Young Adult/Dystopian-ish Fantasy
Available June 24th
Source: ARC from publisher for review
THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Coe is one of the few remaining teenagers on the island of Tides. Deformed and weak, she is constantly reminded that in a world where dry land dwindles at every high tide, she is not welcome. The only bright spot in her harsh and difficult life is the strong, capable Tiam—but love has long ago been forgotten by her society. The only priority is survival.
Until the day their King falls ill, leaving no male heir to take his place. Unrest grows, and for reasons Coe cannot comprehend, she is invited into the privileged circle of royal aides. She soon learns that the dying royal is keeping a secret that will change their world forever.
Is there an escape from the horrific nightmare that their island home has become? Coe must race to find the answers and save the people she cares about, before their world and everything they know is lost to the waters.
Drowned is a captivating and beautifully unusual story, the world in which Coe and the other inhabitants of the island live one that sits on the periphery of our world, with just enough differences to grab our attention, but similar enough that we don't struggle to wrap our minds around it. For majority of the book, the island of Tides is self-contained and seemingly isolated from the larger world (if one still remains after the floods), and Ms. Reilly does a lovely job of ensuring any questions we might have about how Coe's people survive (or don't) day to day are answered before they can worm their way into our minds and fester. It's only after Coe finds herself in the service of the princess that the island world we've come to know in a short amount of time begins to ever-so-slowly expand, and our curiosity sparks anew with every new bit of information we learn.
Coe, much like the story of which she is a vital part, is striking for all of the ways in which she's different from those around her. Most obviously, Coe's physical differences are what stand out to us initially, an accident when she was younger claiming one of her arms and instantly making her less-than to nearly everyone on the island save a select few. She's mocked at every turn, but even though she she's plagued by self-doubt as a result, she's not one to cower or spend all of her time taking the cruel words of others to heart. Instead, she simply wishes things were different and goes about her tasks with an admirable dedication and hopeful spirit. Even though Death is a constant companion for everyone on the island, Coe never turns maudlin despite the fact that her physical disability has Death sidling far closer to her than those around her, rather she appreciates the time she has with Tiam and steps up to face whatever is thrown her way.
When things begin to shift and her once-narrow world is suddenly widened thanks to a few clues scattered throughout the castle, Coe keeps a level head, questioning the new information to test its veracity without allowing herself to cling to what's she's previously thought to be true to the detriment of herself and those she most cares for. She's unwaveringly loyal to Tiam–even in the few moments where we question whether or not he deserves it–and is always there with her one remaining helping hand stretched out to those who consider her worthless. While she initially has a few stars in her eyes with regard to the princess, that shine quickly dulls as the princess's spectacularly spoiled nature quickly reveals itself, and it's nothing short of satisfying to roll our eyes along with Coe whenever the perfect Star opens her mouth and completely ruins the illusion of royalty.
Though many of our questions about island life are answered throughout, when the world begins to expand toward the end, our aforementioned curiosity is left a touch hanging with only the promise of answers to come in the second installment to appease it. Despite Drowned being very much a first installment in terms of where the story temporarily ends, it's a quick and thoroughly enjoyable read with a strong heroine in Coe to keep us emotionally invested throughout. There's a touch of romance but it's wonderfully subtle, Coe's confidence issues and the greater mystery of how the island civilization came to be and where it's headed ensuring it remains a secondary component. Overall, Drowned is a memorable read for a variety of reasons, a darkly mesmerizing world and rich characterization among them, and I can't wait to see what secrets about the world Coe thought she knew will be revealed next.
Find Nichola (aka Cyn Balog):
This book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge for the purpose of a review.
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.