on September 4, 2018
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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