By Sarah Henning
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Genre: YA Fantasy/Retelling
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.
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.
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.
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.
Savor this slower paced read over a large cup of your favorite herbal blend. I paired it with raspberry hibiscus.
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