Review: The Girl who Fell Beneath the Sea

Review by Marin Mills 

It is my personal opinion that adapting a story for a new audience is just as valuable as creating something new, especially in the realm of mythology and folktales. While anyone can create a unique fantasy world, rewriting a myth for a modern audience creates a dialogue between the past and the present, especially for readers who are familiar with the original story. When done right, it allows the author to say something about both the past and the present. The Girl who Fell Beneath the Sea is one such story. Author Axie Oh takes a Korean folktale about filial piety and turns it into a novel about fate, choice, and the relationship between gods and men.

The original folktale is named after its heroine, Shim Cheong. She lives with her blind father, but in order to cure his blindness, agrees to throw herself into the sea and become the bride of the Sea God. By doing this, she earns the favor of the Sea God, is resurrected, becomes the empress, and succeeds in curing her father’s blindness. The Girl who Fell Beneath the Sea starts at the point where Shim Cheong is about to throw herself into the sea, and introduces us to a new character who will interrupt the myth: Mina, who steps forward and takes Shim Cheong’s place as the Sea God’s bride

From this point, the story becomes much more epic in scale. Mina is taken to the spirit realm, where she learns that the Sea God has been sleeping for the last hundred years, and only a “true bride” will be able to wake him. However, the spirit realm is full of gods, goddesses, and spirits, each with their own reasons for keeping the Sea God asleep.

Mina’s adventures play out with some typical Young Adult fanfare. There’s a mystery to unravel, plenty of action and drama, and a loveable cast of side-characters dedicated to protecting Mina. Fans of enemies-to-lovers stories will enjoy the romantic subplot, while those looking for something more unique will enjoy the story’s platonic relationships. Fans of Korean myths and folktales might enjoy Axie Oh’s take on a popular tale, while those who are new to the mythology (like myself) will enjoy this dive into a fantasy world very different from what they’re used to.

If you’re looking for a little more meat to your story, The Girl who Fell Beneath the Sea also has plenty of thematic details to snack on. Mina must reckon with such engaging questions as “How much of my fate do I choose?” “What use is a god that doesn’t bless the people?” and “Should I settle for something I don’t really want?” All of these questions add depth and meaning that will especially appeal to teenage readers.

Overall, The Girl who Fell Beneath the Sea is a fun rewrite of a Korean folktale, and a welcome addition to the Young Adult Genre.