Okay. Preface. I read this story when it was a different story. Back in the days of LiveJournal Cat let me beta read this story. It had a different title, different characters, but was lovely and engrossing. I've wanted to read her published works since she first let on that she was in print. I was so very excited for her - Cat is an amazing person.
So fast forward to a week or two ago. She has a new book out (Beastkeeper - go read it, too!). I smack my forehead: how have I still not bought her books and read them?! Okay, well, because I don't buy hardcover books or ebooks of things that I know I'm going to love. This means I can't buy her new book yet. Sadness. But! Her previous two books! I have no excuse now! B bought them for me the very day that this crisis happened in my head (yes, I have issues).
I dove into When the Sea is Rising Red with gusto. I was familiar with the world, of course. But.. it was.. like reading a dream you know you've had before. It's amazing and compelling. And different. It's not the story I remember. Like that dream - it's familiar, like a skin I shed but knew so well. When I try to remember a dream in a linear way, it slips around and refuses to be caught. Reading this book was like that. It was so exciting - just because I knew but didn't. Does that make sense?
I will say this right now - read this book. It has earned a solid position among my top favorite books. Ever. Of all time. Forever. Felicita, Dash, Jannick, Whelk Street, Ilven. The world is so solid, so well depicted. I could smell the sea air, feel the grime of the streets, taste the terror of hiding from the sharif (spelled this way in the book - not a typo), small the scriv, feel the sticky 'ink residue. I read this book in a day and a half. I tried to hold out. To savor it. But I couldn't.. I *had* to read it Right Now Or The World Will End. It was that good.
Time for some honesty. I was scared to crack open the second book: The House of Sand and Secrets. It wasn't in my half-remembered dream. The blurb about it.. doesn't sound so compelling (do blurbs ever?). What if I don't like it? How do I reconcile that with knowing that I've loved everything I've ever read by Cat? (There's a book she wrote that I beta'd. I can't remember the name of it. But Caleb. And fairy tales. And black feathers? Rain. And smoke and a squat/house. A cowboy hat? A trail in the woods? I miss that story, even though I can't hold on to the slippery dream selkie that it has become.)
So I put it off all day. I knit a sock for the littles (they fought over it - silly boys). While putting the littles to bed that night, I started House of Sand and Secrets. And you know what? It completely sucked me in. I'm in love all over again (I've already been close to tears and squealed in delight). I've less than half the book left and I'm torn (as always): devour it hungrily? Or savor it? It's so good and I Need To Know What Happens Next! So I'm doing both. I'm letting the story stew in my mind while I write this not-review and knit a second sock. And in stolen snatches I will devour pages like they are part of a hidden, secret dark chocolate stash.
tl;dr: Cat Hellisen is an amazing author. Go read her books. If you don't, you're missing out on some of the best books you'll ever read. Ever. Seriously. Go. Now. Read. Thank me later.