First, an aside: you may have noticed in my posts that I tend to include anecdotes and that I am not especially impartial or matter-of-fact in my reviews. The reason for this is that I started this journal to be a personal reading journal, and so I use it to chronicle my own experiences of books. This is different than someone who writes exclusively for their audience. I do try to be interesting and to consider my audience interests, but
remains a personal journal, and so the content will always have a personal touch.
And now, on to the review.
In Dia Calhoun’s Aria of the Sea, Cerinthe Gale, a 13 year old resident of the kingdom of Windward, moves from her small island to the capital city in order to audition for the School of the Royal Dancers. As she attends the school, though, Cerinthe finds that her late mother’s dream for her to be a professional dancer is in conflict with her own talent for healing and her devotion to the goddess the Sea Maid. Cerinthe blames her own error in healing for her mother’s death, and so when her rival, Elliana, is injured, Cerinthe is reluctant to help because she fears another failure. It is at this juncture that Cerinthe must choose who she will become.
I’m afraid to reveal much more of the plot than this, because I don’t want to spoil more for you.
There are quite a few things that Dia Calhoun does incredibly effectively in Aria of the Sea. First, she conveys Cerinthe’s homesickness with startling accuracy. I missed Cerinthe’s imaginary home island myself, reading about Cerinthe’s feelings. Second, she paints a true-to-life portrait of teenage rivalry; while my art when I was Cerinthe’s age was theatre and not dance, I experienced hostility from multiple corners of my tiny theatre world. Elliana very much reminded me of girls I knew, right down to the realization Cerinthe had that though Elliana may be wealthy, that didn’t mean she was truly happy. Nobody wants to be married off according to her parents’ will, after all. Third, Calhoun aptly describes the pain one feels when one’s faith has deserted her. Cerinthe, who has always heard the voice of her goddess the Sea Maid, ceases to hear her once she comes to the capital. Calhoun describes Cerinthe’s sense of abandonment with great intensity.
What Aria of the Sea does best, however, is demonstrate the difficulty that lies in a choice between two callings. Cerinthe is a very talented dancer, and well-trained. She is less well-trained as a healer, but displays more talent. The choice between these two callings is heart-wrenching.
I would especially recommend Aria of the Sea to fans of fantasy, coming of age stories, and the arts. I would more generally recommend it to anyone who likes a moving story. I’d be especially likely to put it in the hands of girls in the twelve to fourteen age range, whom I think will identify heavily with Cerinthe.