The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea by Axie Oh

Deadly storms have ravaged Mina’s homeland for generations. Floods sweep away entire villages, while bloody wars are waged over the few remaining resources. Her 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 most beautiful girl in the village—and the beloved of Mina’s older brother Joon—may be the legendary true bride. But on the night Cheong is to be sacrificed, Joon follows Cheong out to sea, 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 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.

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…

*****

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. All thoughts are my own.

Review:

I don’t know what is it with 2022 Asian YA fantasy novels and absolutely stunning covers but I’m so here for it. This was a book that caught my eye from the get-go. Inspired by the Korean story “The Tale of Shim Cheong”, The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea brings forth magical retelling, full of whimsy and wonder.

For me, what stood out most in this book is the stunning worldbuilding. Our protagonist, Mina, throws herself into the sea in a desperate bid for her brother’s happiness and finds herself transported to the Spirit Realm of the Sea God beneath the sea, full of spirits, gods, and other mystical beings. There’s this Ghibli-esque quality to it all, and it absolutely deserves the Spirited Away comp used. Oh really brings to life the different godly domains Mina travels to, the night markets, and the Sea God’s palace. There’s so much life and movement in these worlds and it was definitely my favorite part to read. I would absolutely love if this world were revisited one day.

The plot moves quite quickly, perhaps a little too quickly at times. Mina certainly spares to no time learning to navigate through the Spirit Realm and taking on the various tasks she needs to survive. Mina rapidly jumping from one godly domain to the next, acquiring items/information or lack thereof, before moving onto the next task. Despite that, I never felt like a plot point was added for the sake of visiting a location or character. Everything felt organic and Mina’s character consistent.

Often, my number one criticism of YA novels tends to be that the protagonist is a reader-insert doormat. Mina’s character was refreshing. She has that snarky backbone that you often see, but also sympathetic and determined. Of course, the side characters were delightful, with the sunshine/angry duo of Shin and Namgi, and the mysterious figure that follows Mina throughout her adventure Shim.

Overall, I rate this book a 4.5/5. I realize this review doesn’t read as glowing as I wanted it to but I really really enjoyed it. The whimsy and the adventures Mina undergoes, all the places and characters she visit were so well written that I couldn’t put it down.


r/Fantasy 2021-22 Bingo Squares:

  • Set in Asia (hardmode)
  • 1st Person POV
  • Found Family

Publication Date: 22 February 2022
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Format: eBook, ARC
Pages: 336
Word Count: ~80,000
ISBN: 1250780861 
Buy It Here: Amazon | Google Books | Barnes and Nobles | Goodreads

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