And the Ocean Was Our Sky Review: Beautiful, Poetic But Slightly Confusing

December 11, 2018 by Jenna | 4 stars, Books, Reviews

And the Ocean Was Our Sky Review: Beautiful, Poetic But Slightly ConfusingAnd the Ocean Was Our Sky by Patrick Ness, Rovina Cai
on September 4, 2018
Source: Publisher
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Amazon | Book Depository | Publisher | Angus & Robertson | Booktopia | Barnes & Noble
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With harpoons strapped to their backs, the proud whales of Bathsheba's pod live for the hunt, fighting in the ongoing war against the world of men. When they attack a ship bobbing on the surface of the Abyss, they expect to find easy prey. Instead, they find the trail of a myth, a monster, perhaps the devil himself...

As their relentless Captain leads the chase, they embark on a final, vengeful hunt, one that will forever change the worlds of both whales and men.

I absolutely love Patrick Ness’s books and his storytelling, and I was excited by And the Ocean Was Our Sky because of how similar its (physical) vibe was to A Monster Calls. And the Ocean Was Our Sky is a retelling of Moby Dick, which I confess I have never read… but there isn’t much prerequisite knowledge you need in order to enjoy Ness’s newest release.

And the Ocean Was Our Sky is told from the perspective of a whale, who calls herself Bathsheba in this book. She is the Third Apprentice in a pod of whales that hunts men. Bathsheba’s hunger for the hunt is driven by her want of revenge on mankind who hunted her mother to death and for the ruthlessness that they display in the process. The story begins with their pod’s discovery of a ship full of dead men, which leads them on the ultimate chase and hunt for the legendary devil, Toby Wick, who is feared by men and whales alike. At the core of this story is a message about the danger of believing in and spreading rumours, and how the acts of doing so can create devils that do not exist but are perpetuated throughout society. Having said that, this message only really came through to me in the last few pages of the book when it was hammered home, and didn’t come across to me as intentional public commentary on Ness’s part.

For me, this book was the perfect length. It was a little bit difficult to get into at the very start because of its odd choice of narrator and the slightly slow pacing. There was a bit of suspension of disbelief needed because there are whales carrying harpoons and building ships, and humans surviving underwater for an extended period of time due to ‘breather bubbles’ and ‘heat crabs’. I was a bit confused for the first 25 pages or so until I got used to the narration and the world/setting. I can easily see why some people might have DNFed the book towards the start, but because of its relatively short length, the plot and message was executed more successfully than it would have if it had been a longer novel. In my opinion, the climax of the book came at the right time and the second half of the story was well-paced, making it an ultimately satisfying and impactful read. The addition of the illustrations worked extremely well and added to the experience of reading the book. Not only were the illustrations beautiful to look at but they also made me empathise with everything that was going on in the story. I’m not sure that the book would have been as successful for me without the inclusion of Rovina Cai’s illustrations.

I thought that the narration worked quite well and I actually learnt a lot of things about whales while reading And the Ocean Was Our Sky. It felt like a well-researched book… though I’m hardly an expert on whales or on Moby Dick. For all I know, any number of things could’ve been made up, but I really did enjoy the titular aspect of the book, where the ocean is the sky from the whale’s perspective, and what humans perceive as the sky is their abyss. It was something that was carried throughout the book and added to its fantastical vibe. I’m sure that there was some hidden message there and it will take me a couple more rereads before I can have a better understanding of what Patrick Ness is trying to convey.

I enjoyed And the Ocean Was Our Sky for its plot, unique narration and setting, and the hidden messages that I needed to decode throughout the book. It’s beautifully written, much like everything else that Patrick Ness writes, and the beautifully haunting illustrations by Rovina Cai enhanced the reading experience and made it a book that I will happily reread again and again.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Thanks to Walker Books Australia for providing a review copy of the book!

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Jenna is an Aussie blogger and reader who loves to indulge in great books and great food. She is a doctor (of philosophy) and can usually be found fangirling about something, devouring delicious food, or taking a nap. You can find her on Twitter @readwithjenna and on Instagram @readingwithjenna.

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4 responses to “And the Ocean Was Our Sky Review: Beautiful, Poetic But Slightly Confusing

  1. I’ve loved Patrick Ness over the years, even his less than popular releases but he lost me with this one I just don’t think I have the imaginative capabilities. I only made it through as far as I did because of those stunning illustrations! My goodness, how beautiful they were. I wanted to love it so much but felt as though there was a deeper meaning I just wasn’t understanding which added to my frustration as well. It’s like chasing something just out of reach. I’m glad you enjoyed this one though Jenna, would be interested to see how you felt about it the second time around and if you can pick up on those underlying hidden messages if any.
    Kelly recently posted…NeverlandMy Profile

    • Yeah I totally agree that Patrick Ness has been a little bit hit or miss in recent years. I didn’t even end up picking up Release because I had seen such mixed reviews for it. I didn’t really have any high expectations for And the Ocean Was Our Sky so I think I ended up enjoying it more than I thought I would, but it was definitely a struggle to try and figure out the underlying message. I might read it again in the future but it seems like a bit of a chore to do it right now haha.
      Jenna recently posted…2018 Blogging & Reading StatsMy Profile

  2. I have always wanted to try a Patrick Ness book! Everyone is always gushing over them … and I think that they look fascinating … I just haven’t. Oops. But anyways! Glad to see that you liked this! I’ve heard a lot of mixed reviews, which was a bummer because I really wanted to read it. I keep finding some more positive reviews, so maybe… Lol. Sorry for the semi-rant. Thanks for the review!! 😀
    Alyssa recently posted…Blank Mastermind (amnesiac review)My Profile

    • Ahh I’d definitely recommend starting with The Knife of Never Letting Go (especially because of the upcoming movie adaptation). It’s got a more traditional plot and is less abstract compared to some of his other books. Though if you want something shorter and easier to commit to, I’d recommend A Monster Calls!
      Jenna recently posted…2018 Blogging & Reading StatsMy Profile

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