Hello Readers! It is time for another book review, and this week it is Beneath the Burning Waves. This was an intriguing read by Jennifer Hayashi Danns. Let’s get into it!
Genre: YA Epic Fantasy
Beneath the Burning Wave Synopsis
Kaori and Kairi are the first twins to survive infancy on the ancient island of Mu, where gender is as fluid as the crashing waves. One was born of fire, the other of water.
But there’s a reason why none have survived before. There is a prophecy that has haunted the “Experienced” since time began. A rivalry destined to sink the entire tribe beneath a twin catastrophe of volcano and tsunami.
As a rivalry builds between the twins like a deadly poison, they must decide what matters to them most…
The fight for the island – for tradition and duty. Or the fight for freedom – for love and light.
Here’s What I loved!
In Beneath the Burning Wave, we follow the story of Kaori and Kairi, twins who grow up on Mu, an ancient island, where magic flows, and “gender is as fluid as the waves that crash against the surf”. Their lives have been a haunted shell of a prophecy that predicted they would ruin their community. Every set of twins is killed at birth in order to avoid the fulfillment of that prophecy, although Kaori and Kairi survived that slaughter.
Kaori and Kairi are true opposites. One is born of water, one born of fire, each being able to manipulate their respective elements. They are siblings through and through. Constantly at each other’s throats with a natural rivalry, that does nothing but intensify throughout the story. More than anything they want freedom from the tradition that has been instilled in them since their birth. They must work together to make a decision that will form the future of the tribe.
The fantasy of Beneath the Burning Wave is unique. The author explores a society where gender fluidity is the norm, and as a concept, it sounded fabulous. Especially for something that is set in the Young Adult genre, authors are daring to be more diverse and I am here for it. The story takes a risk, telling the story in a unique way not using him/her but mu/mir and a new way of saying them/they which is considered “neo-pronouns”.
The plot fell flat for me.
Although they are fluid what are considered to be norms are the same as traditional standards. Only men or those with penises are allowed to be the Experienced or what are considered to be leaders of the tribe. “Carriers” only focus is to create maymu (children). Cis couples are paired by the Experienced to form couples where at a time before the famine they were chosen in a lottery to “create”, now everyone must create with no exceptions.
The way that the story is told is such a regressive way of telling the story it almost makes it unlikeable. As if there is no other purpose for those who are able to get pregnant than to just be “carriers”.
Extended Thoughts on Beneath the Burning Wave
The world-building was non-existent, and I found the writing to be incredibly confusing. I spent the majority of my time rereading passages to make any semblance of sense for the section I just read and repeating that for every couple of paragraphs.
Finding myself caring about the characters was hard, which was a shame. I think this was more due to the extreme confusion I felt throughout my experience of the story. Not caring about their progression prevented me from fully immersing myself in the story. As much as I really liked the idea of the use of neo-pronouns, it did nothing but add the increasing confusion, because of the inability to distinguish who said and did what.
Beneath the Burning Wave has the potential to be a great read. That is as long as you know from the beginning what you are getting yourself into and have the ability to use the neo-pronouns interchangeably. You should also give this fantasy novel a read if you are willing to give a definitely experimental style of writing.