Axie Oh has given us sci-fi and contemporary YA novels in the past, and now, with The Girl Who Fell Beneath The Sea, we have her first fantasy! I’d only read XOXO before picking this one up, though I do want to read the Rebel Seoul duology, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this one. But I know I was pretty excited and was lucky enough to be granted an early copy of this book in e-book form through NetGalley.
The Girl Who Fell Beneath The Sea follows Mina, who decides to sacrifice herself to the Sea God in place of her brother’s girlfriend. Once in the Sea God’s city, she discovers that the Sea God isn’t just ignoring them as she thought and something else is going down. With the help of gods, mythical creatures and spirits, Mina decides to do all she can to stop the storms and save her people before any other girl has to throw herself into the sea.
I actually didn’t love this book as much as I had hoped. That summary alone excites me, and it makes me want to give this novel a second chance, but it just wasn’t great. It definitely had some good aspects. I enjoyed the characters and the weaving of Korean lore and folktales into the story. Especially when those stories were told within the book itself. It gave the book an almost dream-like atmosphere, and this world sounded beautiful and sad. It was fun seeing some of the stories and thinking about the western counterparts and how different each story is. It’s lovely to see how different cultures tell similar stories, yet each could have a different meaning. I love it.
The romance wasn’t great. I want to say it’s kind of insta-romancey, but it isn’t really. I could have accepted that with the red string of fate, even if it’s a trope I hate generally. Instead, it felt like the romance progressed quickly, yet nothing happened. I didn’t really feel anything about their relationship. You barely got to see Mina interact with Shin, and I just- sigh. Their romance could have been very emotional and made me cry. The possibility was there. But it is hard to care when two characters barely interact, yet we are supposed to believe they are in love. To be honest, there was barely any interactions of any kind that were more than surface level. After seeing the friendships in XOXO, that was a disappointment. There was also a twist with three characters, but I called it pretty early. So when it was revealed, it was kind of meh, and it did not really add anything to their relationship. The confirmation did not really change anything when it should have. Yet everything after was just still very flat.
I didn’t really like how the red string of fate was handled either. Now, I’m white. My knowledge of it mostly comes from manga and game fandoms. So maybe the strings between people can change and disappear so quickly. We are given a reason within the plot at the end and it kind of made sense. But I was still bugged. Again though, I do accept that I could be wrong there.
Overall I wasn’t a big fan of this book. I got through it quickly, at least, and the writing could be stunning in places. Unfortunately, it also felt very shallow and slow to me. I will still be reading Axie Oh in the future, but I won’t be recommending this one.
Title: The Girl Who Fell Beneath The Sea
Author: Axie Oh
Age Range: Young Adult
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton (UK)/Feiwel & Friends (US)
Release Date: 22/2/22
4 thoughts on “Book Review: The Girl Who Fell Beneath The Sea by Axie Oh”
Hi, Rosina. I totally agree with your thoughts and feelings about this book. I haven’t even finished reading this one, but I want to give up reading the rest of it. I’m Korean. All I want is well-orchestrated Korean-folk tale retold, but this is a disaster. Shimcheong’s story is still iconic for the Korean people. Oh only adapted very little theme of Shimcheon’s story when writing this. The original story of Shimcheong is anything but fascinating and original involving sacrifice, love, meaning of parenthood, betrayal, and the Sea God’s love. However, in this story, I don’t see any authentic quality from it. Oh should’ve created totally different story without Shimcheon’s name appeared. I feel horrible for this story. Like you said, her writing style is shallow and slow. Trust me… when you imagine things from this story, they have nothing to do with Korean culture. Oh must be Korean-American, but I don’t see any Korean spirit and even culture from this book. I’m glad that I’m not the only one who do not like this book.
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I’m sorry that you didn’t like this book! I hope you find a retelling of this you like or at least a better retelling of another folktale.