The Girl Who Sang with Whales, IsleSong Book 1 by Marc Secchia, is an epic YA fantasy about a young woman named Zhisu and her coming of age story in a sea-faring world.
Zhisu lives with her mother on the outermost tiny island of their atoll group. On the far side of their spit of sand is The Deep, a stretch of sea that no one from her archipelago ever crosses. During an encounter with a huge whale during a routine fishing trip, Zhisu uses her marvelous singing voice to coax the whale into saving her drowning mother.
Her mother’s bittersweet passing leaves Zhisu deep in debt, so the young woman leaves her tiny island home to work off her expenses in the Grand Harbormaster’s employ on Germioi Atoll. Despite her unusual ocean-blue eyes, blond-white hair, and webbed toes called a Mermaid’s Foot, Zhisu settles in, makes friends, and lands smack in the middle of Conservatory politics. Her unusual singing voice marks her as a rare female Bard, one who might have a powerful talent to summon the largest whales to guide and protect ships from sea dragons.
Trouble brews. The Argalioi, conquerors who relish pain, threaten Zhisu’s world. Although they live across The Deep, the Argalioi raiding parties take what they wish and there is little that Zhisu’s people can do to withstand the attacks. Even worse, the Argalioi need Bards. They will stop at nothing to acquire these rare singers to guide their war ships.
The Girl Who Sang with Whales is a delightful fantasy. It is an immersive experience filled with descriptions ranging from island culture to the sea-centric idioms that fit this archipelago-filled world. Zhisu is a strong woman who strives to overcome her humble roots, but has a fetching modest nature that makes her an engaging heroine. Secchia has created a wonderful water world in The Girl Who Sang with Whales, and I can hardly wait to plunge into the sequel.