"After seventeen-year-old Felicita’s dearest friend, Ilven, kills herself to escape an arranged marriage, Felicita chooses freedom over privilege. She fakes her own death and leaves her sheltered life as one of Pelimburg’s magical elite behind. Living in the slums, scrubbing dishes for a living, she falls for charismatic Dash while also becoming fascinated with vampire Jannik. Then something shocking washes up on the beach: Ilven's death has called out of the sea a dangerous, wild magic. Felicita must decide whether her loyalties lie with the family she abandoned . . . or with those who would twist this dark power to destroy Pelimburg's caste system, and the whole city along with it. " (Good Reads)
I was looking forward to When the Sea is Rising Red by Cat Hellisen. The early reviews were good. I Waiting on Wednesday-ed this book, waited patiently for it from the library....and when I read it, I was, well, underwhelmed. I could not connect with any of the characters I was supposed to be rooting for. The world that Hellisen creates is gritty and intriguing, but I just didn't find myself hooked.
- Originality: 9. This is pretty high fantasy stuff, in my opinion. But I thought the details about accents and hair color and the scene at the local cheap cafes was well done. And there is the drug-induced magic. Drugs! in YA fiction! And liquor and good-time bar nights! Since YA fiction can be so hands-off on drinking, it was interesting to see, and it does play a role in the story, as inhibitions are loosened and secret relationships are exposed. Beer CAN move a plot forward!
- Absurdity: 7. This absurdity is not necessarily bad, just 'fantasy level' absurd. There is a LOT of lingo to take in here. The Hobs, the high-Lammers, and the Gris (it is a swear...I think?) and the layers of magic. I am usually on board with magical elements, but I didn't always have a good grasp on what was what here.
- Level of Paranormal Romance: 4. I couldn't get into Dash. I didn't see his appeal, or believe that Felicita would be into him (or anybody else....side-eye to replace potential spoiler). One the plus side, I didn't hate the vampire and could totally see Jannik as a love interest. So points there! The standout thing regarding relationships in this book is that there are no sexual norms. People connect. Gender does not circumscribe love or lust. This is well done and a good addition to YA in general.
- Level of Harry Potter-ness: 5. Even if it wasn't my thing, this book is certainly atmospheric.