Book Reviews

Book Review: Beneath the Haunting Sea

by Joanna Ruth Meyer

Cover and synopsis from Goodreads

Sixteen-year-old Talia was born to a life of certainty and luxury, destined to become Empress of half the world. But when an ambitious rival seizes power, she and her mother are banished to a nowhere province on the far edge of the Northern Sea.

It is here, in the drafty halls of the Ruen-Dahr, that Talia discovers family secrets, a melancholy boy with a troubling vision of her future, and a relic that holds the power of an ancient Star.

On these shores, the eerie melody of the sea is stronger than ever, revealing long-forgotten tales of the Goddess Rahn. The more dark truths that Talia unravels about the gods’ history–and her own–the more the waves call to her, and it may be her destiny to answer. 


One of my favorite things about reading Meyer’s book is her writing style. Her author voice is so different from most other books out there, and I love reading it. Her prose and descriptions are just beautiful.

But onto the story. 😉

You don’t have to read very far into Beneath the Haunting Sea to realize that Meyer’s worldbuilding is expansive. You know there’s plenty more to the world that doesn’t make into the pages of SEA. If it was a book mirror like in Echo North (another one of Meyer’s books you should read), there would be lots to explore.

The characters were great, and each one was unique.

The plot/pacing felt a touch off at the beginning, but the overall pacing of the book was fine. The climax was a tad rushed. I would have liked for there to be a little bit more time spent in Rahn’s Hall. The story has a slower tone, but it doesn’t drag. Rather, you slowly uncover things (realistically) like Talia.

I enjoyed how SEA has a very legend-esq feeling to it. After all, we are dealing with plenty of lore and gods and Words, so why wouldn’t Talia and Wen’s story feel like a legend itself?

The love triangle did bug me, mainly because of how fast Talia fell in love with Caiden. It felt like she was mad at having to marry Wen one moment, but was fine with the idea of Caiden the next. Something about it just felt off and a little unrealistic.

It personally was interesting to read Meyer’s later books and then go back and read her debut. She’s improved as a writer, naturally, but her debut is great too.

Cautions: one swear word used with original meaning; two instances of swearing; moderate romance; four kisses; brief violence

*A quick note on the gods for those who might be wary about reading a book with mythology as a central piece:

The gods in Beneath the Haunting Sea are pretty similar to the Greek and Roman gods, in that they each have an element that they rule over. In this sense, they’re sort of basically just powerful elementals. There is One who was before the gods, who created everything. So the gods aren’t the ultimate ones in control.

As a Christian, I personally didn’t have a problem with reading the mythology in SEA, because it is fiction mythology. You just read it as such. The gods aren’t meant to be gods. Honestly, if you’re fine with reading books like Percy Jackson, SEA won’t bother you.

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