I've been in a reading funk recently, and went on Facebook to ask for suggestions for fun YA, murder mystery, or fantasy novels. I now have an awesome list of new stuff to add to my to-read pile... Thank you to Aprille R. for recommending this one!
This YA novel is loosely based on (or sort of a spin-off from) a Korean folktale called The Tale of Shim Ch'ŏng, in which the beautiful Shim Cheong is thrown into the ocean - sacrificed to be the Sea God's Bride, in the hopes of appeasing the god and putting an end to the storms that ravage the land. In Oh's version, however, young Mina takes her place, as she recognizes that her beloved older brother Joon is in love with Shim Cheong, and she cannot bare to see him suffer.
What follows is an adventure through the spirit realm, where Mina meets not only the Sea God, but demons, dragons, other gods, and a lot of former humans who died, and never moved on past the spirit world. There are political alliances she must learn to navigate, and assassins out to steal her soul. Strong-willed and resourceful, she gathers new friends as she attempts to unravel the mysteries of the Sea God's past, and his anger at (or neglect of) the human realm... all while racing against the clock, as at the end of one month she will die and become a permanent resident of the spirit world.
I enjoyed this story, though I found the world-building a bit lacking. The rules of the spirit realm weren't well developed, and the characters sometimes made choices that weren't backed up by exposition.
Still, it was a very nice myth-like story about family, loyalty, and fate. And I really enjoyed the emphasis Oh put on how important storytelling is, not just to teach lessons but to inspire, to forge connections, to instill hope, and to honor ancestors.
UP NEXT: The Truly Devious series, by Maureen Johnson