Sometimes a reading copy can be really exciting, something you can’t wait to read. Some books you know you’ll like before you even really start reading them. Maybe you know the author and like their style, maybe the genre is one that never fails you, maybe you just really like the cover…Wait no that’s wrong no one ever does that excuse me…Anyway, unfortunately that’s not always the case. As booksellers we read other books anyway because it’s quite clearly good for us to know what a book is actually like, even if its not what we would regularly pick up. And the wonderful thing about that is sometimes you get a really pleasant surprise. That’s what happened when I finally committed to reading this years Text prize winner Fire in the Sea by Myke Bartlett. I was unsure: The authors name was Mike with a Y, you can’t have FIRE in the SEA and there was fantasy mixing with reality in a way that I often find annoying rather than entertaining. You’re not going to convince me there’s fairies in suburbia, so stop trying. Basically I put off reading it, thinking “it’s just not my style”. But the Text prize winner blot on the cover kept me coming back to it and I finally decided with 2 weeks of holidays ahead of me that I’d give it shot. Just cause it’s not my style doesn’t mean I can’t like it right?
Right. Sadie is a relatively normal, bored, Perth teen when her life takes a sudden turn for the strange and ancient. Drawn into a war between Gods and banished immortals, one sweltering hot summer night Sadie sees mysterious figures murder an old man and then run into the ocean. Soon she’s facing a young boy who claims to actually be the old man, a Minotaur and people who live in the sea and want to kill her. I think one of the reasons that I really enjoyed Fire in the Sea was because I could relate to Sadie’s reactions and thoughts about what was happening in front of her. I don’t think I’m going to meet the reincarnation of a man I just saw die, but if I did…I think I’d react like Sadie Miller did. And somehow that ‘realism’ made it all ok. I allowed myself to get drawn into the story; there is an evil woman living in the sea who could sink Perth if she felt like it and there are Gods who will destroy the world to stop said evil woman from overthrowing them. The story was just complicated enough that it made sense without being so complicated you forgot who was what and why. It’s fast paced and exciting, violent at times but emotionally rich and interesting at others.
On the real life side of it Sadie has annoying cousins to deal with and an adorable, well meaning best friend Tom who has a crush on her that they’re both choosing to ignore. Myke Bartlett created interesting characters, complex story lines and he had a (confusing) knack for making me feel like it was summer (I was at the snow). Did I mention this is also a debut? I was fully expecting to not like this book as much as I wanted to but I ended up really enjoying myself. The kind of book I’ll recommend to older teens regardless of gender and with little regard for genre, once this is released on the 25th July I’ll be selling it as much as I can. A timely reminder that sometimes when stepping out of your comfort zone you get a rewarding surprise. Paperback, $20.