Review: Across the Risen Sea by Bren MacDibble

Across the Risen Sea
Author: Bren MacDibble
Release Date: 4 August, 2020
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
RRP: $16.99 (PB)

Synopsis: Neoma and Jag and their small community are ‘living gentle lives’ on high ground surrounded by the risen sea. When strangers from the Valley of the Sun arrive unannounced, the two friends find themselves drawn into a web of secrecy and lies that endangers their whole way of life. Soon daring, loyal Neoma must set off on a solo mission across the risen sea, determined to rescue her best friend and find the truth that will save her village.

Review: Across the Risen Sea is a thrilling adventure story which treads familiar thematic territory for fans of Bren MacDibble’s other books, How to Bee and The Dog Runner. When members of the mysterious Valley of the Sun arrive at an isolated island community, a device is erected, an accident occurs, and a misunderstanding sees Neoma, the brave young narrator, set off to navigate the risen sea in search of her best friend, Jag (short for Jaguar, of course). What ensues is an adventure story filled with a colourful cast of characters, including pirates, sharks and crocodiles (making this not the book for someone with Thalassophobia!)

MacDibble writes gorgeous sensory passages of the natural environment with transportable scenes of life on land and sea. There is a palpable tension that follows Neoma through her high-stakes voyage to rescue Jag, and an immense satisfaction when she’s capable of problem-solving conflict thrown her way – from would-be attackers to rogue creatures to surviving an inhospitable environment. Neoma is precocious, daring, loyal, and at times, brash – a true Gryffindor, if ever I saw one – but she is a character kids will certainly root for as she tackles her problems head-on.

The book lightly broaches questions of what the future might look like in an era of climate change and rising tides – imagining possible futures for alternative communities while considering the politics of power between different groups of people.

The chapters are short which makes this tale extremely readable (many just-one-more-chapter promises were broken while reading it.) There are a plenty of discussion points around themes of family, friendship, loyalty, climate change and sustainability with mild violent content (electrocution, blood, accidental death). Ready your sea legs. This is MG with a lot of heart. Highly recommended for curious thinkers and adventure-lovers.

Recommended Age: 11+.

Favourite Quote: ‘This is it, the the monsters people talk about, giant squids with tentacles longer than three boats, giant octopuses with reaching sucker-arms, stingrays with wing tips that can fold up either side of your boat, wrapping you up! And stranger things. Unknown things.’

Themes: Family, friendship, community, loyalty, adventure, sailing, braving the unknown, climate change, rising ocean, alternative living, living gentle lives, sustainability, post-disaster, dystopia.

Rating: ★★★★

If you liked this, you’ll like: The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble, Wolf Girl by Anh Do. Older readers (13+): We of the Between by Martii Maclean, The Road to Winter by Mark Smith.

You can purchase the book from our website here.

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