Deadly storms have ravaged Mina’s homeland for generations. Floods sweep away entire villages, while bloody wars are waged over the few remaining resources. Her people believe the Sea God, once their protector, now curses them with death and despair. In an attempt to appease him, each year a beautiful maiden is thrown into the sea to serve as the Sea God’s bride, in the hopes that one day the “true bride” will be chosen and end the suffering.
Many believe that Shim Cheong, the most beautiful girl in the village—and the beloved of Mina’s older brother Joon—may be the legendary true bride. But on the night Cheong is to be sacrificed, Joon follows Cheong out to sea, even knowing that to interfere is a death sentence. To save her brother, Mina throws herself into the water in Cheong’s stead.
Swept away to the Spirit Realm, a magical city of lesser gods and mythical beasts, Mina seeks out the Sea God, only to find him caught in an enchanted sleep. With the help of a mysterious young man named Shin—as well as a motley crew of demons, gods and spirits—Mina sets out to wake the Sea God and bring an end to the killer storms once and for all.
But she doesn’t have much time: A human cannot live long in the land of the spirits. And there are those who would do anything to keep the Sea God from waking…
The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea (TGWFBTS) felt more like middle grade than real young adult to me.
There was a certain naiveté in the progression of the story, a certain candor to Mina’s beliefs and actions that had me feeling it was intended to an even younger audience than it was marketed for.
That didn’t prevent me from enjoying that lovely story, filled with gods, spirits, demons and other beasts.
I really loved the world it was set in: a magic world existing beneath the sea, reminding me of Asian mythology.
Mina is only sixteen when she decides to save her brother’s beloved from her fate as a sacrifice to the Sea God.
She will offer herself and will be taken by a dragon and plunge under water just to land in a magic city.
For one century, huge storms have devastated the land and they are rumored to be caused by the Sea God’s curse. Only his true bride will be able to break the enchantment and every year, girls have been thrown into the sea in the hope of finding THE one.
Mina was never intended to be his bride as she was too “plain”. But what she lacks in beauty she makes for in determination and outrage.
And Mina is furious.
“What is wrong with this world? What is wrong with the gods?”
The gods have abandoned the humans. Some are even cruel. So why do humans keep revering and praying the gods? Why do they keep sending wishes on paper boats just to have the gods ignore them entirely.
She has seen mothers lose their babies, people dying of hunger.
So when Mina meets the Sea God for the first time, she is very angry.
But she is surprised to find him asleep and looking much more like a child than a god!
She will also meet Shin, the lord of Lotus House, sworn to protect the Sea God’s life. Their first encounter is a clash of will and ends badly but further in the story, they will work in tandem in the hope of saving the god.
The pace is quite fast, sometimes a little over the place but it’s understandable as Mina has not a lot of time to reach her goal. The story is supported by great side characters going from spirits to magical beasts who added some humor and whimsy to that story that reads a lot like a tale. The “found family” vibe was strong!
You even have a romance slowly budding between Shin and making Mina’s decision to be the Sea God’s bride more difficult. I just regret that the story being on the short side, we lack some complexity and depth to said romance.
Mina is a very loveable character but again that I would have loved to know better if we had more time with her. She is selfless and wants to protect her loved ones. That care gives her courage to tackle what seems like an impossible task.
“I couldn’t endure a world where I did nothing, where I let those I love suffer and be hurt.”
She will truly do everything she can to save everyone, going from danger to danger, trying to solve the Sea God’s mystery.
All in all, this was a charming tale, full of Asian mythology, brave heroes, a quest that needs sacrifices and love.
Thanks for reading.