Thursday, June 19, 2014

Review: Drowned

Drowned #1
Nichola Reilly
Young Adult/Dystopian-ish Fantasy
304 pages
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.

Rating: 4/5

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.


  1. Oh, this one sounds cool! Interesting to see a YA fantasy with a protagonist dealing with a physical disability (usually we only see those in YA contemporary reads). And I like the cover, very striking! Thanks Jenny, your review does a great job of giving me an idea of what to expect with this book :)

  2. It sounds different and I'm curious to learn more about Coe and the island I confess.It's the first time I hear about this book but maybe one day. Great review.

  3. I haven't heard anything about this one before, but.. I think I saw it in someone's WoW once. Was it yours? :O I'm so glad to hear that there are answers--it's the worst when all your questions are unanswered. Gahh, this sounds so intriguing, Jenny! Coe sounds wonderful and I love that she questions everything. I hope that you'll enjoy the next installment just as much!

  4. Hmmm, I hadn't really given much thought to this one but after reading your review I'm very intrigued! Even more about the mix of fantasy & dystopian you referred to as the setting... I will be keeping an eye on this one for sure!
    Fantastic review, Jenny!

  5. I think I saw this a while ago and was curious but you have me sold! I am definitely intrigued by the idea of a female lead who has a physical handicap.

    Also I always think fantasy and dystopia make an interesting clash and I am interested to see how this will turn out.

    Lovely review, Jenny!! :)

    Rashika @ The Social Potato

  6. Sometimes, when characters are so unwaveringly loyal, I have a strong desire to smack some sense into them because, of course, that other person usually doesn't deserve that loyalty.

  7. I am intrigued by this. INTRIGUED. Actually, more so by the world than anything else. I do love a good, interesting world.

  8. This is why book bloggers are great! This is not a book that I would pick up normally, but your review makes it sound better that I thought it would. I especially like that isn't what many would considers physically perfect. I just read a book the other day where the protag declared the other protag's leadership skills based on his looks and I wanted to scream! Thanks for the great review, Jenny - you just put Drowned on my TBR list!


  9. Sounds like a solid book, adding it to my TBR list :) Great review today!

  10. I've been really curious about Drowned, the world and Coe herself. I'm glad you enjoyed this one Jenny! It sounds like that world is just being touched upon now and I excited to see where this series goes. Beautiful review :)

  11. I agree with Bibliophile B. I probably would pass this book up, but once again your beautiful writing and thoughtful observations has made me put it on my TBR list.

  12. The blurb for this one never really grabbed my attention but your wonderful and insightful review makes me intrigued. I'll have to check this one out at my library.

  13. Hmm . . . I hadn't heard much about this one, but I have to admit that you've made me curious. Coe sounds like a wonderful and different heroine. And yes . . . lots of questions about this island. Great review, Jenny!

  14. I don't' mind a few unanswered questions by the end, especially if it is for a set up for book two. This sounds like it really was nicely done.

    Beautiful review Jenny, I swear you should be an author. ;)

  15. I was not aware that the main character in this book had a physical disability, Jenny. That's absolutely fascinating because I feel like heroines with disabilities are underrepresented in YA! That alone is enough to make me want to read this. I have to say that the world in the book sound delightful as well, but I think I'll wait for the next book to be out because it seems that there is still a lot to learn.
    Beautiful review, Jenny!

  16. This is another book that I really looking forward to reading.

  17. Ok so I'm not sure I've ever even heard of this one - fail on my part! It sounds fascinating to me. I'm very curious about the world building: where and when exactly is this story happening? But it sounds like you still have some questions after reading this book. I also love that the heroine has a missing arm. Although I didn't enjoy Shannon Hale's recent book Dangerous, the heroine missing a limb was one of my favorite parts. That sounds terrible! But it was divers and watching her overcome her limitations made for great reading. It sounds like Coe gaining confidence and coming into herself is a big theme here. I've gotten so worried about romances peaking too soon, so I'm not worried about it being very subtle in this book. However, like Nick said above, I think I'll probably wait until the next book is out at least to invest in this series. Great review!

  18. Okay, first things first i don't think this book was on my radar at all! NOPE! Never heard of it but now you've got me intrigued! I'm interested in the fact that the MC has a disability and the world building sounds pretty interesting.All in all you've got me interested about this book and it's sequel!

  19. I have to admit that the cover and the blurb didn't draw me in, but your review did! Oh I'm very curious about this world and I love that Coe sounds so different. Oh man... you added to my want list!

  20. This sounds cool and different from every other dystopia out there

  21. This sounds great! I haven't heard of it before and I'm really interested now in reading it. Thanks for the review! I will add it to my to read list!

  22. I received an ARC of this one but hadn't heard much about it, so I didn't give it much thought, though I'll definitely have to go back to it now. You've definitely made me curious with your mention of the characterization and island lifestyle, so though I may only pick this up closer to the release of its sequel, I definitely plan to read it soon. Lovely review, Jenny! :)

  23. Coe sounds like a brave MC I'd immediately adore and want to protect. I get so indignant when I read about bullying! I'm all about characterization but this world and surrounding mystery sounds intriguing. I'll keep my eye out for this! Great review, Jenny! :)