Book Review: When the Sea is Rising Red by Cat Hellisen

Rating: StarStarStar

Genre: Young Adult > Fantasy | Paranormal

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.


This book is so weird. Fortunately, I like weird. Having said that, When the Sea is Rising Red is not for everybody. and I meant that. I’m impressed with Hellisen because she is not afraid to tell a story that is a whole new level of different. So, the questions is: Are you bold enough to read this?

Felicita was stunned when her best friend Ilven committed suicide. When she realized she’s facing the same situation that made Ilven jumped, she ran away after faking her own death. Living in the slums was a far cry from her High-Lammer life and Felicita almost succumbed to going back after every hardship. But she carried on, not knowing that she got caught in the uprising being brewed in Old Town.

I’m a little confused on the legends of sea-witches and boggerts, but i get the gist and it was fun. It reminded me of a folklore here in the Philippines about a body of water (say a river, or ocean) where people drowned. They say that the spirit or entity residing in that particular river/ocean requires a sacrifice every now and then in exchange for a bountiful catch. Quite scary, yes? It is similar with Hellisen’s sea-witch. The Hobs and Low-Lammers are really scared of the sea-witch stories even when High-Lammers like Felicita doesn’t believe in it.

The love triangle was actually not a love triangle per se, but it did involve Felicita, Dash, and Jannik, not in the way I expected. And this is my first encounter with weird. Ha! This book almost felt like a mystery/suspense because I keep solving and connecting the links! I guessed right, on how it gone down between the three, but it still was weird to me. Yeah, let’s leave it at that, shall we? Like i said, I like weird. But hey, if indeed it was a love triangle, I’m all for Jannik. 😉

The fantasy element was quite good, especially Lil‘s magic. I really liked that concept. If this was a series, I would continue reading after this one.

I think I need to read this again. Once is not enough to fully capture and enjoy the rare story that Hellisen delivered. When the Sea is Rising Red is something that will tickle your dark imagination.


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