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When the Sea Is Rising Red (review)
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Reviewed by
Hellisen, Cat. When the Sea Is Rising Red. Farrar, 2012. [304p]. ISBN 978-0-374-36475-5 $16.99 Reviewed from galleys R* Gr. 9-12.

As the daughter of Pelimburg's founding House, Felicita is expected to obediently marry the man her older brother chooses, produce babies, and, above all, uphold the appearance of propriety. After her best friend leaps off a cliff, taking Felicita's happiness with her, Felicita flees the magic-hoarding aristocracy for a place among the impoverished Hobs and magicless low Lammers. The stench and hard work initially have her rethinking her choice, but Felicita eventually falls in with the enigmatic Dash and his crew, eking out a living (and embarking on a a relationship with Dash) until she realizes that Dash's schemes are part of a larger design to bring about the fall of Pelimburg's ruling families, including her own. Vivid descriptions of a sea-swept world, rank with wet and salt, abound, while the intricacies of Pelimburg's complex social hierarchy and its contradictions are gradually and effectively conveyed through both dialogue and character reactions. As the sheltered daughter of the world's highest house, Felicita plays the cool and aloof narrator with an almost offputting ease. Her ignorance makes her sympathetic, though; [End Page 354] despite her insistence that she is well versed in the politics of Pelimburg's elite, the reader quickly realizes there is more going on than just the parlor games of the rich, and Felicita's role as a pawn in someone else's revolt provides for a compelling storyline. There's sexuality evident all along the continuum and across orientations, and the various drug-fueled trysts between multiple characters lead to more lust, heartbreak, and ultimately betrayal. Dark, foreboding, and not entirely redemptive, this is an intense look at the seeds of rebellion and the individual consequences they sometimes reap.