Child of a Hidden Sea is the kind of fantasy book that usually leaves me very aggravated, not because it’s bad, but because parallel world/portal fantasy (whatever you want to call it) usually doesn’t work for me. There are too many leaps of logic that I never really buy into. Things feel clunky, and a good plot seems to be messed up by the complexity that a secondary world alongside our world creates. Therefore I approached Child of a Hidden Sea with a huge amount of skepticism, but I decided to give it a chance anyway because the strong female protagonist really interested me. I’m glad I gave it that shot, because Dellamonica nicely sidesteps most of the speed bumps that so many other authors get slowed down by.
Firstly, Sophie, our protagonist, is far from perfect. She’s a fairly flawed person, in most senses of the word. She’s no pillar of perfection, and many readers will instantly bond with her due to that. She’s a little lost, slightly stalker-ish, has a serious case of being overshadowed by her genius brother. She’s lost, and that sort of lost feeling is something that I instantly bonded with. So many authors fill their books with characters that don’t feel, well, human, and Sophie was incredibly human. Her flaws kept her believable and interesting.
Furthermore, Sophie is nicely balanced by the secondary characters, all of whom have distinct voices and truly feel like individual people. They give the world(s) a broader, more real sense and make the more complex plotlines feel more grounded. Dellamonica focused a lot of attention on creating realistic, well rounded, believable characters.
The plot of Child of a Hidden Sea is quick moving and full of complex family and political relationships. The world of Stormwrack is full of culture and depth, plenty of traditions that go back ages, languages that change and make things complicated, weather and lifestyle issues, and magic. The legal and political drama that Sophie finds herself navigating is made even more complex by the dynamic world building. It was easy to see how Sophie could be overwhelmed by it all, and it was empowering to see her grow and adjust to her new situations. Furthermore, many of the “ah ha” moments in the plot are nicely paced, nothing is revealed all at once.
There are, however, some issues, which I expected with this kind of portal fantasy. The language barrier is a little too easily overcome with some waving-of-the-hands type of magic. There is an issue regarding the transfer of technology between Earth and Stormwrack that was never really explained. For example, why does Sophie’s phone not work, but her camera does? Sophie’s brother is a genius, and I often felt that his genius-like tendencies can be a little too convenient. He learns the languages really fast. He reads books and knows all the answers. He tended to function as an “easy answer” button in the case of conflict that doesn’t really have an answer.
Despite a few world building issues, the plot is tight and the characters balance each other well. This story is a lot of fun, and many of the complex topics are handled with poise and grace. I found the sibling relationship between Sophie and Bram, and the budding relationships with Sophie and the family she never knew, to be rather endearing. It is rare that I find really realistic, close family relationships in books, and I’m really glad that Dellamonica showed how important family ties are, not just through Sophie’s relationships, but through the plot itself.
I left Child of a Hidden Sea feeling satisfied. I’m not sure if this is the first book in a series, but I hope it is. There is plenty of room for Dellamonica to grow the world and develop the characters and situations, plenty of questions that could be answered while more questions are presented. There is a lot of potential here.
Hidden Sea Tales — (2014-2016) 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. The next, she finds herself flung into the warm and salty waters of an unfamiliar world. Glowing moths fall to the waves around her, and the sleek bodies of unseen fish glide against her submerged ankles. The world is Stormwrack, a series of island nations with a variety of cultures and economies—and a language different from any Sophie has heard. Sophie doesn’t know it yet, but she has just stepped into the middle of a political firestorm, and a conspiracy that could destroy a world she has just discovered…her world, where everyone seems to know who she is, and where she is forbidden to stay.But Sophie is stubborn, and smart, and refuses to be cast adrift by people who don’t know her and yet wish her gone. With the help of a sister she has never known, and a ship captain who would rather she had never arrived, she must navigate the shoals of the highly charged politics of Stormwrack, and win the right to decide for herself whether she stays in this wondrous world…or is doomed to exile, in Child of a Hidden Sea by A.M. Dellamonica.