, by the time we reach the mid-point, things start to go downhill. The events happen at lightening speed and I couldn’t process what was happening before the book moves onto something else. I felt like it became rushed and it threw me off.
I’m still a bit conflicted about Felicita. I cheered her on when she came in to her own and left her controlling brother and home for somewhere unknown but seemingly better than her rich life. Her brother infuriated me with the way that he treated his own blood and I felt so bad that Felicita had to grow up with someone like him and have him making life changing decisions for her.
However, my sympathy for Felicita lessened with her some of her decisions. I can’t say what happened, but I couldn’t believe she fell for it. I was so frustrated with her for getting so deep into the situation that I knew wouldn’t turn out right. She was even warned by several people about what she was getting herself into. I hate it when protagonists don’t listen to reason.
The storyline fascinated me in the beginning, but it lost me by the time the you-know-what hit the fan. The stories about the sea witch, boggarts, and the bad omens excited me and I couldn’t wait to see what was really going on with everything and all the deaths. Sadly, we learn what is going on all at once and it was a bit too much for me. I couldn’t process what was happening as fast as the events were occurring and I felt like readers got the short end of the stick.
While the beginning of WHEN THE RED SEA IS RISING is captivating and complex, the middle and the end are far from it. I found myself getting a bit confused and bored. I wish I would have liked it more.