Thank you NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire for this ARC. All thoughts and opinions are mine.
Synopsis: Every year on St. Walpurga's Eve, Caldella's Witch Queen lures a boy back to her palace. An innocent life to be sacrificed on the full moon to keep the island city from sinking.
Lina Kirk is convinced her brother is going to be taken this year. To save him, she enlists the help of Thomas Lin, the boy she secretly loves, and the only person to ever escape from the palace. But they draw the queen's attention, and Thomas is chosen as the sacrifice.
Queen Eva watched her sister die to save the boy she loved. Now as queen, she won't make the same mistake. She's willing to sacrifice anyone if it means saving herself and her city.
When Lina offers herself to the queen in exchange for Thomas's freedom, the two girls await the full moon together. But Lina is not at all what Eva expected, and the queen is nothing like Lina envisioned. Against their will, they find themselves falling for each other. As water floods Caldella's streets and the dark tide demands its sacrifice, they must choose who to save: themselves, each other, or the island city relying on them both. (Amazon)
Publication Date: June 2, 2020
Genre: Fantasy / YA
Rating: 3 stars
***BEWARE POSSIBLE SPOILERS***
Every once in a while I read a novel that has all the promise in the world, and yet I can't connect with it for no other reason than the fact that the chemistry is just not there. I really like the concept of The Dark Tide; it's fascinating, and there were things about the book that I enjoyed. But overall, it did not win me over.
The island town of Caldella is beautiful. Like other readers pointed out, I was reminded of Venice the second we began to weave though the streets while led by one of our leads, Lina. It's a picturesque place full of lively people. The history of the land, with its Witch Queens of past, and the sacrifices that are forced upon the island, was an intriguing idea. And while I like it when stories begin with a bang, I think that there was far too much happening in The Dark Tide from the get-go for me to easily get my bearings. By the time that I finally did, there was a huge lull that lasted until the last few chapters, when things exploded into action once more.
This is listed as the first in more books to come, but as this novel stands on its own, the characters were flat save for the leads, Eva and Lina. Eva was great, she's smart and sharp with a wicked sense of humor and a soft side that she tries to hide from others. That last is a bit stereotypical, because of course she doesn't want others to see that she cares being the big bag Witch Queen that she needs to be, but she pulls it off. Lina, on the other hand, comes cross as naive and impulsive, doesn't really think about the consequences of her actions until she's smack in the middle of a bad one, and she's overall infuriating. I didn't fall for the romance between these two until the very last two chapters, and while not wholly convinced, the ending was rather sweet between them. There's a nice build up there for the next book.
The rest of the cast of characters are one-dimensional, with barely anything happening among them unless they're needed to step in so that they can advance the plot along. The exception to this is the trio of Thomas, Marcin and Finley. These three hold the role of “bad guy” in one way or another throughout the story: Thomas is selfish and reportedly doesn't care about much other than to save his own skin 'til the end, when he seems to grow a conscience; Marcin so obviously wants to be king of the witches of Caldella that I have no idea how it takes Eva so long to notice; and Finley is the big bad brother who has a quick temper and apparently that means that he likely can be prone to make others suffer physical violence. And then to make things worse, Jun—yet another lad—tries to murder Lina. Yes, they do nice things here and there, but they're still cast in this mostly negative light. I don't know why it was just the guys that always hold the bad lot in this novel, or if this was unintentional, but it still grated on me.
There were still noteworthy moments not to be ignored, however. Eva's pet sea serpent is magnificent, as is the mythology of her love for dancing. The water palace itself is magnificent, and I wish that more time would have been spent exploring it other than its incessantly mischievous and spell-bound doors. I wanted to see more of the island town of Caldella itself, as well as the ruins of the old city. I enjoyed the loophole that Eva thought of and the way that she had of saving the year's sacrifice, even if I saw it coming halfway through to the event.
This tale has its charms, if only they'd been exploited to their limits. I have my fingers crossed that we'll see more of what I enjoyed in the next book, as well as what's still to be explored. The potential is there for this world to grow and flourish.
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