Lies We Sing to the Sea by Sarah Underwood
Coming March 7, 2023 from HarperTeen; 432 pages
Content Warnings: violence, death, graphic injury, sexual assault, swearing, suicide
About the Author: “Sarah Underwood grew up by the sea in Devon, England. She graduated from Imperial College London in 2021 with a master’s degree in Computational Bioengineering. She is currently studying for her postgraduate degree in Epidemiology at the University of Cambridge” (Bio from Goodreads).
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As vengeance for the hanging of Queen Penelope’s twelve maids, Poseidon demands the sacrifice of twelve marked maidens from Ithaca each year. When headstrong Leto is met with the noose preordained for her, she finds herself waking up on an island facing a fate other than death. Now, Leto is tasked with the key to breaking Ithaca’s prevailing curse: murdering Prince Mathias of Ithaca. With the help of Melantho─an island girl with the power of the sea─Leto embarks on her mission to save future generations of women; but she becomes entangled in a sea of love, secrets, and lies that put more than one life on the line.
Told from the perspectives of the three main characters, Lies We Sing to the Sea crafts an epic tale woven with poetic prose and romance. The outline of the story is compelling with its mythological background, humanized characters, and tragic ending. However, a lot of the charm ends there. Setting aside the fact that the story is not a true retelling of The Odyssey as advertised by the author, I found myself disappointed with many substance-related components. To begin, much of the plot felt prolonged and unexplained until further along, but by then the pacing felt too unbalanced to be redeemed. Second, I was excited for the sapphic representation, but the underdeveloped love triangle between the three leads made the relationship between Leto and Melantho a little underwhelming. Along those lines, the characters themselves lacked development and complexity, leading to a repetitive and flat-lined tone for certain chapters. Although I relatively enjoyed Leto’s character, I wish her interactions with the other two were more fleshed out rather than washed away by excessive romance.
Lies We Sing to the Sea holds much potential with a strong foundation, especially if it is advertised as a spin-off rather than a retelling. While it may not be on my list of books to read again, I appreciate the gorgeous writing indicative of Sarah Underwood’s talent, and I am hopeful for her future works to come.
(Pine Reads Review would like to thank SparkPoint Studio and NetGalley for sending us an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Any quotes are taken from an advanced copy and may be subject to change before final publication.)
PRR Writer, Editor, and Social Media Manager, Emily Abundis