And the Ocean Was Our Sky by: Patrick Ness and Rovina Cai
Released: September 4 2018
Rating: * * * * *
With harpoons strapped to their backs, the proud whales of Bathsheba’s pod live for the hunt, fighting in the ongoing war against the world of men. When they attack a ship bobbing on the surface of the Abyss, they expect to find easy prey. Instead, they find the trail of a myth, a monster, perhaps the devil himself…
As their relentless Captain leads the chase, they embark on a final, vengeful hunt, one that will forever change the worlds of both whales and men.
Patrick Ness is one of my all-time favorite authors. He has such an amazing way of crafting the most intricate and thought provoking stories, and the most memorable and complex characters. He blows me away every time. So when I saw that he was writing a new book, one that took an interesting spin on one of my favorite classics, AND had beautiful illustrations? I didn’t waste any time getting my hands on it.
This retelling flips Moby Dick upside-down. Literally. We follow a young whale, Bathsheba, and her hunting pod as they attempt to track down, and destroy, the notorious whale killer – Toby Wick. It explores the complexity of what it means to survive in a world where it’s hunt, or be hunted. It delves into what separates us, from our enemies. It’s phenomenal. I expected nothing less.
As I’ve said before in reviews of Ness’s work: he’s a genius when it comes to writing humans. And I guess now, whales. He understands on such a deep level how complex people are, and he always makes an effort to explore that in great detail in his work. I truly think that this is his best work, when it comes to that. The way that we never truly knew where to stand in this novel – we were never sure who was “right” – was absolutely fantastic. Also, the way that power, in it’s many shapes and forms, was tackled in this novel was also brilliant. The way that physical prowess and might, and the power of rumor, myth, and prophecy, come to a head in this novel, is just beautiful.
Now, I’m reviewing an ARC of this, so much of the artwork within is incomplete. But from what little is present in the ARC? It’s going to be out of this world. Cai’s illustrations have such an ethereal quality to them, one that matches the tone that Ness adopts to tell this tale, so well. I just know that, when the artwork is completed, it’s only going to take this already amazing story, to an even more amazing place.
A gripe I have about this book is with Toby Wick. I understand that he’s supposed to be an embodiment of all these abstract ideas. But I felt like he, himself, was too abstract? Maybe this will change when the final version, with all the completed artwork, comes out, but I just had a hard time grasping what he was, which made the climax of this novel kind of hard to follow. Another thing I found a little bit of an issue with was Demetrius. We see that, over time, Bathsheba grows this very deep connection to this boy, but we don’t really get to know him all that well. It kind of makes the connection feel a little forced, or like it’s just, too much. I wish we had just gotten to see his character fleshed out a bit more.
Really, I believe that Ness is saying amazing things with this novel. Moby Dick was always a classic that I loved to cover in school because of how many interesting and complex themes and messages it covered. Ness takes one of those themes, and really runs away with it here, and it’s stunning.