When the Sea is Rising Red by Cat Hellisen

When The Sea is Rising Red by Cat HellisenWhen the Sea is Rising Red
Cat Hellisen
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Release Date: February 28, 2012
Pages: 296
Challenges: 2012 YA/MG Fantasy Challenge, 2012 Debut Author Challenge

Rating: 4.5 stars

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.

When the Sea is Rising Ded by Cat Hellisen is a deliciously dark fantasy that holds a plot so enticing that I couldn’t put it down.

The world of Pelimburg was so expertly crafted. It was an enchanting world that I hope to see more of.  It was the perfect host for a story of rebellion, magic, and escape. I do wish some aspects were explained a bit sooner, as it felt a bit too much like a puzzle at certain points of the book. I still wasn’t entirely sure of some things by the time I had finished.

The characters of When the Sea is Rising Red were wonderful. When it came to most of the characters, there was this wonderful sense of intrigue and I just had to know more. Felicita was such a strong character – I loved her defiance and her just all around character. Dash was an interesting guy to say the least. He always had such a tale for everything he did. I absolutely loved Jannik. He was perhaps the more intriguing character of the book and I just loved every scene with him, and wish he had been in even more of When the Sea is Rising Red.

I found myself caught up in the mayhem of the story instantly. When the Sea is Rising Red starts with such a tragic moment, and Cat Hellisen dives right into the story. It is a story of danger, betrayal, and first experiences. I was so sad when it was over, as it was just that great of a story.

When the Sea is Rising Red is a fabulous debut, and I am eager to see what is next for Cat Hellisen. It’s been awhile since I’ve read a fantasy this dark and this great, and I’m happy When the Sea is Rising Red came along to fill the gap. The world is so enchanting, and I would just love to dive right back into that world. This was a book I read at work, in two hours, sneaking in pages between everything else I had to do. It was just fabulous.


  1. says

    That sounds like a great book!

    One thing, though. You describe it as “YA/MG.” Nothing about it — from the plot to the genre to the front cover — sounds MG. The only reasons I can think of that you’d call it MG is either that the characters are really young (do they marry girls off at 12 and 13 in this world?), which doesn’t necessarily make it MG, or that it has a younger/more childish voice that doesn’t come through in the review. Either case would make me hesitate to read it.
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