Monday, November 4, 2013

Review: Sea Change by S.M. Wheeler

Monday, November 4, 2013 with
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Tor Books
Pages: 304 pages
Release Date: June 18, 2013
Source of my copy: publisher
Synopsis (from Goodreads)
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.



Just like its blurb suggested Sea Change was unlike any fantasy I have ever read. Everything was different: the characters, plot, setting(s), and writing too. Admittedly at times I had to plough through the novel, but overall, Sea Change was a read that I will never forget for it was unique, creative, and adventurous. 

Like other reviewers before me may have mentioned in their reviews, I thought the pacing of Sea Change was really slow. The beginning dragged, took longer than I thought necessary to develop the story, and all the events were stretched out. Also, the writing was very different from what I have ever read before in novels. I don't know if this was just me, but at first, Wheeler's writing style came off as confusing to me, and then for a while after that, I just thought it was odd, and I had to re-read sentences or paragraphs many times as I read. About 100 pages in, I lost interest in the novel and began avoiding it until, finally, I stepped away from it completely to read other review books and books for school. But in the back of my mind, I knew I couldn't leave Sea Change unfinished. 

Although it dragged, I had the sense that Sea Change was going to be unlike any fantasy novel I have ever read before. One hundred pages in and Wheeler's novel introduced a world full of twisted, unexpected magic, taking the forms of killer mermaids, chivalrous talking krakens, larger-than-life serpents, and (some wicked, some kind) people with abnormal talents. I really wanted to find out how Lilly and Octavius' friendship will play out, so about a month after leaving Sea Change, I went back and continued reading right where I left off before and finished it. Now, I am happy to say that it was a great read. Although I still had to plough through some parts, the story itself was fantastic and exciting. Sea Change was my sweet escape from my dull reality as I followed Lilly on her quest to save her friend. Also, by the end of the novel, Wheeler's writing style grew on me; I came to really like how slow, steady, and concise her style was.

The characters of Sea Change were also fantastic; I loved ALL of them. They each were, again, unlike any I've ever read of before, and I loved how each had a different appeal to them, i.e. each had a different kind of twisted, dark magic about them. Lilly, the main character, left a special impression on me. At first, I was unsure if I would like Lilly because, in the beginning, she came off as an angry, cold character. But then as I read more about her, learned more about her, and saw her with Octavius, I began to really like her and sympathize with her. Lilly was truly a noble heroine. All throughout Sea Change, Lilly showed her loyalty and care for, not only Octavius, but also her other friends whom she met along the way. Even if the people were not particularly kindhearted or ethical, Lilly always found it somewhere in her heart to respect them. But I really liked that, even with all her benevolence, Lilly was resilient and headstrong in her quest to save her dear friend, and she was flawed both physically and socially, balancing out her character and making her more life-like. The fact that Sea Change was just a simple story about a friend saving a friend--no dramatic love story or love triangles; no hot vampires or werewolves or zombies--was very refreshing. I loved seeing how close Lilly and Octavius were, how much they affected each other. The characters of Sea Change will always have a special place in my bookish heart.

Wheeler's debut novel Sea Change did not disappoint me--yes, I had to put it down for a long while but I wasn't able to forget about it and, overall, it was a unique read. I recommend that others, YA fans or not, to read Sea Change because I believe it can be enjoyed by anyone who loves books. However, I suggest that Sea Change be read slowly and be savored over a longer-than-usual period of time so that it can be better appreciated. Sea Change is not a page-turner--it's not book that you can read in a matter of days but it is a kind of book that requires a re-read because more likely than not you're going to miss some details the first time around. I myself plan to reread it in the future so I can have a better reading experience with it than I did. I will definitely look out for more by S.M. Wheeler; I believe she is a writer with a wild imagination who will give us some much needed fantastical, unique reads.

P.S., I love the cover, especially now that I've read the book.

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