The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea / Axie Oh / Book Review


Deadly storms have ravaged Mina's home for generations. Each time the storms come, the villagers pick a girl to sacrifice to the sea, a bride for the Sea God. But each sacrifice has lasted fewer months than the one before. This year, they know they have found the Sea God's "true bride," beautiful and smart and ethereal: Shim Cheong. The problem? Mina's brother is in love with Cheong, and sacrificing Cheong will mean losing Joon, too.

Mina isn't about to let her brother get swallowed by the sea, and so she does the unthinkable. She sneaks aboard the sacrificial vessel, and when the Sea God's dragon rises up to inspect the bride, she throws herself into the sea instead.

Mina wakes in the Spirit Realm, foggy and shifting, and she finds a red ribbon tied around her wrist. She follows this ribbon to the palace, to the Sea God himself--and he is fast asleep, lost to the world. With the String of Fate to guide her, Mina sets out to wake the God from his slumber, to save the spirit world as well as her home--even if that means losing herself in a world of demons and vicious gods.



Whoever compared this book to Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away nailed the comparison! This book captures the ethereal whimsy of that spirit world while also capturing the unsettling dark undertones to it as well. It's lyrical. It's beautiful.


Masterful Worldbuilding This world is immediately vivid, bright and tangible. It is full of lore and lyrical touchpoints for the reader. The spirit world is evocative, darkly deadly and at the same time pristinely beautiful. I have never been so immediately wrapped up in a world. Axie Oh's worldbuilding here is masterful, perfectly balanced.

Strong-Willed Protagonist Mina isn't bold and brash. She isn't forcefully lewd. She isn't physically strong, as strong as any man who would oppose her. She just knows what she wants, and she actively works toward her goals. In a market overrun with "strong female leads," it is a welcome relief to experience the journey of an actual strong lead--a lead who is strong in and of herself and not because she somehow exceeds expectations for female characters by being the proud owner of an abundance of masculine attributes.

Korean Mythology This story is beautifully written and beautifully expressed, weaving Korean mythology into a brand new tale. The story is bright and bold, both old and new. I am immensely glad that this mythology has been so lovingly rendered into English, so that I can appreciate it as well. We need more fantasy that conveys the imaginations and myths of cultures around the world. The drifting fog and crashing waves of Korean stories have won a place in my heart this past year, with this book being at the forefront.


This book was full of threats of danger, threats against poor Mina's life, but like many fairy tales, those dangers never quite materialize or feel truly real. There are still stakes in this book--Mina only has a month of life in the spirit world, after all, before she will actually die. But the "you can't go out unescorted; it is too dangerous for humans like you" threats never felt terribly real. Though these threats did escalate from merely verbal to more physical by the end of the book, I still found it hard to believe that Mina could, you know, actually die. Elusive Danger

I usually have a bit of an issue with books that strongly feature some kind of prophecy or fate because that plot element feels too easy. Predestination is too simple. Here, I had a different problem. Fate might be at play, but it is ultimately so malleable and easy to bend that I didn't understand the purpose of fate being included at all. What's the purpose of a string of fate connecting people if they can so easily break this string and/or form it again? I just wish there had been a bit more intention behind fate, a bit more rigidity. That's what fate is, after all: set in stone. Changeable Fate

So many people were out to get Mina, but why? What was the motive? What were they going to get from it? Though a few possible motives were tossed around, nothing concrete came together. There was such a sense of vengeance, such a feeling of vehemence that it made no sense without a clear motive. And a clear motive there was not. Unclear Motives



Those looking to experience more drifting fog and winding Korean countryside after June Hur's The Forest of Stolen Girls should check out this book. Those who loved Elizabeth Lim's fractured fairy tale Six Crimson Cranes should check out this old mythology brought to new life.


Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Date: February 22, 2022
Series: N/A
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Note: I was provided with an ARC by the publisher through Netgalley and Edelweiss+ in exchange for an honest review. All opinions here are my own.


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