I had mixed feelings about this book, but I’ll start by saying it was a perfect beach read and a fun adventure/fantasy story. The downside for me was that I found the writing style distracting, and the main character a little annoying at times. But I think other readers might react differently and really enjoy this book.
Sophie Hansa has been tracking down her birth mother. She finally finds her, but her mother wants nothing to do with her. As she’s leaving, she runs into her mother’s sister, Gale, being attacked by two men. Sophie saves her aunt but in the process, falls into a strange new world.
Sophie is a biologist and at first is fascinated by the strange environment around her. Her aunt, who nearly drowned, insists that she be sent home immediately. She soon becomes caught up in a number of political intrigues and attempted murders. The mystery around her family deepens.
Sophie is an unusual protagonist. Most writers create bookish, over-thinking type characters (like themselves, I imagine) that I can generally identify with. Sophie, on the other hand, is very physical and fearless, and her greatest insecurity is about her intellect (her brother Bram is a genius). I liked this about her but was less able to identify with her. There’s a lot of marine biology (prob not the right term) which I know little about but it was pretty interesting.
I said I found the writing distracting, but it’s hard to explain why. Mainly, it’s the way Sophie speaks to everyone. Her dialogue is very informal, with lots of nicknames, slang, and pop culture references, which I found annoying considering that the people she’s interacting with have no idea what she’s talking about. Here’s an example.
“You must be somebody, Kir,” he said. “We’re dropping everything to rush you to the Fleet – “
“All that makes me is inconvenient,” she said. “To my aunt, to the islanders, and apparently to all of you. Believe me, if I’d known chasing my past was gonna drop me in a fantastic new ecosystem that I’m not allowed to explore, I’d have stayed home and rewatched Veronica Mars.”
“Lais is from Friends with Benefits Island.” Planet of the Polyamorous Sluts, she thought, lightheaded. Didn’t the Star Trek guys used to go somewhere like that for shore leave? And then: A little shore leave wouldn’t be the worst idea I ever had.
While I found the dialogue annoying, it’s also clever at times. More importantly, it made me think about dialogue and how this probably more closely reflects how we actually speak. Like how she and her brother have dozens of nicknames for each other… who ever calls a sibling by their full name? Also I can see how the author is deliberately creating a contrast between our world and this other world.
So basically, it may be more realistic, but I guess I still like more formal language in dialogue.
Still, when I was on vacation and The Girl in the Road got overwhelming for me, Hidden Sea became the perfect beach and plane read. Then when I wanted more complexity, I went back to Girl in the Road. I don’t usually read two books at a time like that, but for these two books it worked out just right.
This book is full of action, interesting new worlds, magic, pirates, and even a little romance (but not too much). I liked the journey aspect of it – Sophie is psychologically “adrift” and needs to find herself by exploring this strange new world. Some of it felt a little hit-you-over-the-head (we get it, she’s smart she just doesn’t realize it) and some aspects of the ending felt like things I’d seen before. This is not the book for you if you want subtlety, but it is definitely a fun, creative read. I think fans of Rachel Bach would enjoy this book.
Note: I received a review copy of this book from Tor Books/Macmillan and NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. This book published June 24, 2014.