Tag Archives: The Sea Inside

Review: The Sea Inside by Vickie Johnstone

The Sea Inside

by Vickie Johnstone

Genre: YA Fantasy

Series: Cerulean Songs #1

Source: Won from author giveaway. Thank you!

Book Summary:

Book 1 in the Cerulean Songs series. Time is all we have; it flows – it cannot stop. Jayne wakes up in the hospital following a terrible accident to find herself paralysed below the waist. While struggling to recover, she is offered a gift that opens a portal to another world. To the girl’s astonishment, she finds herself on a journey, on both the physical and mental plane. It brings her to the mystical realm of Entyre, where life is very different and power lies with the creatures of the deep. Her adventures bring her face to face with a terrifying witch, a cheeky insect and the most beautiful of mystical creatures – a unicorn. While the threads of time keep flowing, Jayne must decide what is real, who to trust, and regain her inner strength in order to find herself and her true destiny.

Nickie Storey, author of the ‘Grimsley Hollow’ series: “A delicious brew of invention, enchantment and refreshing characters, Vickie Johnstone has a firm grasp on the fantasy genre. I can’t wait to read more of her work!”

Greta Burroughs, author of the ‘Wee People’ series: “Strange worlds, interesting characters, suspense and a surprise ending – what more can you ask for? This book has it all and more.”

Jennifer Thomas: “A gripping and fascinating mythical adventure that is beautifully described. There is suspense, fear and emotion throughout the entire novel that makes you want to keep turning the page.”

A big thank you to Maja Drazic for the beautiful cover photograph.

book thoughts

I was excited to read this book. The cover is gorgeous (I’d seen the image on deviantART before I even knew the book existed), I love fantasy and I know what it’s like to be paralyzed. So when I won a copy I read it as soon as it arrived.

The author completely nailed what it’s like to be in the hospital following a catastrophic injury. Jayne felt lost, alone, detached, confused. It was like I was reliving my own experience it was so accurate. Jayne is given  a chance to escape her tragic situation, to walk again and be whole, by a strange woman who gives her a crystal. The crystal transports Jayne to the underwater city of Entyre.

Jayne concentrated on getting better. The dark mood that she had found herself in grew steadily lighter and she pushed her memories of the blue city to the back of her mind, dismissing them as dreams, which would gradually fade with time.

That was her hope, for while she slept her mind wove images of the sea, accompanied by the echo of the whales and a tall man whose hair was the colour of the darkest waves.

He was always there, not far away it seemed, thus was the lucidity of her sleeping life.

The author employs a unique, highly effective narration strategy when switching between Jayne’s time in Entyre and in our own world. When in Entye, the story is told in first person, and when in our own world, it is told in third. To me, this reflects Jayne’s feelings that perhaps the injury has happened to someone else, and she is just a spectator. It also gives her added agency when her body and health are restored in Entyre. It reminded me of the switch between color and black-and-white in The Wizard of Oz.

Jayne falls in love and finds a new home in Entyre, and though the city is fascinating and described beautifully, I really needed more. When Jayne first arrives in Entyre, she is nearly killed by mysterious invisible creatures who live in the sand. We learn that there was a devastating war involving these creatures – but that’s it. We also don’t learn enough about how the crystal works or why, or what the connection between Entyre and our world is. I wanted more of the mythology of Entrye, more of how people lived there (though at least we did see some of that). I also would have appreciated more of a build-up of the romance. It wasn’t insta-love, but it was rather too subtle. I wanted to know what they liked about each other, what they did together. We never really get to see them together as a couple. They kiss once, then two weeks pass, then Jayne is yanked back into our world.

I did enjoy the kind of inverse of the traditional hero’s journey that occurs in the second half of the book. Instead of (let’s use The Wizard of Oz as an example again), the heroine spending all her time trying to get home to the regular world, Jayne discovers that Entyre is her true home, and must fight heroically to return to it.

How could I have doubted myself even once? It was never a dream.

This second half unfolds in decidedly Narnian fashion – things don’t necessarily make sense, but they keep you on your toes. I’m the type of reader who wants to know the reasons behind a flying unicorn, how it got there, why, etc., but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the flying unicorn at all. (Yes, there is actually a flying unicorn – also, at one point our heroine is carted off by actual plot bunnies). This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it just isn’t my preferred method of plot development. It was unique and interesting, but events felt like they came out of nowhere and I really wanted more structure.

The writing itself suffered from a few issues. First, I felt it was rather too formal for a modern British teen. It didn’t sound natural and made Jayne harder to connect with at times. There were also minor descriptive issues, such as Jayne repeatedly describing her own red hair flying in the wind, and the way she almost always had to “glance around” before she could describe something. It made Jayne’s narrative awkward at times.

I’ll give an example. First, I’m reading this scene, which leaves me breathless with its poignancy:

“You know they speak to one another.”

“The trees? No!”

“They do. If you listen, you can hear the rustling of the leaves. They open like hands, don’t you think? I imagine them as hands, but they speak. I am sure of it.”

But then I keep reading and on the next page it says:

“So, here I was in a forest of blue and it seemed normal and I was on an adventure.”

and then I’m frustrated because I wish she would describe something, anything else instead of repeatedly describing things that are obvious.

I did enjoy the ending. I liked the fact that a fall (Jayne’s accident) began the story, and she had to fall again to reach Entyre once more. The allusions to The Little Mermaid were brilliant. Once of my favorite aspects of the Hans Christian Anderson version is the pain the mermaid experienced in her feet when she tried to walk. This theme, and the parallels between mermaids and paralysis in general were beautifully done. The theme of time was also thoughtful and interesting. All in all, I enjoyed this book, and I just hope that the next installment goes deeper into the mythology of Entrye and explains things more clearly.

3 paper hearts


Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Things I’d Make Writers Write About If I Could

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

 This week’s theme is topics you would make authors write about if you could. This could be a specific type of character, an issue tackled, a time period, a certain plot, etc.

I worked forever on this post! I hope you like it. 🙂

So I’m cheating just a bit here since, as a writer, I’ve got some ideas that I won’t be sharing, because I plan to write about them myself.  But that’s okay, because it forced me to stretch my brain for yet more ideas for the post. Yay! Here we go:

1) Number one, because it must obviously be said that, above all else:

I want more Harry Potter involving the main cast, preferably right after book seven. Seeing Hermione, Ginny and Luna’s last year at Hogwarts would be awesome. And then maybe following Luna Lovegood’s application to work in the Department of Mysteries. (Yes, I know officially she becomes a kind of naturalist but COME ON the Department of Mysteries has got to be the best place to work in all of Potterdom.) I will also settle for a next-generation series involving the Potter-Weasley kids. I’m not one of those clamoring for a Marauders series (please don’t hit me!) , even though I’d read it and love it, and my husband really wants one, so I’ll ask for it on his behalf. 😉 I’d just rather have a new Harry Potter series that still incorporates the main cast.

2) More Gemma Doyle. Or at least something to alleviate my Gemma-withdrawl

While we’re on the subject of series that ended way too soon, I need more Gemma Doyle. The Sweet Far Thing is one of my very favorite books, but that ending seriously killed me. I need more. I need to know what happens next. I’m still holding out hope that maybe the illustrious Libba Bray will grace us with another Gemma installation, but in the meantime, I petition all writers of the world to please pen me a Victorian gas-lamp fantasy full of feisty feminists. I’m desperate.

3) A Positive Depiction of the Goddess Hecate

Yes, Hecate is considered a “dark” goddess in many ways, but she’s also my Goddess, and there is so much more to her than just being the “dark” goddess. She’s goddess of the witches, yes, but YA (and non-YA) readers nowadays know that “witch” does not equal “evil”. So how about our luminous Goddess of Magic be given the same treatment? I griped a bit at Rick Riordan for casting Hecate on the side of the bad guys in the first Percy Jackson series, but her redemption and entertaining appearances in The House of Hades definitely made up for it. His son also wrote a quite moving short story featuring Hecate in The Demigod Diaries.

I suppose I’m breaking my own stipulation here, since I said I wouldn’t mention topics I myself planned to write about, since I do plan to write a novel or three involving Hecate, but honestly? She is so complex and cool a goddess that I’ve no doubt there is enough of her lore to go around. Let’s flood the market! 😉 I’m very much looking forward to Daughter of Chaos by Jen McConnel, in which Hecate makes an appearance. She’s described as a “dark goddess” but hopefully, as I’m trying to point out, “dark” doesn’t have to mean “bad”.

And while we’re at it, how about a positive representation of modern Wiccans? I mean, I get that if you’re going to write a book involving Wiccans you might as well just write about witches, but I’d actually read a contemporary (I know – gasp!) if it had something like a normal Wiccan family in it. Or a supernatural story that nonetheless featured Wiccans-as-normal-not-remotely-scary people. Inroads are being made, it’s true, but I don’t have an illustration for this suggestion and that’s kind of my point! Let’s just have another of Hecate, then.

(click the image to visit the artist’s webpage)

4) A Disabled Character (Preferably Main) Who Isn’t Just There To “Inspire” The Non-Disabled

I’m disabled. I broke  my back when I was seventeen and now I walk with a crutch (yes, just like Tiny Tim 😉 ) and have chronic pain and a host of health problems. Yet it seems that the very few disabled characters we get in YA (and even literature in general) are less-than-realistic about the difficulties involved. We don’t all climb Everest, folks. Most of us struggle just to stay healthy. Sure, that’s a bit of a downer, but doesn’t literature kind of exist to explore emotions and struggles? I suppose it could be argued that people can’t take reading about the stark realities of the lives of disabled people, but I have more faith in people than that. We have had horrifying yet beautiful YA novels tackle the subjects of rape, child abuse, eating disorders, drug addiction and a whole host of others. I think it’s about time for disabilities to be added to the list. So why don’t I write one myself? I don’t know. Maybe I will some day. But I needn’t be the only one.

There are exceptions. Ashes on the Waves has a disabled main character, and his condition is depicted realistically, with all its inherent tragedy. And while for much of the book she is able-bodied, the time the main character of The Sea Inside spends in the hospital following her injury very accurately depicts the feelings of loss, isolation, and numbness that commonly accompany such an injury.

5)Doctor Who Novel With Doctor 10.5

There have been numerous Doctor Who novels involving the new Doctors, but as far as I know, no author has yet tackled the adventures of 10.5 and Rose in the parallel universe. (spoilers?) To my knowledge, there’s enough fan fiction on the subject that I’m quite confident an authorized novelization would sell. But then they need to get David Tennant to do the audio-book recording. If somehow this could happen, then, maybe, I’ll finally be able to get over Journey’s End. *sigh*

6) More Obscure Mythology

I love mythology. All kinds. It fascinates me. And I love discovering brand-new myths that I’ve never heard of, such as the fate-spinner seikona that appeared in Maria Dahvana Headley’s Queen of Kings. I want to know more about them, and I want to know more about other interesting myths. Ancient belief systems are flickering out all over the world and it’s a tragedy. I want to learn from them all.

7) More Poe Re-tellings

Since I absolutely loved and gushed over Mary Lindsey’s Ashes on the Waves and have no doubt that Bethany Griffiths’ Masque of the Red Death duology is likewise superb, I am putting in a request for more Poe re-tellings. The Fall of the House of User, perhaps?

8) The Lady of Shallot

The Lady of Shallot by Alfred Lord Tennyson is my very favorite poem and I desperately need both a modern and classical novelization of it. It’s beyond beautiful. If you’ve never read it, you should click here to read it, or listen to the Loreena McKennit song version of it below. I’m not going to spoil what happens for you, other than to say that it is the best metaphor ever constructed concerning the artist’s dilemma of observing the world and recording it, or becoming a part of it and risking the loss of yourself within.

9) Eurydice & Orpheus

While on the subject of re-tellings, I’d love to see my favorite Greek myth and one of my all-time favorite love stories, that of Eurydice and Orpheus, novelized, in either a modern or classical telling. In the myth, the bard Orpheus loses his bride Eurydice, and travels to the underworld to use his musical talents to move the hearts of Hades and Persephone enough for them to release her. They decide that Orpheus may lead Eurydice out of Hades, so long as he never once look back to be sure she is following. But Orpheus, mad with worry and suspecting a trick, looks back at the entrance to our world, and so loses Eurydice forever.

So, naturally, it’s the kind of thing I love and need a novel version of. If you want to learn more about the myth, click here:

9) Linda Bergkvist’s Dark Faery Tales

Linda Bergkvist is an immensely talented digital painter and my favorite modern artist. Tragically, she no longer posts her work online but thankfully she produced a number of magnificent paintings before her retirement. For a while she was working on a book of dark faery tales to accompany her illustrations, and I am forever saddened that I may never hold this book in my hands. I want to know the stories behind her masterpieces.

Her work has greatly inspired my own writing, and even if Linda herself never releases her book, I’d love to see how other writers interpret such breathtaking works as these.

Check out more of Linda’s artwork here.

10) Nightwish Novels and Within Temptation Tales

I have an immense love for symphonic gothic metal and find it enormously inspirational. I can’t be the only one. So where is the lush high fantasy epic based on Within Temptation’s Deciever of Fools?

or the sprawling, century-spanning tragic love story of Nightwish’s Ghost Love Score?

Make note of these requests, oh valiant writers of the world! 😀

Also, keep doing what you’re doing. You’re awesome.

 

red rose divider

What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Have my wishes already come true and I just don’t know about the book(s) yet!? Let me know!