I received this book from the publisher, HarperTeen, and Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
🌟 🌟 🌟
This book is every bit as profound, hauntingly beautiful and lyrical as I have come to expect Ness’ work to be. Though this kind of storytelling doesn’t particularly resonate with me personally, having read another illustrated tale by Ness (A Monster Calls) I can see his unique mark in the writing and I have to acknowledge that he is clearly a man that knows his craft. The characters are well fleshed out for a mere 100 pages of book, which is a feat, and the description of this secret world beneath the ocean was compelling in of itself because I found myself wanting to know and see more.
I feel this book makes far more sense, far more quickly, if you know you are reading from the perspective of a whale before you start. This may be my own fault for not reading the description, or seeing the cover and not immediately thinking ‘yup, whale narrative’. Either way, I picked it up fairly quickly.
On the face of it, this is a very pretty book indeed, brilliant in its simplicity, however, a large part of this book centres around a war between whale and humans started when men began hunting their kind in the form of the now-mythological figure of Toby Wick. This war and the way it has affected each character and construct as a result adds a dark twist that gets darker still the harder you look at it.
Like with most pretty things, the viciousness is cleverly disguised and I found myself taking a mental step back as I read some pretty vivid and horrifying descriptions of violence and behaviour I simply hadn’t expected when I began the story. These descriptions are then made worse by the fact that they feel so real because somewhere in the world they are real. I am of course an objector to animal cruelty, poaching and by extension, whaling but never has the issue has never felt so close and real to me.
This book asks difficult questions about war, religion, morality, right, wrong, love, racism, power, obsession and honour and I feel that had I read it in a different time in my life it would have been more percipient to me personally but it was very thought-provoking despite this.
The illustrations will be something to behold in print. My digital copy didn’t carry most of them forward completely but the glimpses I saw were fantastic.