Review: When the Sea is Rising Red by Cat Hellisen

Bought from B&N
Published February 28, 2012
Amazon - Goodreads

After seventeen-year-old Felicita’s dearest friend, Ilven, kills herself to escape an arranged marriage, Felicita chooses freedom over privilege. She fakes her own death and leaves her sheltered life as one of Pelimburg’s magical elite behind. Living in the slums, scrubbing dishes for a living, she falls for charismatic Dash while also becoming fascinated with vampire Jannik.
Then something shocking washes up on the beach: Ilven's death has called out of the sea a dangerous, wild magic. Felicita must decide whether her loyalties lie with the family she abandoned . . . or with those who would twist this dark power to destroy Pelimburg's caste system, and the whole city along with it.

I hadn't heard too much buzz surrounding The Sea is Rising Red but the reviews that I did read were fairly mixed. However all around people were saying that they loved Hellisen's writing and how unique the story was so I decided to give it a try. Overall, this book left me with some mixed feelings, but I ended up enjoying it quite a bit!

I really didn't like the main character, Felicita, in the start of this book. She was kind of a snob who thought too highly of herself. It was interesting to watch her thoughts of her family change as she was exposed to the working class's struggle to live. As the story continued on I began to understand Felicita's decisions more and more. It was awesome that Felicita (and her family) had magical powers, but it only worked if they had scrive, which was a limited and expensive good that her older brother gave them in small portions. The families that were magical had all the power and say in Pelimburg, it was a completely different take on witches and it was oh so awesome!

Dash and Jannick were the love interests in this book and I really didn't like Dash, at all! He was the leader of the group that Felicita ended up living with after she faked her own death. He was handsome and well fairly dashing, but he was such a jerk! I think that was what Hellisen wanted and she did an awesome job of making a swoon-worthy yet kind of easy to dislike character. Jannick is a vampire (or what they refer to as a bat) and is from one of the higher standing Vampire Houses in Pelimburg. I felt like he always had the best interest for Felicita in mind and was a complete gentleman. I just really wish he was in the book more!

Cat Hellisen re-vamps vampires in When the Sea is Rising Red. They are openly known about in society, but are looked down on because of the whole blood drinking thing. The law says vampires, or bats, aren't allowed to feed off of another without their consent, so there's some fishy activity surrounding vampires and their 'meals' getting paid off. As the story unfolds more is revealed about vampires and their attachment to humans, it's seriously so cool!

My favorite part of this book was definitely the spookiness and the setting: dark, mysterious with a touch of paranormal. I loved how I was able to easily picture Pelimburg and the slums that Felicita lived in. It was so authentic, but it still felt like a real place that one would find in the real world. There was also a slight scary element to the book, but just the right amount and not too scary. The dead, translucent bodies that were showing up on shore were both a mystery and kind of frightening with Hellisen's awesome descriptions.

The ending was absolutely insane! Everything was just totally flipped over and so many things were finally brought out into the open. I didn't see pretty much any of it coming, I was shocked and also pretty confused. So much happened in such a short amount of time and I wasn't really happy with what happened to all of the characters. I really loved this book up until the ending part, it just left me a little disappointed and a lot of confused.

Awesome Quote:
"Is that love? Is that what love can do? Save you from all the horror the world has to give?"

Characters: 4/5
Creativity: 5/5
Voice: 4/5
Plot: 4/5
Impact: 3/5
Overall: 4/5

Cat Hellisen's writing is absolutely incredible in When the Sea is Rising Red. I loved her unique take on vampires and how I felt like I walked the streets of the Hob thanks to her amazing descriptions. It was so awesome to read about a world where magic and vampires are openly talked about and not the main focus of the book all of the time. I would have given this book 5 stars/ hearts, but the ending threw me off quite a bit, it was memorable though! Even though I didn't completely love the ending, I definitely recommend this book for readers who like mystery, awesome settings and a refreshing take on the paranormal.


  1. I didn't even know this was a vampire book.. It sounds great and I'm glad you enjoyed it Katie !!

  2. It's weird because before the book was released, there had been some buzz for When The Sea Is Rising Red... and then afterwards, I didn't her much about it all. I can see why there would be so many mixed reviews though. I had no idea that it was about vampires before either! Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us!

  3. Interesting review, Im still not convinced I'll enjoy this one a lot but I'll keep an eye on it for now!

  4. I love me a good spooky setting! For some reason I have ignored this book, I may have to check it out to read this ending.