Title: Child of a Hidden Sea
Author: A.M. Dellamonica
Publisher: Tor Books
Publication date: June 24th 2014
Buy at: BookDepository
One minute, twenty-four-year-old Sophie Hansa is in a San Francisco alley trying to save the life of the aunt she has never known. The next, she finds herself flung into the warm and salty waters of an unfamiliar world. Glowing moths fall to the waves around her, and the sleek bodies of unseen fish glide against her submerged ankles.
The world is Stormwrack, a series of island nations with a variety of cultures and economies—and a language different from any Sophie has heard.
Sophie doesn’t know it yet, but she has just stepped into the middle of a political firestorm, and a conspiracy that could destroy a world she has just discovered…her world, where everyone seems to know who she is, and where she is forbidden to stay.
But Sophie is stubborn, and smart, and refuses to be cast adrift by people who don’t know her and yet wish her gone. With the help of a sister she has never known, and a ship captain who would rather she had never arrived, she must navigate the shoals of the highly charged politics of Stormwrack, and win the right to decide for herself whether she stays in this wondrous world…or is doomed to exile, in Child of a Hidden Sea by A.M. Dellamonica.
I started reading this book thinking the travel would take me to another world with pirates, mermaids, and maybe a little bit of magic. I thought this would be another “common” step through a portal book. I was wrong. I was absolutely wrong and I could not be happier about it.
Child of a Hidden Sea is anything but your average fantasy book. The story begins when biologist and marine videography enthusiast Sophia Hansa suddenly finds herself in the process of drowning. Floating by her side is her nearly dead aunt Gale, whom she had just seen for the first time in her life, and right as two men attacked Gale. Before the setting changed from concrete to water. Sophie doesn’t know how they ended up there, wherever there is. Because it can’t be anywhere on Earth. The glowing moths are unlike any species she has ever seen, and later, after they are rescued to a land with a foreign name, she witnesses magic. For only magic can explain how, from one second to the other, she learned a brand new language. Could she be in a different reality? A different world? And why is her aunt so keen in shipping her back home before Sophie can explore the exotic fauna and flora?
The answer is unconventional.
This book is a blessing all in itself. It features something that I never knew I wanted to see: scientists in a fantasy world. Sure, there are many science fiction books with scientists, and plenty of magical worlds with scientists that know its rules, but a story where a biologist suddenly finds a world with animals unknown to her? Where she freaks out over the lack of camera batteries to record the wildlife? I never found such a novel before. Only stories where explaining vampires with science failed terribly. As a biologist, photography and fantasy enthusiast, this book made me weep (not literally) with excitement. Because it wasn’t just that I finally had characters I could relate to on the job side of things. The science and scientists inclusion was GOOD.
There were no “let’s have a little scientific word vomit that won’t make any sense but will sound intelligent” moments, or “look at how silly and out of touch with reality these science folk are” times. Quite on the contrary. The scientific names, the reasoning behind seeing a new species or odd land mass were all natural, organic. Their curiosity was not unlike my own. And look at the scientists themselves! One polygamous and business savvy, one homosexual and caring, one open for casual relationships and doubtful of herself. Realer scientists than many in today’s media.
And it’s not just in this field that Dellamonica does one fantastic job. The worldbuilding is superb. Not only does she give us a thorough explanation of the wildlife, she also created a number of isles with diverse cultures based on Mediterranean countries. Different languages, laws, costumes, Dellamonica did not forget a thing. One can easily understand why Sophie was so keen to explore it all. I know I can’t wait to return to the world of Stormwrack.
But it wasn’t just the diverse, complete worldbuilding or the science geekness that entranced me, the story itself is a hell lot of fun. There are multiple, unique narratives going on. The way they are dealt with, related, and resolved are nothing but refreshing. Sophie doesn’t just have to deal with cultural shock and finding a way to record her discoveries. There are also the details of her birth family wanting her away, having to solve a murder, not knowing who her father is, deciding what to do with an inheritance she didn’t know she had, smuggling samples, keeping her brother assuaged, and much more. Child of a Hidden Sea is an adventure in more ways than one.
So give it a try! If you like fantasy, science, diverse characters and worlds, and out of the box stories, you’ll enjoy Child of a Hidden Sea. And if you don’t commonly read these stories, try it anyway. It might change your mind.
The book in a quote
“What did magic mean, exactly? The ability to defy the laws of physics? To create little pockets of something—space, time, both?—where they didn’t apply? Or to access other universal rules that twenty-first-century science, at home, just hadn’t touched yet?”