Sea Witch by Sarah Henning

sea witchSea Witch
By Sarah Henning
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
ISBN: 9780062438775
Pages: 368
Genre: YA Fantasy/Retelling

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Everyone knows what happens in the end.
A mermaid, a prince, a true love’s kiss.
But before that young siren’s tale, there were three friends.
One feared, one royal, and one already dead.

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Ever since her best friend, Anna, drowned, Evie has been an outcast in her small fishing town. A freak. A curse. A witch.

A girl with an uncanny resemblance to Anna appears offshore and, though the girl denies it, Evie is convinced that her best friend actually survived. That her own magic wasn’t so powerless after all. And, as the two girls catch the eyes—and hearts—of two charming princes, Evie believes that she might finally have a chance at her own happily ever after.

But her new friend has secrets of her own. She can’t stay in Havnestad, or on two legs, unless Evie finds a way to help her. Now Evie will do anything to save her friend’s humanity, along with her prince’s heart—harnessing the power of her magic, her ocean, and her love until she discovers, too late, the truth of her bargain.

The rise of Hans Christian Andersen’s iconic villainess is a heart-wrenching story of friendship, betrayal, and a girl pushed beyond her limits—to become a monster.


My Thoughts

I am going to be upfront and just state that even as I write this review, I am completely torn on my love for Sea Witch and the issues I encountered with it. I really liked this book! It was an immersive read that embodied all of the traditional fairy tale elements. My cup of tea, right? Right. But perhaps it tasted a bit too familiar at times with a pace that many will find challenging.

The Skinny..

We are introduced to young Evie who lives in a small coastal fishing town that has ostracised her somewhat. She harbors a secret: she is a witch, something that is forbidden. She is also best friends with Nik, the Prince. They both grieve the loss of their friend Anna. So when a mysterious young girl who happens to resemble Anna appears and saves Nik from drowning, the three quickly form a close bond that offers Evie a chance at real happiness. However, Annemette comes with her own secrets and Evie must now find a way to preserve all that she holds dear.

“No magic can trick her. No words can ply her. No will can sway her.”

What I appreciated..

  • Sarah Henning instantly creates a world that transports the reader into a small coastal town that sets the stage beautifully for a magical maritime mystery.
  • She weaves a knowledgeable story of witches that is clearly laced throughout with familiar historical elements and combines it all with Hans Christian Andersen’s classic story to craft a smart and complete tale of villain origins.
  • The relationship dynamics between Evie and Nik are a delight to encounter in a genre where lately it feels so rare to be presented a truly genuine, good guy. Because this is who Nik is. And in this case I believed it, I bought it, and I enjoyed it. And watching their relationship evolve throughout the course of the story was for myself the most rewarding aspect of the book.
  • Henning’s writing is immersive and atmospheric. She depicts each scene with an astonishing ease that is more than ideal for crafting fairy tales.
  • Sea Witch boasts a nontraditional yet satisfying conclusion and epilogue.

“The sea is forever defined by its tide, give and take the measure of its barter. In magic, as in life, the sea does not give its subjects lightly- payment is required, the value equivalent, no matter the ask.”

Challenges some may encounter..

  • The pacing of Sea Witch is surprisingly, consistently slow. At times I struggled to commit simply because of lack of progression. It will require some patience on the readers part.
  • It was not until the very end of the story that I found myself establishing any real connection with Evie and I am not sure how I feel about that still. At times, many of the characters lacked depth.
  • Tropes. I am just going to be open and state that you will encounter a few so be prepared.
  • At times this tale held too closely to the original for my tastes, but I can appreciate that there is always that risk with retellings.

Ultimately Sea Witch offers a darker origins tale that is not without great appeal. An immersive setting and clever writing present a story that promises to entertain once you commit to savoring it all at a more leisurely pace. Knowing what to expect will likely be the key to fully enjoying it.

*I would like to thank Katherine Tegen Books & Edelweiss for this advanced copy. The quotes included above are from the advanced copy and subject to change. This review is my own, unbiased and honest opinion.

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Savor this slower paced read over a large cup of your favorite herbal blend. I paired it with raspberry hibiscus.

Grab a Copy: Amazon.com Book Depository

*Disclosure: I use affiliate links and may earn a small commission for purchases made through them. Click here for details.

Happy Reading,

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An Interview With Craig Dilouie, Author of “One of Us”

Today I am thrilled to be sharing an interview with author Craig Dilouie. I recently reviewed his latest novel One of Us which releases today and found myself instantly drawn to its alternate but familiar setting,  and powerful themes. You can read my thoughts here.  I want to extend a special thank you to Craig for his time and the opportunity to discuss his work!

one of us
Links: Goodreads Amazon. Com Amazon.UK BookDepository

Q&A

My experience with One of Us is one that I still struggle to properly convey. It was an equally rewarding and challenging read that explored very relevant and heavy hitting themes that continue to resonate with me. Can you share with us a bit about your inspiration or original goals for this story?

First, let me say thank you for reading One of Us and having me as a guest on your blog. I’m very happy that the novel got you.

I believe good fiction entertains but also viscerally engages readers with powerful themes. For me, a big idea always starts with an intriguing question. For me, the question was: What if monsters lived among us, but were monstrous only in how they looked? How would we treat them, and what would that say about us? The result is a misunderstood monster novel that turned into a much more ambitious examination of prejudice and what makes a monster a monster.

An early inspiration was Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird; author Claire North called my novel To Kill a Mockingbird meets The Girl with All the Gifts, which I thought was wonderful. I became fascinated with using the venerable Southern Gothic literary tradition to treat the subject of monsters. Southern Gothic is dark and over the top, and deals with subjects such as the taboo, grotesque, prejudice, and a society in decay. The result is a novel of monstrous humans and human monsters.

I felt that the younger cast of characters really intensified many of the scenes and helped solidify the overall effectiveness of the storyline. And I have to admit, they felt incredibly relatable. Was there additional research that went into creating a younger set of characters and protagonists?

Making the monsters budding teenagers allowed me to show them coming of age, where they begin developing mysterious powers while beginning to gain a more adult understanding of the world and their place in it. It triggers more sympathy in the reader, who sees these kids just being kids, their goofing around and tenderness and friendships, while subjected to institutionalized abuse. And it emphasizes they didn’t just appear, they were born of “normal” parents. They came from us. They’re family.

Having them interact with “normal” teenagers in the town allowed connections based on innocence and hope for the future. I hope this makes sense, but I didn’t write them as teenagers so much as individual characters with a more innocent, enthusiastic teenager’s point of view. In the end, I hope their perspectives mingle with those of the adults in the novel to provide a satisfying and realistic look at life in this small town during the age of monsters.

On a final note, I’m noticing some reviewers found the novel too dark for a YA read. Which is true, as it’s not a YA novel! I hope people won’t let their teenaged kids read it without reading it themselves first, as it explores some adult themes.

As someone who grew up in the Southeastern region of the US during the 80s, I have to admit that the setting was eerily familiar and incredibly immersive. Did you draw upon personal experiences and your own childhood to help create this alternate reality?

I’m very happy to hear the world of One of Us struck you as authentic. As I was writing about monsters living in the real world, I wanted that world to be as lived-in and authentic as possible to both ground the monsters and make them subtly all the more fantastic through the contrast. In my view, if a fantasy novel’s world suspends the reader’s disbelief, the reader is much more apt to suspend disbelief with its fantastical elements.

Otherwise, as with the teenagers in your last question, I wrote the town as an Anytown and then decorated it with a rich palette made possible by setting it in the rural South, from the heat to the cotton to the wonderful witticisms you know have been passed down for generations. The idea was to immerse the reader using these elements, not put them too far forward where they would call excessive attention to themselves. As a guy who grew up in New Jersey, lived in New York City for a number of years, and then moved to Canada in 2003, this required quite a bit of research to make it truly immersive. I obsessed on details such as local fauna and flora, and read a huge number of Southern Gothic novels to capture their perfect earthy flavor.

One of Us contains several graphic and darker scenes. Do you find these harder to write or is there a specific process you implement when tackling difficult scenes?

One of Us pulls no punches, and some of these punches are aimed at the gut, where I wanted the reader to experience the novel’s themes on a purely emotional level. Because I was dealing with the idea of monstrosity and what that means, and this is a Southern Gothic, there are taboo subjects, and there’s violence and other dark stuff.

None of it was hard for me to write except for an attempted rape scene. This is a very sensitive subject, and it had to be handled in a way it completely served the story without any gratuitous aspect. As a result, it’s described as a series of impressions rather than the actual act. There is also a town loser who convinces himself he’s in love with a woman far younger than him, which some may find disturbing, something else I had to handle with care. Even though these can be upsetting subjects, I felt I’d rather lose readers sensitive to them rather than cut them out. The story needed their monstrosity, and for me as a writer, the story comes first.

I found myself developing a strong connection with Enoch almost immediately. I have to admit that while each character appealed to me, he resonated with me the most. Was he influenced or modeled after yourself or anyone close to you?

As a writer, I tend not to base characters on myself or people I know. I’d rather create them based on a unique combination of need, want, challenge, and conflict, and let them grow and become flesh based on that. Enoch represents hope in the novel. He has a childlike hope and belief that the world is essentially fair, and that he has a future in it if he plays along. He’s simple, kind, and loyal. Unfortunately, he’s wrong. The world isn’t fair.

Normally when I read narratives that are alternating perspectives, I tend to favor one over the other. That was not the case here. I found each character to be equally fascinating. Did you favor writing any specific perspective or character over the others and if so why?

I’m very happy to hear you say that. Characterization is at the heart of One of Us, and there is an ensemble cast in this small Southern town, some of them monsters, some intentionally Southern Gothic tropes. I didn’t particularly favor any one perspective over another, as each character is such a powerfully unique individual that writing scenes from each’s perspective was always fresh and fun. I wrote each character with love, even the despicable ones, to make them come across as people both ordinary and yet larger than life.

I guess if pressed, my favorites were Brain, Goof, and Amy. Brain is a genius trapped in a monstrous body, and he believes the genetic mutations that produced the plague children are a repeat of an ancient germ that long ago produced the creatures of mythology. He is a tragic figure, choosing violence to free his kind while becoming trapped by its horrible cost. Goof is just plain funny, and his interactions with Shackleton, his government handler committed to exploiting his special abilities, were a lot of fun to write. Amy is interesting because she’s such a typical teenager while also being something else hiding in plain sight.

What was the most challenging aspect of writing One of Us?

You know, it’s funny, almost every novel I’ve ever written, I could pin an answer to this question in an instant. For One of Us, I can’t really say it was that challenging. It was a unique experience for me in that it flowed right out of me without any speed bumps. I was writing with abandon, with a fierce joy, and for a while I was in that world with these characters. The challenge came later when Bradley Englert, my wonderful editor at Orbit, wanted me to take the novel to another level on par with Orbit’s Girl with All the Gifts, a challenge I happily accepted and worked hard to meet. I hope readers enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it.

If you had the opportunity, would change anything within the story?

Nothing. No, that’s not entirely true. I think it’s hard if not impossible for an author to look through a novel he or she has written and not want to change little things here and there. It’s a symptom of growing as a writer. If you’re always practicing your craft, you’re never as good a writer as you will be a year from now. Which is a good thing!

Can you tell us what we can expect next?

I recently signed a deal with Orbit for a novel tentatively titled Our War, which tells the story of a brother and sister forced to fight as child soldiers on opposite sides of a second American civil war. I’m really excited about it and couldn’t be happier to have the opportunity to work with Bradley and Orbit again.

Last but not least (I always ask), do you drink tea and if so do you have a favorite blend?

I’m a hardcore coffee drinker and even with that, I’m no connoisseur. I’ve always wanted to get into tea and tried several times, but I’ve never gotten beyond being a tea tourist. Your question is triggering my tea envy. Maybe I’ll try again.

Thank you for having me on your blog! I enjoyed our conversation.

craig dilouieAbout the Author

Craig DiLouie is an American-Canadian author of speculative fiction including One of Us, which was published by Orbit on July 17 and is now available in bookstores and through online booksellers.

Follow Craig Dilouie: Website  Twitter  Facebook  Goodreads

 


Again, I want to thank the author for his time and Orbit publishing for my copy of One of Us. This opportunity has been a welcomed and rewarding experience. I look forward to learning more about the upcoming project!

Happy Reading,

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Blogging Life: 6 More Things I Have Learned Since I Started Blogging

 

I recently took a small hiatus to rest and recover.  My time away from the blog, long or short, always allows me to reflect on how much I am enjoying the process, what I am learning and what I could do to improve that time. This is the cycle of my brain in pretty much all aspects of my life. So today, it felt appropriate to share several more things I have accepted learned since I became a blogger.

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6 More Things I Have Accepted Learned Since I Started Blogging

(These are simply personal reflections and not intended to be advice. I do not do advice.)

  1. Finding that distinct voice that I mentioned here, is actually quite a process at times, at least for me. Maybe it should not be, but it is. In a world where there are over 440 Million Blogs (according to the internet), we are each small fish in a very large pond. Depending on our personal goals, making our own mark can be challenging. I find myself constantly discovering new ideas and content the inspire and influence me. This also means I am constantly assessing the direction of the blog and the content I want to provide. In other words, I never seem to have a clearly defined direction. Who am I as a blogger? Which leads us to number 2.

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  2. I am living in a perpetual state of “winging it”. No matter who much I plan and organize, there will always be something. I am simply not an individual who has the ability to plan months of content in advance (not for lack of trying), and when I begin to gain a firm hold on posts life seems to inevitably happen. Be it health, family matters, or even just simply brain fog and lack of creative inspiration, I am destined to fall behind at least once a month. Setting unrealistic goals and spending hours on end trying to catch up will only worsen the situation. Sometimes I just have to roll with the punches and hope for the best. This can include last-minute content that is drafted sometimes only a night in advance.
  3. While I avoid stats like week-old leftovers, I value followers with all of my little <3. After all, I do this to be part of a community. It is always refreshing to see new faces and know that I have like-minded individuals I can share my passion with. I spent over a year and a half feeling guilty and concerned about each health break and hiatus I had to take. I was nervous that I would lose some of you and perhaps disconnect with the community in some way during my unplanned time offline. I was wrong. Breaks are not something I plan to make a habit of but they are beneficial and not detrimental. The book and blogging community is incredibly supportive and understanding. Not only do each of you continue to encourage me to take the necessary breaks, but I often return to several more new faces and feeling ready to tackle new content.

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  4. It is ok to deviate from the normal topic from time to time (or even often if that is your thing). I am a book blogger in the sense that this blog was created to share my love of all things books. Every social media account attached is also focused on books. Reviews, book photos, book discussions, interviews, you name it. But that does not mean I cannot talk about other things. In fact, I have found that post such as my Friday Favorites are normally well received. The ability to branch out at times and share other hobbies or passions helps maintain my enjoyment of blogging and recharge the creative fuel! And I feel like this helps with number one ⇑, finding the distinct voice.
  5. I will always preach that blogging is a hobby and should never feel like a chore. But sometimes it does, and it will. I have goals for the blog and the connections I want to establish within the community, and with those goals come some commitments. I have to accept that to achieve some of my personal goals I will need to put in some work, and work is a chore at times. But the important thing here is that I am reaching for something I desire and am passionate about. So it is not detracting from my overall enjoyment. Passions and hobbies can include aspirations and working hard to achieve these is simply another extension of that commitment and enjoyment.

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  6. I will never have all of the answers or win the internet. Each day will be a continuous process of learning from each of you and growing on a personal level. Embracing this aspect of blogging allows me to enjoy it to the fullest.

I wanted to do something a little different today and ask you, what are several things you have learned since you started blogging? I would love to know! So I am inviting you to share a post or your responses on social media and tag me or this post so I can see!

Let’s Chat,

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