Sea Witch by Sarah Henning: Pensive, melancholy, ominous // Book Review

“The sea is a fickle witch. She is just as likely to bestow a kiss as to steal the breath from your lips.”


Evie, Anna, and Prince Nik are childhood friends, but Anna tragically drowns in an accident, and Evie is still haunted by her death years later. However, when Anna suddenly returns from the dead, Evie is determined to protect her friend’s life and happiness at whatever cost.

***Genre: Retelling, Fantasy, Magical realism, Historical fiction

***Thank you to Edelweiss for sending an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions stated here are solely my own and have not been influenced in any way.


My thoughts:

Alas, I am once again at a standstill with another conflicted review.  I must disclaim that while I personally did not regret my decision to read this book, it is still one that makes me hesitant to recommend as a fully satisfying retelling.

But first off, the positives. The overarching premise of the book is quite compelling on the whole. The author’s tone, pacing, and flow merges nicely to create a cohesive outlet for the story to forge ahead, and the atmospheric story-telling presents an ominous sense of dread and impending doom that immersed me in the narrative right away.

Furthermore, characters are surprisingly self-aware and level-headed. Too often it is with romantic conflicts in YA that I tend to emerge irritable and peeved, yet the initial setup of platonic relationships, natural banter, and likable protagonists prevented any unnecessary drama from occurring, and I was relatively absorbed in their plights.

On top of this, though I was aware going in that this was a Little Mermaid retelling from the perspective of the sea witch, it was still dismaying to see the outcome of this story regardless. The author spins a tragic and poignant tale to reel in the feels, and it left me feeling somber, melancholy, and contemplative for hours after finishing it.

In other words, this book delivered a tonally satisfying narrative.

Unfortunately, there are a few missteps here that prevent this book from being a fully satisfying retelling, one of which is plot/suspense. Characters are in constant state of flashback and rumination, and while I personally did not object to this, characters tended to slip back into the same circle of musings that rendered their concerns repetitive and meandering, and I felt the author was flogging a dead horse by the end.

Furthermore, there is a lack of progression at crucial moments in the story. As much effort the author puts into reflecting the arguably obsessive inner turmoil of these characters (particularly Evie), she fails to deliver a diverse range of emotions, whether it be shock, betrayal, or sadness: emotions are touched only in passing, and that made character developments appear more rash and reactionary than they actually were.

Lastly, although I greatly enjoyed the atmospheric nature of this book, it felt rather unbalanced due to its lack of substantial dialogue or action to ground the reader in the present. The action was disproportionate to the lengthy introspection of these characters, so it was difficult to find myself grounded in the present as the author constantly either dredged up the past or foreshadowed the imminent future.

Bottom line, this book ultimately feels like a solid first draft or a complex middle-grade novel. It is focused, reflective, and atmospheric, yet because the author strikes only minimal plot developments and emotions to get her story across, I came out of this book feeling satisfied, but not satisfied if that makes any sense.

“It did not do make waves.”

Recommended? If you have time to kill.

To be clear, is this a book that the masses will enjoy? Arguably yes, arguably no. This book appealed to me as I enjoy nihilistic morals and self-aware characters, but it did objectively feel repetitive as the same suspense was re-tread one time too many.

In that, this book might be worth a read if you enjoy quick and wistful retellings (it is ominous, feels-inducing, and a nicely conclusive standalone), but perhaps not if you have too many books on your TBR. Recommended for fans of Heartless by Marissa Meyer.

Final thoughts: Simplistic, but atmospheric

As much as I felt this book lacked meat, I think it would’ve made for a 5-star read had it been twice its length. It offered a nice sense of atmosphere and complexity that immersed you in these characters, yet the context (plot, action, dialogue) was bypassed so lightly that it read more like a simplistic fable than a full retelling.

But because this book enveloped me in a nice sense of melancholy, I give it 3 stars. There’s an atmospheric consistency that despite the lack of meat, the characters are likable and the sense of finality will leave you satisfied: this book has its flaws, but it is surprisingly quiet and pensive for YA, and I can respect that.

My rating: 3 stars



  1. Amazing review! I love finding those books where the characters are actually level-headed, especially in YA books! It’s pretty rare! Even though it might not have been your favorite, I’m still glad that you had a satisfactory reading experience! It sucks when you finish a book and it leaves you feeling annoyed! 😝

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Ashley! ❤ Same, I can forgive almost any book where the protagonist is level-headed and smart, but they're so rare in YA for some reason… 😭 Luckily, I didn't come out too annoyed with this one (surprisingly, haha), so that was a relief. 😁

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve been looking forward to your review! It is, as usual, so eloquently written and succinct. I agree with everything you’ve said – if it was longer and more developed, it could’ve been very good.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aww, thank you so much! I’m so glad you agree with me about it being longer; if it took more time developing certain parts, I think it really would’ve become a terrific read. 🙂 Thanks for dropping by! ❤


  3. I had a similar opinion as you. Evie and Nik were likable characters in their own right, and I enjoyed their chemistry, but some of the decisions that they made felt very naive and out-of-the-blue. I agree if the book was longer, maybe we could have gotten a more steady progression out of their arcs. Fabulous review! I like how concisely you broke down your thoughts. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ooh, you nailed my thoughts! The way that Evie kind of turned a blind eye to certain things made her seem very naive, although to be fair, one might argue that she was weak only when it came to Anna. Hmm, it’s a bit conflicting. :/ I’m glad you enjoyed this review! Thank you! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hmm, I just received this audiobook for review, so now I’m a bit worried, haha! Well, I guess insubstantial is something I can handle, as long as I know to expect and to not hope for too much out of this book. It sounds enjoyable enough for what it is, and a shorter and lighter YA is no bad thing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha nope, definitely not a bad thing! I think it’s a book you won’t miss too much if you don’t read it, but it’s also not a waste of time if you do…I think. Hopefully you do end up enjoying it! 😊


  5. I really enjoy your thoughtful reviews! ❤️ Such a fair and lovely review about Sea Witch, thanks. I haven’t read this book and not sure if it’s my thing to be honest. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha yeah, you’re not missing too much if you don’t read it. I’d recommend it as a quick and easy read, but I wouldn’t say it’s a priority or a life-changer. 😉 Thanks Vera, and I hope your health is coming along better! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I find it strange that in 2018 there seems to be a flood of nautical/Little Mermaid themed books. I might give this one a try as it excites me the most

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, I find that strange too. I haven’t read or heard of many mermaid books before, but this year seems to have a lot of standouts. Hope you enjoy this one though! Cheers! 😀


  7. Lovely review! Your reviews are honestly so well-written and insightful that I tend to read them twice, to fully appreciate how nicely composed they are. I’ve been seeing a few mixed reviews for Sea Witch, so I’m on the fence about reading it. Perhaps I’ll give it a try some day in the future!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aww, thanks Kelly! I try. Really hard. 😂

      And yes! If you go on Goodreads and look at the ratings, there are TONS of people who’ve rated this book 3.5 stars (same as me), so I feel like most people are similarly conflicted. Sea Witch is a nice enough read though, so maybe give it a go when you want a quick and easy one? 😉 Thanks for reading! Cheers! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Interesting review. The plot issues must have sucked. I hate wasted potential in a story and it’d have been better to make it longer it seems. I’ll look into this book. The cover is 🙌🏻. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. “Too often it is with romantic conflicts in YA that I tend to emerge irritable and peeved, yet the initial setup of platonic relationships, natural banter, and likable protagonists prevented any unnecessary drama from occurring, and I was nicely absorbed in their plights.”

    I want to print this line and just hang it all over the entire world because I’m 100% in love and this is my favorite element in books and kdsjflksjdflksjlfkjslkdfjslfdlksjf

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Wonderful review!! I completely agree with what you’ve said. While I definitely enjoyed the atmosphere of the novel I have to admit I wasn’t all that keen on the slow pace it took. There were moments where I wished something would happen.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aww, thank you Angela! And I agree, it’s rather strange because I read this book within three hours (relatively quickly) but it felt so much longer than that! I felt like I was constantly wading through tons of slow exposition, and I can’t remember much about it except how atmospheric it was. Nice experience, but not totally there haha. 😛

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Three hours?!?! That’s impressive! It took me like two days to read this just because of how slow it was. I kept putting it down. And you’re so right about the atmosphere of the novel. It’s definitely what I’ll remember about this book.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Haha, it might have been four hours? I started in the afternoon and finished it when it was still light. I read really fast because I can’t put a book down once I start it, or else I’d be dying of curiosity. 😉

          Liked by 1 person

  11. I’ve been seeing this around quite a lot! Glad to hear about the tone + pace, and I’m glad the characters are level-headed! That’s kind of really rare in YA haha

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I’m so glad I saw someone I trust read this book first. That sounded terrible, but you get what I mean 🙂 I was so doubtful, and didn’t want to lose time with an average book, as my last YA experiences were not so good. So, thanks a lot for this holistic review, really helped me to make a decision. Mermaids, sea tales are not my faves anyway, so probably will just let this one go. Thanks again!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aww thank you for the lovely words! ❤ Yes, I would say give it a pass this time around if you're not hung up on mermaids and if you have other things you want to read; it's a bit average, so I wouldn't say it's a high priority. 😛

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I had seen a lot of not so stellar reviews for this, but I’m glad that it brought an interesting feel to it and brought some greatness. Sadness that it didn’t have more meat. It’s a bit on the backburner now, but I’m still quite intrigued to read. Wonderful review! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! 😀 Yeah, it’s not a “must-read” in my books, but if you do happen to read it, I don’t it’s going to be a waste of time. You can totally go either way, so maybe just pick it up when you feel like going for a wildcard pick? 😉

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s