Title: The Dark Tide by Alicia Jasinska
Publisher: Penguin Random House Australia
Publication date: 2 June 2020
Genre: Young Adult | Fantasy | Witches
Page extent: 304 pages
Goodreads blurb: 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.
Convinced her handsome brother is going to be taken this year, Lina Kirk enlists the help of the mysterious Thomas Lin, her secret crush, and the only boy to ever escape from the palace after winning the love of a queen. Working together they protect her brother but draw the queen’s attention.
Queen Eva cast away her heart when her sister died to save the boy she loved. Now as queen, she won’t make the same mistake. With the tide rising higher than ever before and the islander’s whispering that Eva’s magic is failing, she’s willing to sacrifice anyone if it means saving herself and her city.
When Thomas is chosen as sacrifice, Lina takes his place and the two girls are forced to spend time together as they wait for the full moon. But Lina is not at all what Eva expected, and the queen is nothing like Lina envisioned. Against their will, the two girls 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.
The Dark Tide was a fun, sapphic, enemies to lovers romp of a book. I absolutely flew through it, and whilst I think every single man in this book was complete trash, the two main women were so great and their romance was lovely.
The Dark Tide is set on a small island town, Caldella, ruled by witches. Each year, the Witch Queen must sacrifice a man she loves to the Dark Tide, in order to prevent the ocean from flooding the entire island. This year, Lina thinks her brother, Finlay, will be chosen and she will do anything to stop that. She enlists the help of Thomas, the only person who has ever survived the Dark Tide, because he made the previous queen fall in love with him and she sacrificed herself instead. But when Lina and Thomas attempt to save Finlay, Thomas is chosen instead. Filled with quilt and the naivety of first love, Lina bargains herself to save Thomas and she becomes this year’s sacrifice.
The Dark Tide was such a fun read. The pacing was great and I really flew through the book because I couldn’t stop reading. There’s lots of fast paced action which really keeps the plot moving quickly. I thought the exploration of sacrifice, and the darkness brought to the story from the emphasis on love (because a sacrifice isn’t a sacrifice unless a person is losing something – or in this case, someone) was terrific. It was exactly the kind of dark fantasy I love to read, there’s a constant pull between Eva’s feelings for Lina and her duty to drown Lina to save all her family and the citizens of the island under her protection. Sheer perfection thank you very much.
One of the best things about The Dark Tide were the two main characters: Lina, this year’s sacrifice and Eva, the Witch Queen. We get POV sections from both of them and whilst I loved Eva the most (hello fellow introvert who gets exhausted around people), Lina’s POV is just as good. Lina does feel very naive at times and very young, she is so obsessed with being a hero and having an epic love story that could rival the ones told in books and tales and she lives in this completely fairytale world. I really loved that slice of desire and danger she had, it took what could have been a fairly standard, bland, naive girl into someone who was much more interesting. The way she was almost happy and gleeful at times was so great and gave a touch of darkness to her POV, as she almost seemed to enjoy throwing her life away as a sacrifice because it meant she was living in one of her fairytales.
But Eva, our Witch Queen who detests people, how I love you. I love how cold and distant she is (she cut out her heart!). This contrasted with the way she is slowly fascinated and irritated by Lina in turn, it’s so fun to watch Lina get a rise out of this seemingly heartless witch. And their romance! Wow. It was so fierce and I can’t even really put into words how much I loved their relationship. The only downside was that because it is a little more of a slowburn, I didn’t get enough of the two of them together!
From my favourite characters to my least favourites: litrally every single man. God they were all complete trash and unfortunately, I did think this hindered the success of this book. For so much of this book, Lina is head over heels for Thomas….but there’s literally not a single reason why?! He’s so so bland and his only trait is he’s willing to give up women so he can live. Seems like a catch, right?
Finlay, Lina’s brother, is unfortunately just as one note. But even worse in my mind, his one note is aggression: he’s an aggressive angry person who Lina is actually scared of because he rages at the slightest thing and actually seriously injured her once in his rage….and yet Lina’s family is trying to force her to forgive him? Sorry but you do not have to forgive and love folks just because they’re family. If they’re abusive, gtfo. I detested Finlay the whole way through. But somehow Lina is willing to do everything for this person she’s scared of?
Lina’s feelings towards these two main male characters just didn’t make sense and I think the book would have been strengthened if more work had gone these two so they weren’t so one note. I think this bothered me more with Finlay than Thomas. With Thomas, I get that Lina is portrayed as this young and naive girl who wants a fairytale romance, so it makes sense that she’s drawn to the quiet, brooding boy with so much history and story behind him. I could forgive that. But I really needed to see more of her brother, see why on earth he was worth saving? He needed to be more than this awful, angry person. The way his actions were always framed as trying to make it up to Lina for breaking her ankle, when he continued to lose his temper and scare her, felt very manipulative and reminiscent of domestic abuse relationships and it’s not ever really addressed.
All in all I really enjoyed this dark YA fantasy! The sapphic romance is wonderful, I adored Eva, and found the book very easy and fun to read. Whilst the boys are very one note and I struggled with understanding why Lina was willing to give up everything for them, it just made me appreciate Eva and Lina’s relationship more because it really highlighted how full of emotion and fierce they were together.