I discovered The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea last year, when I was searching for a read that would evoke similar feelings to a Studio Ghibli movie – and this book did not disappoint! Axie Oh’s retelling of the Korean folk tale “The Tale of Shim Ch’ŏng” delivered on its description as a feminist retelling. The heroine was strong, determined, and spoke for herself, without being overshadowed by the powerful male characters who accompanied her journey through the Spirit Realm.
Mina is a young woman whose village has been devastated by storms for generations. Each year, a beautiful woman is sacrificed to the sea to become the Sea God’s bride, in the hopes of appeasing their protector and putting an end to the suffering. However, when Shim Cheong, the woman Mina’s brother loves, is due to become the next sacrifice, she cannot simply stand by and watch – and she makes a choice that will ultimately impact her family, village, and the Gods themselves. (See Official synopsis.)
Once I started this book, I could not put it down. It was the perfect whimsical escape to start my first Cannonball Read challenge. The descriptions of the spirit realm were rich and vivid, and supporting characters had important roles to play in the heroine’s journey. Mina’s ability to get to the heart of each character’s motivation was not always 100% realistic, given her youth and limited time/experience in the Spirit realm, but this did not detract from the overall story. I did not predict the exact resolution, but loved how the story was resolved.
I would definitely recommend this read if you’re a fan of romance, folklore, and fantasy.