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…
After reading and enjoying XOXO by Axie Oh last year, I just knew when this book was announced I had to read it. It’s a YA fantasy inspired by Asian (specifically Korean) mythology! It’s also a retelling of the Korean tale of Shim Chong – which I’m not familiar with but very happy to be introduced to!
From what I’ve read about Shim Chong – this was an interesting mix of the tale and Axie Oh’s original ideas. I can’t speak on the faithfulness nor accuracy, as I said I wasn’t familiar prior to picking up this novel.
The novel is also described as being similar to Spirited Away, I haven’t seen that film since I was a child, so cannot comment on that aspect either. Both deal with a character being thrown into the spirit realm, so I kinda see the comparison. I guess it’s time for a Spirited Away rewatch!
The writing was so beautiful.
It almost reads like a fairytale, it’s very magical and pretty. Everything about the story was stunningly written. I thought the characters were all well written and I enjoyed Mina as a protagonist, I just kind of wish there was more backstory for Mina.
We jumped straight into the plot – which I like if the story is going to be fast-paced. This, however, was a tad on the slow side, to begin with. The pacing was a bit all over the place, one of the few faults. Some parts were pretty slow and some over too quickly.
The romance, I really enjoyed. Subtle and not overbearing, it was very sweet and wholesome. A little slow burn, which is my favourite, I’m not the biggest fan of instalove. It also didn’t take up the whole plot – it definitely takes the back seat for the majority of the novel.
Part of me is happy it’s a standalone, due to the lack of commitment but it was so good I wish there were more. However, the story wrapped up so perfectly, it was a joy!
I look forward to reading more from Axie Oh in the future.
Rating: 4 Stars
*Book was provided by NetGalley in exchange for a review.
The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea is out Feb 22nd!