Hello everybody. Today I have for you a non-spoilery review of Alicia Jasinska’s YA Fantasy book The Dark Tide, followed by an interview with the author.
Every year on St. Walpurga’s Eve, Caldella’s Witch Queen lures a boy back to her palace. An innocent life to be sacrificed on the full moon to keep the island city from sinking. Lina Kirk is convinced her brother is going to be taken this year. To save him, she enlists the help of Thomas Lin, the boy she secretly loves, and the only person to ever escape from the palace. But they draw the queen’s attention, and Thomas is chosen as the sacrifice. Queen Eva watched her sister die to save the boy she loved. Now as queen, she won’t make the same mistake. She’s willing to sacrifice anyone if it means saving herself and her city. When Lina offers herself to the queen in exchange for Thomas’s freedom, the two girls await the full moon together. But Lina is not at all what Eva expected, and the queen is nothing like Lina envisioned. Against their will, they find themselves falling for each other. As water floods Caldella’s streets and the dark tide demands its sacrifice, they must choose who to save: themselves, each other, or the island city relying on them both.
My review of The Dark Tide
I really liked the characters. Lina is a fierce and passionate young woman. When the people she cares about are in danger, she never hesitates to do what’s necessary to help them. Lina is also a dancer, which is something that I really liked. I also loved Eva, the Witch Queen. She is such a cool character. Although at first she seems to be a bit cold and cynical, as we get to know her, she is revealed to have a very caring personality. Eva also has to balance her duties as Witch Queen, while dealing with the grief from her sister’s death. I enjoyed Eva’s character arc a lot and it was great to get to know both Eva and Lina better over the course of the book. I also really enjoyed the slow-burn romance that gradually develops between the two of them.
The island of Caldella is such a wonderful and magical setting. People use small boats to move around the island and the people of Caldella use magic in various aspects of their daily lives, such as to power the lights around the island. Caldella is basically like a magical version of Venice, with lots of cool magical trinkets, not to mention witches. The writing in this book is also very beautiful, which helps to make all these wonderful descriptions even more enchanting.
I loved the queer representation in this book as well. Aside from the queer F/F romance, the book also portrays a society where people can be openly queer. The island of Caldella is a safe haven separated from the mainland, where the citizens are able to live freely without fear of persecution for how they choose to live their lives. As such, queer relationships are considered to be normal in Caldella, which I thought was wonderful.
My final thoughts
I loved this book. The writing is beautiful and the story is full of enchanting settings and wonderful characters. I also enjoyed the romance, which I thought was developed very well over the course of the book. If you enjoy dark fantasy stories with a nice, slow-burn romance and queer characters, you should definitely check out this book!
Interview with Alicia Jasinska
QaS: Every year, a boy is chosen by the Witch Queen to be sacrificed to stop the island of Caldella from sinking. In the beginning of the book, we find out that the previous year’s sacrifice, a boy called Thomas Lin, somehow managed to escape his fate and return to Caldella unharmed. This reminds me a little of the story of Tam Lin, a man who catches the eye of a Fairy Queen and is taken away by her, only to be eventually rescued by his one true love. Similarly, the nature of the yearly sacrifice, whereby a boy is taken to the Witch Queen’s Water Palace before being later sacrificed by drowning, echoes the myth of the Lorelei, a fey of the water who would seduce men before taking them to her underwater palace and drowning them to keep them with her forever. I really enjoyed those fairy tale and folklore influences in The Dark Tide. Can you tell us a bit more about where you drew your inspiration from when creating this story?
AJ: Ah, I love that you picked up on the Tam Lin references! The Dark Tide is in fact a very, very loose retelling of the story. It’s one of my favorite folk tales and I really wanted to write a queer version. Plus I’ve always loved and wanted to know more about the evil Fairy Queen – just why she had to sacrifice Tam Lin and what happened to her when she failed to do so. This was my way of exploring that. I also drew inspiration for the setting from the Polish legend of Wineta – an island city that was swallowed by the sea because its inhabitants were so wicked.
QaS: I also really enjoyed the descriptions of Caldella, the island where the story takes place. It sounds like such a magical place and I thought that it was just lovely that people in Caldella travel around the island in small boats. What was your process for creating such a magical setting for your story?
AJ: The enchanted ‘broom boats’ are one of my favorite parts of the setting! I mentioned in my answer to the previous question that the setting was inspired by the legend of Wineta – which is also called the Polish Venice or Atlantis. I used the real Venice as a kind of base for Caldella and built upon it, adding in little magical touches that I thought were fun, like replacing electricity with magic and having the tide be this cursed and hungry monster.
QaS: Spells and magical trinkets are quite common in Caldella and can be obtained from the witches. If you could win something from a witch, what magical item would you pick?
AJ: Ooh, that’s a hard one! There’s a pearl necklace mentioned that extends your life, but I also really love the charmed silver slippers that Eva gifts Lina, that let her dance and walk on water. I’d probably choose those!
QaS: In the book, we are told that the citizens of Caldella fled from the mainland to escape war and persecution. As such, the island has become a safe haven to them, where they are able to live their lives freely and in peace. Queer relationships for instance are viewed as perfectly normal in Caldella. We are also told that the witches were persecuted for their craft on the mainland whereas on the island, they are able to practice their magic freely. I found this incredibly interesting, because wanting to find a safe space is something that I think a lot of people can really relate to, especially people who are part of the queer community or who belong in minorities. Would you agree that stories too can sometimes act as safe spaces?
AJ: I definitely agree! Stories have always been my safe place and I’m so grateful to all the writers whose magical worlds I escaped into on the days when the real world got to be too much for me. That said, in some of those stories the casts were made up of all straight characters, so with The Dark Tide I really wanted to create a world that was a bit more inclusive, where queer readers like myself might feel more welcome.
QaS: Would you like to write another book set in this world in the future? And if yes, could we potentially find out more about the mainland and its society?
AJ: If I got the chance in the future I’d love to write another book set in the same world! I already miss Caldella and all the characters. And I’d absolutely go into more detail about the mainland. There’s a bunch of stuff I had to cut whilst revising (because it wasn’t essential to the main plot) that I’d love to expand on.
QaS: Our main character Lina is a dancer, and her passion for dance comes to play an interesting role several times in the story. Aside from being a writer, you’re also an aerialist, which I think is amazing! Did you find your experience with this helpful in bringing to life Lina’s passion for dancing?
AJ: I think it was definitely helpful, although I’m not nearly as passionate about dance as Lina. I love putting together aerial routines in the studio and with my sister, but I’m not a big performer. I get really bad stage fright in front of an audience! I was also recovering from an injury when I was drafting The Dark Tide, so I think there’s parts where my feelings and frustrations about that all leaked into the story. I love how writing can be a kind of therapy to help us deal with the things we’re going through.
QaS: Eva, the Witch Queen, owns a giant pet snake, which is honestly so awesome! If you could, what magical creature would you want to own as a pet?
AJ: I think I’d want a giant snake too! I’ve always thought it would be so cool to have a pet snake and if I had a giant one I could feed it the people who annoy me like Eva does haha.
QaS: Finally, do you have any future writing projects that you can tell us about?
AJ: I’m currently busy working on what will *fingers-crossed* be my book 2! It’s another queer dark fantasy set in a new wintery world filled with monsters from Polish folklore. I’m not sure if I’m allowed to say more than that!
About the author
Alicia Jasinska is a fantasy writer hailing from Sydney, Australia. A library technician by day, she spends her nights writing and hanging upside down from the trapeze and aerial hoop. Her debut YA novel THE DARK TIDE is coming from Sourcebooks FIRE (US) August 4, 2020, and Penguin Random House Australia (AUS/NZ) June 2, 2020. She is represented by Rena Rossner at The Deborah Harris Agency.
You can follow Alicia online at the following: