Title: Whisper of the Tide
Author: Sarah Tolcser
Series: Sequel to Song of the Current
Genre: YA, high fantasy
Pub. Date: June 5th, 2018
Synopsis: Caro Oresteia spent her life waiting to be called by the river god, as those in her family had been for generations. But when she’s swept away on an adventure to save the Akhaian royal prince, Markos, her destiny is sealed by the sea god instead.
For now, Caro is landlocked, helping Markos reclaim his throne after nearly his entire family was assassinated in a political coup. Without any financial or military support, Markos is desperate for allies, and Caro has fought off more than one attempt on his life. When a powerful Archon offers his army in exchange for Markos’s marriage to his daughter, Caro must choose: Her love for Markos, or the fate of Akhaia? And more importantly: How much is she willing to risk to defy the sea god’s wishes and chart her own course?
With shipwrecks, lost treasure, old and new enemies, dark magic, and breathtaking romance, Sarah Tolcser weaves another epic story about chasing your fate.
This review contains very mild spoilers for the first book.
If you follow me on Twitter or bookstagram, or remember my glowing review from last year, you’ll know that I’m only slightly obsessed with Song of the Current. It was one of my top three favorite reads of 2017 and Caro’s swashbuckling adventure on the Riverlands immediately captured my heart. The pressure was on when I picked up the sequel to Tolcser’s debut, but it had no problem meeting all of my expectations!
Overall, Whisper of the Tide was pretty much the perfect continuation (and conclusion *sobs*) that I could have hoped for. Although I still prefer the bayou/swamp setting of the first book, there’s hardly anything I would change about Whisper. It kept a very firm handle on all its seafaring influences, and spanned an entire ocean that we only saw a glimpse of in Song. I would say if you’re someone that likes a more traditional YA sea-based adventure (in the style of Siege & Storm, for example), you’re bound to love Whisper even more than the first book.
And while I found Song to be heavily focused on plot and world-building, Whisper shifts the focus onto Caro’s development and the way she deals with the aftermath of the first book. Her personal journey to align each of her conflicting identities—who she was as a child on the Riverlands, who she is with Markos, and who she is as a captain—leads her on a wild and treacherous trek in the company of an entirely unwholesome companion.
“It was funny. I’d spent so much of my childhood trying to make sense of my two different families, worrying about where I fit. But Oresteia or Bollard, river or sea—none of that mattered anymore. Not here on this island.”
Whisper of the Tide is, at its heart, a pirate story. There’s a mysterious hunt for dazzling treasure that may or may not be real, shipwrecks on abandoned isles, and all the backstabbing and betrayal a YA fantasy lover could hope for. Though I can’t say who because of ~spoilers~, a minor character from the first book becomes a major player in this story and it was by far my favorite aspect. Their emotional development coincides closely with Caro’s, transforming Whisper into a story of redemption and reckoning, of facing past burdens and moving on as a better version of yourself.
Although character development is easily the strongest part of this book, that’s not to say that there aren’t a boatload (pun definitely intended) of unpredictable twists and turns. I kept thinking that I had everything figured out, until the story unfolded and I was totally wrong.
And, now to harp on my boy, MARKOS. MY TRUE LOVE ehem I mean, Caro’s true love. I was astounded and partially obsessed with the romantic subplot in Song of the Current, but the direction Tolcser decided to take the romance in the second book was easily just as exciting and 100 times more heart-renching. I teared up at least five times, which is not something I do easily. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I thought the romance was such a realistic representation of teenage love, and the lengths people are willing to go for each other. We also get to see a slightly different side of Markos than we get in Song, which I loved!
“He kissed me, pushing his hands into my hair. Stinging sweetness and deep regret. Desperation. How could you get all that from one kiss?”
Also, as a side note, this book is freaking hilarious. The sarcastic comments and banter had me smiling and laughing out loud through the whole thing!
One of my only real complaints is that we didn’t get to see more of Caro’s parents in this book like we did in Song. For me, having unmarried, biracial parents who are present in a YA fantasy book really helped set this series apart.
The ending wrapped up so tightly and drew together each plot thread perfectly, but there was one aspect of it that I didn’t personally love. I have respect for and understand the decision the author made, as it’s explained very thoroughly and is actually pretty unique, but something about it made the ending less exciting than it could have been. Mostly, I’m just devastated that there won’t be a third book. There was certainly more than enough left to explore in the world-building for another installment, so I’m holding out the tiniest unrealistic hope that this will not be the last we see of Caro!
Would I Recommend This Book?
ABSOLUTELY. GO READ THIS SERIES IMMEDIATELY IF YOU HAVEN’T. Go now. I’ll wait here.
Thanks to Bloomsbury USA for providing me with an advanced copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.