Child of a Hidden SeaTitle: Child of a Hidden Sea (Hidden Sea Tales #1)

Author: A.M. Dellamonica

Publisher: Tor Books on June 24, 2014

Source: Publisher

Rating StarRating StarRating Star

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. View Spoiler »

Before I begin this review, let me state for the record: this book was okay, but I wanted to like it so much more than I actually did. I am not too proud to admit that the cover sucked me in, and I completely bought into its promises of pirates, swashbuckling, and swoon-worthy romance. I was disappointed on all counts, but pleasantly surprised by some other aspects.

When I first began Child of a Hidden Sea, it took me a few chapters to get used to Sophie’s first-person narration, since it seemed so awkward at first. She kept asking herself rhetorical questions about the cultural elements of Stormwrack’s nations, its geography, and magic. After thinking about it for a while, I realized that Sophie’s narrative voice – her questions, concerns – actually reminded me of my own thought process when I begin reading an SF/F novel. Just as readers need time to digest the cultural, political, and magical systems of a new universe, so too did Sophie.

And man, was there a lot to digest. Child of a Hidden Sea has excellent world-building, with a rich tapestry of peoples, cultures, and several types of magic. I loved the concept of the fleet, essentially a floating city comprised of hundreds of ships belonging to the different island nations of Stormwrack. The system of inscribing names and “intents” onto items and then utilizing these items as focuses for magical power was already really cool. It’s pretty fitting that names are so important in a book where the protagonist is desperate to find her birth parents.

My one complaint about the otherwise flawless world-building is about the portal between Earth and Stormwrack. Maybe it’s just the nature of portal fantasy to be a bit vague on the details, but I would have liked more explanation as to why exactly technology from Earth or “Erstwhile” worked in Stormwrack with few problems. Sure, Sophie’s cell didn’t have service, but her video camera worked fine. Obviously a lot of SFF requires you to suspend your disbelief, but I think Dellamonica was asking a bit much when she expected readers to buy the fact that no one batted an eye at Earth’s technology. Stormwrack seriously needs to tighten up their security if they want to remain a secret.

Sophie’s insecurities made her both sympathetic and mildly annoying. Yes, we get it, your little brother’s a genius and you have a complex about it. Deal with it, girl! She’s no slouch herself, with a practically encyclopedic knowledge of flora and fauna and advanced scuba diving skills. I found it frustrating that Dellamonica constantly dithered about Sophie’s intellectual insecurity but couldn’t find the space to make the explicit connection between her career on Earth as an adventurer-at-sea and the fact that Sophie’s parents belong to a world LITERALLY ON THE SEA. I suspect the lack of commentary on the subject was intentional, but clearly Demllamonica is a ‘teller’ and not a ‘shower’ so I’m not sure what that was about.

Although I thought Sophie was a fairly weak character, her brother Bram was wonderful. He encompasses many extremes but somehow avoids caricature status, remaining realistically three-dimensional. He’s a gay genius with a killer sense of style and a dry sense of humor whose favourite alkaloid is coffee. That’s kind of a lot to process, but it totally works. I also liked his catch phrase, “sub-optimal,” since it fit his geeky/droll sense of humour perfectly.

I liked this enough to read the sequel (if there is one), but I won’t be re-reading it. Here’s hoping that both Dellamonica’s writing, and her protagonist, become a bit more adult.

*A digital copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review, but that in no way influences my opinions on it.


    • Tammy Sparks

    • 8 years ago

    Yeah, bummer! I want this to be outstanding, but I will read it and decide for myself. I do love the idea of a floating city and it sounds like the author has imagination to spare:-)

    1. I look forward to reading your thoughts on it! I liked it well enough, but it didn’t blow me out of the water (ha!). Definitely lots of imagination in this one, you’re right: top notch world-building for sure.

  1. oh drats the ” promises of pirates, swashbuckling, and swoon-worthy romance” aren’t fulfilled – that makes me oh so very sad. I’m definitely still reading this but at least now my expectations will be more in line with what I’ll get – thanks!

    1. Yeah, that cover felt a bit like false advertising to me. There was also an appalling lack of cute white kittens like the one perched on pirate guy’s shoulder. But I’m still hopeful about a potential sequel!

    • BiblioSanctum Blog

    • 8 years ago

    I’m sorry this wasn’t as amazing as you’d expected! I had some pretty high hopes for this one as well, but I read a few other reviews that pretty much echoed yours – that it was good, but not great 🙂


    1. Oh well, on to bigger and better books now! Holding out hope for pirate novels…they’re Danya-bait.

    • Lisa (@TenaciousReader)

    • 8 years ago

    I was unsure if I wanted to read this one. Still can’t decide, but leaning a little more to the no side no. There’s so many books I still need to read, hard to dedicate it to a book that is just ‘OK’

    1. Agreed. Why waste valuable reading time on a book that’s only so-so?

  2. You hit my feelings right on the head with this one. The technology especially bothered me, and I just couldn’t get behind Sophie at all. I did love the world-building and really enjoyed Bram. I’m glad to see I wasn’t the only one who had those thoughts!

    1. Bram was hilarious! Maybe now that Sophie’s got some self-confidence she’ll be less insufferable…or maybe not.

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