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LIES WE SING TO THE SEA by Sarah Underwood


by Sarah Underwood

Pub Date: March 7th, 2023
ISBN: 978-0-06-323447-5
Publisher: HarperTeen

Every year, 12 girls are sacrificed to sea god Poseidon to save the Ithacan people from starvation.

Leto is an orphan in a poor village, selling her half-formed prophecies, when the fate of execution befalls her. Miraculously spared, she is washed ashore on the island of Pandou unconscious but alive, and there she makes her new home with mysterious Melantho, who is something more than human. Leto, like Melantho, has been changed—able to become a scaled, aquatic creature and graced with watery magic. Leto and Melantho form a daring plan to kill the prince whose orders doom girls like them to death, though Leto also feels affection for and attraction to him. As they slowly succumb to their desire for revenge and love for each other, Prince Mathias attempts to right the wrongs of his ancestors. In this feminist retelling, Underwood takes a lesser-known portion of The Odyssey, mining what it has to say about queerness, legacies of violence, and women’s roles in mythology. Unfortunately, the characterizations are underdeveloped, the timelines confusing, and the pacing off. Relationships and plot elements are developed primarily through exposition rather than unfolding naturally. For example, elements such as what precisely defines the attraction between scrappy Leto and Melantho and who Matthias is as a person beg for deeper examination. The retelling works best when it leans into the more monstrous and surreal aspects of the story’s larger mythology and is willing to examine complications in morality and love.

Inconsistent but intriguing.

(Fantasy. 14-18)