{Review} SEA CHANGE by S. M. Wheeler

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O P E N I N G   H O O K:
ACID FLOWED AT THE TABLE MORE OFTEN than wine and had long since ceased to cause Lilly alarm; her attention remained on the soup even as Father asked, “Does the thought of me still pain your head, love?” 

Cool, Mother replied, “I fear I am coming down with some strange illness, for I suffer still. I should go to the baths and—” 

His habit was to swallow such lies with a drought of the liquor at hand, but tonight the bottle had been emptied already. “And by what means will you have a child of mine while resting there?” He laughed, a deep, drink-rough noise. “Mourning the parting, will you lie with me the night before – then abort whatever is thus got and have a bastard by another man, to return to this house and claim—” 

“Lilly.” Mother looked to her, fire on her tongue such that all her husband’s anger seemed but sparks. Here was not the woman who called Lilly sweetheart and cradled her face between her hands; in such a temper, she looked taller than Father, her presence heavy with the soot of past fury. “Dinner is over. Go to your room.” 

Lilly filched a glazed bun from the table as if she refused to go without something sweet; wrapping it in a napkin as she went out, she shut the door behind her then put her ear to the keyhole. She dismissed the thought of capture, for the servants were all stiff-faced and silent at the edges of the room, or gone away to the kitchen if they could, ashamed to serve a family that would descend into this crudity – unless households of old blood were the same, and all servants must foster the ability to overlook lapses in decorum.
(pg. 6, US e-book edition
Read an extended preview now!)

What better way to start Splash off with a bang than with a novel about a girl's quest to save a kraken? Kraken are so rarely seen in literature as anything other than evil monsters. SEA CHANGE is a beautiful story of the lengths one will go for friendship.

Lilly met Octavius when she was eight years old and he was just a young kraken. She instilled her beliefs of how wrong it is to murder humans in him, and he shared his underwater world together. Lilly constantly slips away to meet Octavius over the years. When her parents find out, her mother finally musters up the urge to leave the household, while her father kicks her out after re-marrying, upset that she was never a son or beautiful daughter worthy of being a true heir. After leaving, Lilly discovers that Octavius has been kidnapped. To what ends will she go in order to win back his freedom?

The summary makes it sound as though SEA CHANGE is a novel for kids. It isn't. It has the twists and feels of a traditional questing fairy tale, but it's much darker and more horrifying. It may be fairy tale-esque, but it's one for adults. There is no such thing as Happily Ever After. There is always a price to pay in life. The cost of Octavius' freedom is breath-takingly expensive. Lilly gives up so much of herself in order to free him, everything she holds precious. She's incredibly brave and her love is true, otherwise she would have given up before she ever began her adventure. She goes through so much turmoil, pain, and horror than any human being should have to endure, and she does it all in the name of love.

S. M. Wheeler is an extraordinary new talent; it's hard to believe that SEA CHANGE is her debut novel.  Her writing is impeccable. It's lyrical and descriptive. Take this sentence from the novel's beginning:

"The water churned active today, the low sun golden on its whitecaps and the spray hands that reached for her; it was playful in the manner of creatures that ate humans with a smile."
(pg. 6, US e-book edition)

There is something organic and mysterious about Wheeler's writing that makes so much of the book captivating. While there are a few scenes too grotesque for my squeamish heart, one of my friends who doesn't mind that stuff was impressed reading even one such passage out of context and intrigued to read more. Wheeler's writing style is that good.

SEA CHANGE can be utterly heart-wrenching, because you truly care for Lilly and all that she endures. It can also be hopeful and triumphant. Wheeler balances human emotion well and forces readers to truly care about Lilly and her quest to save Octavius. Lilly is a pure soul the likes of which is seldom seen in fiction, and only the truest love could undertake such a journey.

C O V E R   D E S I G N:

I have a special fondness for letters sculpted out of everyday (and sometimes not so every day) objects. These are some of my favorite designs. I love, love, love this cover. It's unique enough to warrant a second glance, then makes you like it over multiple times as you attempt to figure out what all the objects are and how they tie into the novel. It's genius!

I can't even...

Take my word, I just love it!

O F F I C I A L   I N F O:

Author: S. M. Wheeler
Release Date: June 18, 2013
Publisher: Tor Books / Macmillan
Received: Borrowed

The unhappy child of two powerful parents who despise each other, young Lilly turns to the ocean to find solace, which she finds in the form of the eloquent and intelligent sea monster Octavius, a kraken. In Octavius’s many arms, Lilly learns of friendship, loyalty, and family. When Octavius, forbidden by Lilly to harm humans, is captured by seafaring traders and sold to a circus, Lilly becomes his only hope for salvation. Desperate to find him, she strikes a bargain with a witch that carries a shocking price. 

Her journey to win Octavius’s freedom is difficult. The circus master wants a Coat of Illusions; the Coat tailor wants her undead husband back from a witch; the witch wants her skin back from two bandits; the bandits just want some company, but they might kill her first. Lilly's quest tests her resolve, tries her patience, and leaves her transformed in every way. 

A powerfully written debut from a young fantasy author, SEA CHANGE is an exhilarating tale of adventure, resilience, and selflessness in the name of friendship.


  1. I was anxiously awaiting for reviews of this one to start popping up, and from what I see I very much think I need to read this one. I love darker fantasy, particularly when those fairy tale esque books are dark enough to be categorized as for adults. I also love the sound of the writing style!

    1. It's definitely a very unique book, Heidi! It won't be for everyone, but there's something incredibly enchanting about it. Based on that criteria, you'll like this, I think!

  2. Wow. I like the blurb a lot
    How come I have never heard of this book before?
    It looks so good and i am adding it to my TBR
    Your reader,

  3. What an unusual premise for a story! Sounds like a good one. Good luck with your Mermaid-a-thon :)


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