Title: The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea
Author: Axie Oh
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Release Date: February 22nd, 2022
Page Length: 336
Genre: Fantasy Romance | Retelling
Age Range: YA
Rep: AAPI (Korean)
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…
This was one of my highly anticipated 2022 releases and I was beyond excited to get my Fairyloot copy, which if you follow my Bookstagram account you would have seen it featured twice. I had high hopes for this fantasy after loving XOXO, also by Axie Oh. So did it live up to my expectations?
I absolutely loved The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea! Although I did not love it as much as I had hoped – I had been hoping for a new obsession to support my obsession with the covers lol. However, it is one I keep thinking about, even a month later, so the score has been climbing over that month lol.
I was not familiar with The Tale of Shim Ch’ŏng, the classic Korean novel this was a retelling of; however, after reading this I’m very curious to read it. I was intrigued by the world building Axie was able to do in such a short book. I understood the magic system easily – although not explained in detail, it was fairly intuitive with the help of side characters giving us necessary information. The whimsical, fairytale writing worked perfectly with this story and never felt too whimsical. Despite it having the whimsical feeling, it was easy enough to pick up – a similar feeling to picking up a contemporary where it was conversational and didn’t fall into the trap of whimsical = lyrical (which is good because I tend to not enjoy lyrical writing).
The characters were a standout in this story! Mina was strong and determined! She had a goal and was determined to do it. She would do anything for her family and its shown throughout the story. I will admit, I wasn’t sold on the romance portion of this story – and that could reflective to the original story. I found there was little chemistry between Mina and the love interest. I loved them separate, although they did have their odd moment of “yes! CHEMISTRY!” moments. I would have loved just a little more to make it feel realistic – life-changing/moving. As it stands, I believe those who enjoy fantasies without a romance plot may find this one they can handle – the affection never took the focus like it does in a romance or fantasy romance. I also loved that Axie included Mina’s storytelling – we get snippetts of her stories she’s telling other characters and they were amazing! Mina managed to come up with stories on the spot and she was able to intermingle what was happening in her life with the lesson/moral she was trying to get across.
The side characters were just as compelling! The mystery and the intrigue behind figuring out these characters and how they will affect Mina’s story was amazing. I could have read even more with the side characters and the identity reveal of these characters were amazing – I wasn’t expecting a couple of them, although others I had suspected. The trio that Mina first runs into in the city were by far my favourite.
I think if this was an extra 100 pages (give or take) adding a few things here and there: romance to make a better connection, more of Mina’s stories, just more. I loved the world to much to leave so early. That being said, the story was complete and I felt satisfied with its resolution and everything was well wrapped up.
Although this didn’t end up being a 5 star like I had originally hoped when I had put it on my most anticipated list, but it has proven that I love Axie Oh’s writing in both contemporary and fantasy. I will 100% be keeping an eye out for more of her books – I may even try her other duology (although there isn’t an audio so that may time some extra time on my part lol). If you are looking for a short standalone fantasy that has Asian mythological inspiration then I highly recommend this book! It was an engaging and quick read that I see myself rereading in the future when I find myself needing some fantasy comfort.
I read this along with others as a Group Read on TBR and Beyond Book Club on Facebook. There, the mods and myself came up with some read-a-likes based on themes that I also highly recommend!
Descendant of the Crane by Joan He
Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron
Skin of the Sea by Natasha Bowen
Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch by Julie Abe
Kiki’s Delivery Service by Eiko Kadono
Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan
The Keeper of the Night by Kylie Lee Baker
Fireheart Tiger by Aliette de Bodard
The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water by Zen Cho
Axie’s Other Works