Book Title: A Song Below Water
Author: Bethany C. Morrow
Genre/Subgenre: Young Adult Fantasy
Themes: Prejudice and Self-Acceptance
The Nitty Gritty: In A Song Below Water, author Bethany C. Morrow uses mythical beings with magical powers to illustrate racism and prejudice, and how biases affect society.
Ideal Audience: Fans of fantasy stories using a contemporary setting that integrate the fantastical with the real world.
Strengths: Morrow has fleshed out her world and her magic system extensively. She also focuses on personal character arcs and develops the tension effectively. The characters and their journeys are key to the story, and she doesn’t sacrifice plot when weaving social commentary into this book.
Ultimately, I really enjoyed the characters and their stories. It’s interesting how Morrow illustrates so many things about our society with the magical beings. They have their own ranking systems. Some beings are extremely popular, while others are considered a danger to society. What it means to be a friend, a family member, and part of a community are all under the microscope as Tavia and Effie come to terms with who they are, and what that means for their future.
Weaknesses: It’s perhaps unfair to call this a weakness. The magic system in Morrow’s world is fully fleshed out in her mind, and readers are immersed. It takes a little bit to start weaving the threads together because Morrow doesn’t info-dump or insert a lot of backstory to catch readers up. You piece things together as you read and add to your knowledge. As I said, I’m not sure I’d call that a weakness. For me, it meant the first part of the book moved a little slower than the last, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, either. Once this story gets going, it builds to a boil.
Hot Take: Sometimes it’s easy to play it safe, but it takes real courage to stand up to injustice. Especially if it could cost you your freedom or life.
Book Score: 4 stars
Cover Score: 5 stars
Potential Trigger Warnings:
Parts of the story could be challenging for readers who’ve experienced racism, police brutality, and other forms of discrimination.