Title: Song of the Sea
Author: Jade Varden
Published: December 2014
Note: I received a copy of this book for the purpose of review. Receipt of a review copy does not ensure a review, and does not influence my review.
I always knew who my mother was. I always knew where I belonged. And I always knew I wanted to be on the water, like my dad.
…Until I was forced to go out into the water, anyway. Out there, you feel really lonely. But you’re never alone. There is more life and emotion under the waves than most humans will ever see, more than I could have ever imagined. Down there, it’s an entire world of rage and hate, love and hope. It’s a world of fear.
It’s a world of war.
Once, my mother told me she would sing me a song of the sea. But under the waves, the only music I ever heard was the sound of screams.
Characterization and badassery
This is a middle-grade to young YA book. I’d say it would be a good match for readers in the 9-14 age group, though of course some readers are more or less mature in their tastes. Kids do tend to “read up” compared to their own age, so our 15-year-old heroine here is a good match for middle-schoolers to look up to. My four-star rating is predicated on this being a book for a young audience.
The characters are plucky and self-aware, and willing to face daunting prospects. It’s plenty to make the characters strong and efficacious. I liked them, their diversity, and how the author made them feel well-characterized for their ages. They did make youthful mistakes, as they should, and they did so in a way that felt very realistic.
Plot and pacing
We have quite the sea adventure here. The plot itself is simple but compelling – a young teen searching for her mother. It advances at a good pace, and doesn’t have any lags. I got through this whole book in just a couple days.
Prose and editing
This is a well-done self-published book. Though it does not have the polish of a trade-published book, I found only a few typo errors or spots where a line edit was needed. Which is excellent.
Varden did a nice job of making the water and the adventures under it convincing. Her wording choices were succinct, but age-appropriate. She does a good job of lighting the fire of imagination.
I don’t read many books for such a young audience, but I enjoyed this one in its own right. There isn’t a thing wrong with an adult reading a children’s book. I think my 9-year-old would also enjoy it. It isn’t easy to create an underwater culture, as the mechanics of life are so very different, but Varden made it work.
Varden has a talent for immersing the reader into the world she’s created. The wonder at living beneath the sea and seeing the world from a very different perspective comes through. The sensations of seeing and feeling are well done. Her ability to make the reader really experience the journey was a real treat.
I am pleased when I find self-published books with a fresh voice and a well-edited story. I’ll be watching for more of Varden’s books in the future.