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Sea Change by S.M. Wheeler

  • Date published: 18th June 2013
  • Publisher: Tor Books
  • Format: Hardcover, 304 pages
  • ISBN 13: 9780765333148 ISBN10: 0765333147
  • Categories: Fantasy
  • Goodreads / The Book DepositoryBooktopia / Bookworld
  • Source: provided for review by publisher

The unhappy child of two powerful parents who despise each other, young Lilly turns to the ocean to find solace, which she finds in the form of the eloquent and intelligent sea monster Octavius, a kraken. In Octavius’s many arms, Lilly learns of friendship, loyalty, and family. When Octavius, forbidden by Lilly to harm humans, is captured by seafaring traders and sold to a circus, Lilly becomes his only hope for salvation. Desperate to find him, she strikes a bargain with a witch that carries a shocking price.

Her journey to win Octavius’s freedom is difficult. The circus master wants a Coat of Illusions; the Coat tailor wants her undead husband back from a witch; the witch wants her skin back from two bandits; the bandits just want some company, but they might kill her first. Lilly’s quest tests her resolve, tries her patience, and leaves her transformed in every way.

Wheeler’s début will leave you breathless, exhilarated, and a little disturbed. This gorgeous tale of a young girl who sacrifices everything to save her friend (a Kraken!) from imprisonment touched my heart, and I didn’t want it to end. Sadly, it did end, as all great books do, but I am left amazed, enthralled.

I love the way that Wheeler tells this story – it’s so rare to encounter a début novel with the level of sophistication that is evident throughout Sea Change. Wheeler describes the fantastic landscape beautifully, and I never had any trouble imaging the lush scenery or the wacky characters. From the very first page, readers are immersed in the otherworldly feel of the book, and the magic and mysticism, although subtle at first, won’t fail to intrigue. Coupled with the this visualisation are the hints of many things left unsaid. This is a book where the things the author and characters don’t say are as important as those they do.

The next thing that will pull readers into the book is Lilly herself – distant, sceptical and wise beyond her years, she’s a delight to read about. Alongside her is Octavius, the Kraken she befriend at an early age and her secret solace amongst the many disappointments in her life. I initially thought I wouldn’t connect with Lilly, with her character being so different from my own, but I happily found myself taking a liking to her, and applauding her maturity and loyalty. I also love the loyalty Octavius has to Lilly and the way he always strives to protect and soothe her, and relished how alien and unknowable he seemed. Their friendship is the stuff of legend, all the more inspiring when considering it’s between a girl and a sea monster.

Sea Change is peppered with the weird and the wonderful, and I love how many amazing elements of Fantasy the author has managed to weave throughout the narrative. Not only is there a Kraken, but there’s a troll, a skinless witch, a few undead, and a magical coat. Bizarre though it may seem when I list them like that, I think the elements come together to create a wonderful story, and the sheer creativity of it boggles the mind. Amongst them are the humans, who are as varied and interesting as the magical creatures.

Unexpectedly delightful, Sea Change is among my favourite reads of 2013 so far, and I highly recommend it  to those looking for a dark, gruesome fantasy with nods to the traditions of fairy tales. This book will undoubtably change you.

One comment on “Sea Change by S.M. Wheeler

  1. I was already desperate for this, and your review just makes me even more desperate. It sounds like this has everything I could ever want in a novel and I wish I wasn’t on a book buying ban so I could get my hands on it 😦 Krakens, and trolls, and witches, good writing, good characters…. AAAAHH!! I need this. In the mean time I will just cry and drool over the sound of it.

    Thanks for the fantastic review 🙂

    (P.S. Did Lilly or anyone ever scream, “Release the kraken!”? Because if not that is a missed opportunity for hilarity 😛 )

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