Release Day Review: Sea Change by S.M. Wheeler

Title: Sea Change
Author: S.M. Wheeler
Publisher: Tor Books
Released: June 18, 2013
Source: publisher (NetGalley)

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.

A powerfully written debut from a young fantasy author, Sea Change is an exhilarating tale of adventure, resilience, and selflessness in the name of friendship.

Sea Change starts off feeling like literary fiction with a touch of magical realism. It ends this way as well. The writing is subtly poetic, yet still a somewhat easy read. I felt sympathetic toward Lilly’s plight, with her appallingly cruel parents. I was totally captivated by the friendship between Lilly and Octavius, the kraken whose double hearts are “a more familiar comfort than her mother’s lullabies had ever been.”

Then all of a sudden, the novel shifts to all-out fantasy and stays that way throughout the bulk of the story. This is where reading became a challenge for me. I had to pay very close attention and keep up with what was going on and why. Fantasy is quite a bit out of my comfort zone, and here I was reading about trolls, witches, and even an undead!

I appreciated that the characters had easy to pronounce, sometimes even traditional, names. (Difficult or unpronounceable names have often kept me away from the fantasy genre). Wheeler’s incredible sense of style and prose really helped me stick with the story. I felt compelled to keep reading: I loved the friendship between Lilly and Octavius, and I wanted to know what happened next.

There are some complicated and unexpected detours that make Lilly’s quest all the more epic. And I loved the ending. It didn’t feel like an afterthought in any way, and it didn’t pander to me as a reader. It satisfied any loose ends I had, and left me feeling hopeful.

Sea Change is a very good story which stretched me as a reader. For those who enjoy fantasy and literary fiction, you won’t want to miss this debut novel.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive any other compensation for this review.