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Review: Sea Change by S.M. Wheeler

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Sea Change by SM Wheeler // VBC ReviewSea Change
S.M. Wheeler
Published: June 18, 2013 (Tor)
Purchase at: Book Depository and Amazon
Review Source: Provided by publisher for honest review

Reviewed by: Amanda

Rating (out of 5): 4 stars

Lilly’s life hasn’t been easy. She realized as a young girl that her parents didn’t love each other, and what love they might have felt for her wasn’t terribly strong. Drawn to the ocean, she befriends a kraken she names Octavius. Over the years, they grow together, Lilly into a young woman, Octavius into the sea monster people fear. Their visits become fewer and fewer between as Octavius has to venture further for food (having promised Lilly he wouldn’t eat humans, even if their ships fall prey to the sea’s storms), so when he doesn’t show up for a month, she doesn’t get anxious. It’s only after two months have passed, and Lilly’s father kicks her out of the house in preparation for the arrival of his new child, that she goes searching for Octavius and finds he’s been sold to a circus.

Determined to set him free, she negotiates a price with the circus master: a coat of illusions. Procuring the coat takes her on a journey where she makes many more promises, each more dangerous and impossible than the last. Strange for a girl who learned how to bargain at her father’s knee.

Sea Change is a difficult book to review. It bills itself as a fantasy, but the language and the languid, winding pace echo a literary novel. Sometimes things get so bogged down in similes and metaphors it’s hard to determine what exactly is happening. Lilly herself is a hard character to empathize with. Her emotional depth feels pretty shallow, so the plausibility of her loving someone enough to undertake a grueling journey to obtain his freedom gets stretched a little thin.

But the characters around Lilly are vibrant and run the gamut of the emotional spectrum. The witch she deals with is slimy (literally, at times) and suitably creepy. The bandits she spends the winter with slowly open to her and become less threatening and more human. My favorite, though, was Horace. A mule who has been turned into a human by the witch, he’s quite child-like at times, and the way he demands Lilly’s affections and attentions is amusing and I often found myself grinning over something he’d said or done.

Despite the lack of connection to Lilly, the ending was still broke my heart a little. Something fundamental changes in her and I wished she could have held on to it somehow. At its core, Sea Change was a surprisingly engaging story of friendship and the lengths we’ll go for the ones we love.

Sexual content: None

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