Child of a Hidden Sea
Like so many adopted children before her, Sophie Hansa is curious about her biological parents. But when she finally decides to track them down, she gets a little more than she bargained for. For starters, her mother wants nothing to do with her. But even more startling is the discovery that her parents aren’t really from this world at all. At least not this world as we know it.
After her mom blows her off, Sophie happens upon a woman she recognizes as her biological aunt being mugged. She goes to intervene and finds herself transported to Stormwrack—A parallel version of Earth and her family’s true homeland. What makes Stormwrack unique from our earth is that it’s made up of island nations rather than continents. I really enjoyed this concept. It was a world built for sea-faring, epic voyages, pirates, and swashbuckling adventure. However, because Sophie is new to the world the reader experiences very little of it. I would have loved more descriptions of the different nations, what they were known for, and how they interacted amongst themselves.
The best part of this novel is Sophie herself. She’s not just the heroine out of luck or chance. She’s the heroine because of her intelligence, her years of study, and her analytical mind. It’s great to read a book with a scientifically-minded female lead. Instead of approaching her surroundings with wide-eyed wonder and awe, she saw her experience as an opportunity to learn. No matter what crisis was going on around her, she couldn’t help but try and record data and collect samples for further study. She wasn’t simply “brave” and “feisty.” She had real interests, hobbies, and goals that were intrinsic to her character. This is the difference between a generic “strong female character” and a complex female character.
Sophie’s interactions with her family also contributed to make her a compelling character. Since there is no real love interest, her familial relationships, especially her relationship with her siblings (Bram and Verena), take precedence—which was a refreshing change. She has a very different bond with each of them. Bram is her adoptive brother, whom she has known all her life. They are very close, and they share a lot of the same interests (like science). Verena, on the other hand, is her biological sister, whom she has just met. And they get off to a rocky start. The three of them are forced to work together for the majority of the story, and Dellamonica does a great job exploring the complex bonds forged between siblings.
As much as I enjoyed the characters and island nations, Child of a Hidden Sea is not without its problems. The ending in particular felt slow and dragged out. From the minute she arrives in Stormwrack, Sophie is sucked into a dangerous conspiracy and high stakes political battle. Those politics, however, were never truly fleshed out, so even though you can understand what is happening you may not understand why. Then the story switches gears from a dangerous adventure on the high seas to a legal battle. That’s not to say legal battles are boring, but it felt out of sync with the earlier tone of the novel.
And though the worldbuilding is pretty unique, it’s still very Western based. We are led to believe there are many island nations spread over the entire globe and that there is much interaction between them, but they still weren’t very diverse. It was like she had simply shattered Europe into islands, rather than create an entire world. Hopefully, that will change as the series progresses.
Child of a Hidden Sea may not be the swashbuckling adventure I had hoped it would be, but it is a fun portal fantasy and the beginning of a series with a lot of potential. If the open sea and intelligent heroines are your thing, it’s worth a read.