Child of a Hidden Sea by A. M. Dellamonica
Sophie Hansa is one argument away from finalizing a degree that she can’t quite seem to commit to. She is a diver, biologist, and strong female lead character for Child of a Hidden Sea. This is a seemingly simple portal story akin to Stephen Donaldson’s Mordant’s Need series. Sophie’s relation to this world and the world’s relation to our own are at the heart of an exploration of the meaning and need for relationships.
Sophie is adopted and struggles with the need to know her biological origins. We follow Sophie and her brother, Bramwell, on an adventure on the high seas to uncover a plot to overthrow the peace that has settled on the world while also exploring the unique world, magical system, and search for a meaning in family and what it means to be related to a place or people.
There is a carefree mood to the book even with the very serious topics it explores that is refreshing and keeps the story moving. At times, it toys with becoming a swashbuckling romance or a more political intrigue plot where magic and religion feature heavily, but it manages to sail between each of these potentially dangerous areas.
The magic system is interesting for a couple of reasons. The first is that simple items can be used to add to or alter different types of inscriptions tied to the names or people or things. This combination, by itself, is not entirely uncommon, but added to that is an idea that there is a limit to how many times a person can be scribed before they overload and bad things happen. I think this story has a very strong foundation and I do truly hope that the author continues this story because I feel like there is a wealth of information and culture to be explored still.
My one disappointment came from one of my unexpected joys, Bramwell. I appreciated so much that the story included a smart gay character that I was disappointed that he was excluded for much of the story and all the constant harping on his intelligence really ended up being a foil for the main character’s own revelations. Don’t get me wrong, I like strong female characters and I enjoyed Sophie who is clearly insightful and intelligent, but I felt teased by almost having another character to cheer for.
Either way, I greatly enjoyed it and recommend it for a quick, light-hearted read and we can hope for more.