When the Sea is Rising Red by Cat Hellisen Review

Monday, February 20, 2012

Title: When the Sea is Rising Red
Author: Cat Hellisen
Publisher: FSG
Publish Date: Februrary 28, 2012
Genre: YA, Paranormal Fantsy
Pages: 296
Source: Publisher
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.
Felicita was born into a life of luxury and privilege in a magical family. However, because she is a girl, her life is destined to be one of choices made by others and a severe lack of control. She's to have an arranged marriage, and once she settles in with a new husband, she'll have somewhat of a new puppet master. When Felicita's best friend kills herself to escape this fate, Felicita chooses to do the same, in a sense. She fakes her death and escapes to the slums, finding freedom for the first time in her seventeen years. But peace doesn't last long. Ilven's rash decision called up an old dark magic, and Felicita must decide whether she belongs in her old life or her new one before it's too late.

I've read a lot of YA books in my time on this blog. And, frankly, there are times when I think I've seen and read it all. paranormal books have been tested, tried and true, and it's a very crowded genre, so when a novel dares to be paranormal fantasy, toe the line between adult and young adult, but reads just as well for all ages, I'm floored. Cat Hellisen took her imagination to the next level with When the Sea is Rising Red, creating a world that's every bit an illusion yet, at the same time tangible. Intricate and detailed, vivid and pronounced, the world of Pelimburg is dark and twisted, with a creative and fascinating world with an underbelly teeming with unanswered questions. It's a world in which you will become utterly absorbed.

Felicita was a brilliant character. She was rich and emote, rife with internal struggles. Yet, throughout it all, you could sense the desire to be free and happy. She truly wanted a place for herself in a world where she was controlled every day. Likewise, Dash was the epitome of charisma. Charming and intriguing, Dash was a well-rounded character that brought Felicita's strengths to the surface, allowing them to sing through every moment of tension in When the Sea is Rising Red. As much as the characters epitomized excellence, it must be said that the novel is very much an enigma. In once sense, the world of Pelimburg is entirely foreign and confusing. In another sense, it's brilliant, exciting and quaint. The two make for an immensely satisfying backdrop for a maze of an adventure. I think the beauty of When the Sea is Rising Red lies within the unanswered questions within the novel though. Rather than serving you a cut and dried plot that simply connects the dots, this story almost leaves those answers for you to decide, which is a power not often given to the readers.

In many ways, When the Sea is Rising Red soars. Rich and powerful, it's slow-burning, and it has me thinking days later. It's definitely one I'll be re-reading. I give it a very strong 4.5 out of 5, and I highly recommend it to both YA and adult audiences who enjoy paranormal fantasies.

I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.


  1. Wow, I was already insanely curious about this book but you (I thought impossibly) got me even more pumped up for it. I'm most excited about the world-building in it. You're right that the genre is crowded. I'm glad to know of a book that is sticking out from the bunch.

  2. I'm so glad to hear you're more psyched for it now! I think the best part was that it was nothing like what I expected...and I still had questions long after - brilliantly written, too!

  3. I feel like I have been waiting forever for this book to come out and wow, your review made me want it even more!!! Thank you! :)

  4. Whoa. Arranged marriage, suicide, denying your family, aaaand some magic. There is clearly a lot going on here. And that cover is super creepy. Thanks for such an enticing review!

  5. YAY! So glad this one lives up to the beautiful cover, I was so hoping it would:) I always get really disappointed when a lackluster story is hidden behind a gorgeous cover image. 

    Also, as a side note, my firefox apparently hates your new comments and doesn't want to let me leave one. Safari is apparently cool with you though. Win.

  6. Wow, this sounds like an amazing read. Not my usual type, but I think I'll like it a lot. Thanks for the review!

  7. It's actually me...I hate your comments, so I made sure you couldn't do it! 

    In other news, yes...I'm sure you're going to love this!

  8. It's a rollercoaster of epicness! I think you'll like it a lot!

  9. It's definitely different than most YA books - it really makes you think, which is something paranormal fantasy often forgets to do.

  10. yeeeeeee yes yes yes
    it's sounds awesome/ hoping it would be good
    i can't wait 2 read it/ hoping it i will read it soon
    you r awesome chicka 

  11. Stunning review! The world-building sounds wonderful and fascinating. And I like that the story kept you thinking....seems like a memorable and unique book! Hopefully my library will get this one, *crosses fingers*

  12. Oh! Melissa! This has been one of my favorite books in a VERY LONG TIME. While I adored Felicita and Dash, I really loved Jannik too. I loved the magic, I loved that the book was such a sensory experience. It reminded me a bit of the Gemma Doyle books, but it was somehow just a little different. The world was brilliant and so atmospheric. So glad you liked it. I just thought it was a total-package book for me. LOVED it. Great review, as always. 

    ps) didn't you just love all of the funky names in the book? 

  13. if it doesn't, I'd be happy to send it your way, lea! it's too good to miss :)

  14. You do read a lot of YA :) But I am glad to see that you have not seen it all

  15. I read a ton of genres, but I only review YA :)

  16.  I don't read an awful lot of paranormal YA, but this title sounds awesome. I think I'm going to have to take a chance on it.  Great review.

  17. This book sounds amazing!Thanks so much for the great review!!

  18. OMG. I think I need to read this now. You're not a raver, per se, so when you love a book, I take notice. And a dark, twisted, vivid world with a fantastic MC? Nice. I'm in.

  19. What a wonderful review!  Your descriptions are a pleasure.  I can't wait to read this one.  Thank you for your thoughts.

  20. I know what you mean about feeling like you've seen it all, and I have to say, Melissa...you've totally just convinced me to read this book. The idea of something new and different in such a worn-out genre completely intrigues me. Going on my wishlist NOW! :)

  21. I hear ya on reading the same kind of YA books.  Glad to hear this one is good and worth the read! I was considering buying it next week. Now, I really am!

  22. I have this one requested from the library-and I have to say I'm glad that it lived up to it's premise. This one just sounds so different. I can't wait to read it now.


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