Review: Sea Witch Rising by Sarah Henning

Sea Witch Rising by Sarah Henning

Sea Witch Rising
Sarah Henning
Kathering Tegen Books
Published August 6, 2019

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About Sea Witch Rising

“The Little Mermaid” takes a twisted turn in this thrilling sequel to villainess origin story Sea Witch, as the forces of land and sea clash in an epic battle for freedom, redemption, and true love. 

Runa will not let her twin sister die. Alia traded her voice to the Sea Witch for a shot at happiness with a prince who doesn’t love her. And his rejection will literally kill her—unless Runa intervenes.

Under the sea, Evie craves her own freedom—but liberation from her role as Sea Witch will require an exchange she may not be willing to make. With their hearts’ desires at odds, what will Runa and Evie be willing to sacrifice to save their worlds? 

Told from alternating perspectives, this epic fairy tale retelling is a romantic and heart-wrenching story about the complications of sisterhood, the uncompromising nature of magic, and the cost of redemption.

My Review

I forgot how much I like the way Sarah Henning writes. Her characters are compelling and complex. They’re the kind of characters who are somehow both hero and villain. You don’t agree with all their choices, in fact, some of them you wildly disagree with, but you understand the desperation and the love behind them.

The story world is also rich and imaginative. The magical system feels well-developed, too. I liked the cross-generational element to the story, where Evie, the protagonist from Henning’s first book, SEA WITCH, is now the age of Runa’s grandmother. Runa’s sister becomes human because she’s in love with the grandson of Evie’s best friend. It gives the story an interesting circular feel.

I think I expected the Little Mermaid retelling to be the whole story. (Spoiler: it isn’t. It’s about 25% of the book.) On the one hand, I liked that SEA WITCH RISING went much broader into this political conflict and the collision of merpeople and humans. On the other hand, sometimes the story felt rushed because so much was crammed into the pages.

A few elements challenged my willing suspension of disbelief. I’ll try not to include spoilers. At one point Runa takes a serious action that I felt didn’t get the proper horror from her new allies. They kind of face-palmed, told her she did a stupid thing, and sort of moved on.

They had other, more pressing issues, so in some ways it made sense that they put Runa’s actions aside, but it didn’t seem like she paid a social cost for her behavior, if that makes sense.

I kind of also wanted SEA WITCH RISING to have a little more of a nod to true love toward the end of the book. The story definitely isn’t about romantic love. It’s about sisterhood and also the kind of love you have for your people. But it would have been really cool to juxtapose the part of the story which is the retelling of the Little Mermaid against Runa’s own journey toward love.

On the whole, I still really enjoyed the book. Like I said, I love the way Sarah Henning writes and I love her complex characters. I’m a huge fan of the duology, and I hope Henning writes more fantasy in the future.

If you like twisted fairy tales, also check out the duology SPINDLE FIRE and WINTER GLASS by Lexa Hillyer, which are kind of a Sleeping Beauty/Alice in Wonderland/Cinderella mashup. Also, if you’re fans of those books, you definitely want to read SEA WITCH and SEA WITCH RISING!

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 14 up.

Runa and her sisters have blond hair and pale skin. The humans in the story are from Denmark.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Mild profanity used infrequently.

Romance/Sexual Content
Kissing between boy and girl.

Spiritual Content
References to the sea goddess, Urda. Use of magic.

Violent Content
The sea king uses a violent magic to harm the sea witch. In an intense scene, a someone stabs another person. Witches use magic to incapacitate and burn enemy soldiers.

Drug Content
The sea king uses nectar from a rare flower to amass magical power. He’s become addicted and withdrawals from the nectar may kill him.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support the costs of running this blog. I received a free copy of SEA WITCH RISING in exchange for my honest review.

About Kasey

Reads things. Writes things. Fluent in sarcasm. Willful optimist. Cat companion, chocolate connoisseur, coffee drinker. There are some who call me Mom.

4 thoughts on “Review: Sea Witch Rising by Sarah Henning

  1. Kyra – I am a teenager who loves reading, singing, dancing, piano, and doing anything artistic! I am home-schooled and a child of God :)
    Kyra Morris says:

    I liked this, but I didn’t love it as much as Sea Witch!

    1. Same! You summed up my exact thoughts in like ten words. 😀

  2. Woody Edmiston – My focus late in life is the idea that our culture and education systems have created out of many Americans a state of arrested adolescence. It is an great study of human emotion, the three tier society structure, and stifled personal progress. Being a criminal justice professional, I have written three books on the subject, the third due to be published next year. This site has a dual role in that I also supports my two pseudonyms who write: murder mystery -- as Spence Allen; and young adult reading -- as Arlington J North and both Associate Author Robert Starr and assorted guests.
    Woody Edmiston says:

    Well written, I notice your list of “parental concern responses” in your Content Notes. Is that your review or is that something the book provided. Very nice add – speaking as a grumpy old guy who is writing some things for my nieces – I have to be careful to tone things down. I can see how a parent would appreciate that being a standard on the 14 and up reading. Although as a substitute teacher I could tell them that horse left the barn. Really like how you handle the author’s work.

    1. Thanks! No, the content notes are something I do as I read the book. Not all readers are ready for a book at the same time, so this makes it easier for them to figure out whether this is a book they would enjoy or feel ready to read. Good luck with your writing. 🙂

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