Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
Culture > Entertainment

Book Review: ‘The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea’ by Axie Oh

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at MSU chapter.

The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea by Axie Oh evokes a sense of love, comfort through found family, and the peace that arises when you realize you are home. 

It is a young adult, standalone fantasy novel that takes inspiration from the Korean tale of Shim Cheong. Written through a feminist lens, the novel contemplates what it means to become the maker of your own destiny. 

Mina’s homeland has been ravaged by violent storms, floods, and bloody wars for generations. Each year, to appease the Sea God, the village sends a woman to the sea with the hope that she will be the “true bride” and the violence will end. Shim Cheong is meant to be the sacrifice this year. She is the beloved of Joon, Mina’s older brother, and, so, on the night that she is to be given to the sea, Joon follows her. Mina knows that this interference will mean his death sentence, and, therefore—to save her brother and the love he and Shim Cheong share—she throws herself into the water as the sacrifice instead. 

Once she arrives in the Spirit Realm, she finds the Sea God in an enchanted sleep, and Mina enlists the help of Lord Shin, demons, gods, and spirits with the goal of waking the Sea God and bringing balance to her village—as well as the Spirit Realm. 

I finished this book in April of this year, and it felt as though I was physically transported into this other world. It was a full-body experience that had me consumed with love, a feeling that intensified with every page I read. It’s a heartfelt story that made me laugh, especially while reading Kirin and Namgi’s interactions. I smiled often, usually with tears brimming my eyes, because it was so beautiful and I didn’t want it to end. This book felt like the personification of joy, and I wish that I could read it for the first time again. 

The Red String of Fate plays a large role in this story since it ties a person to their destiny. While this connection can be severed through cutting the string, a “true fate” cannot simply be severed in that manner, so the Red String of Fate gives way to the “if you die, I die” trope. Since many forces are opposing the main group, there are numerous moments where one of them worries for the other’s safety. This fear is then followed by the comforting that comes after. There are moments where one of them will tuck the hair behind the other’s ear or one character cradles the other in their arms as they wait for them to wake up. These moments feel so tender and precious. This vulnerability is compounded when you consider how hostile these characters initially felt towards each other, and realize that, despite that appearance of hostility, they always respected one another. 

The relationships in this story build in a beautifully subtle, yet intense way. You’re unable to pinpoint the moment when their feelings shifted because it builds up in a way that makes it appear as if they’ve always loved each other; it feels like that love was always present. 

Throughout the story, truths become illuminated, and it gently pulls at the strings around your heart because it makes you look at past events in a new light. Axie Oh writes the story in a way that allows you to feel everything, and therefore envision the world as though you are a character within it. You’re experiencing everything alongside the characters, and they become special inhabitants in your heart. Her writing takes on a poetic form, and the world feels like a magical secret that I stumbled upon—a pocket of warmth in a world that can feel hollow and cold at times. 

Once I neared the end of the story, it felt like my body wasn’t enough to contain the sensation of love – it wanted to spill out and seep into the world that surrounded me. The story, the characters, the imagery, and everything else amplified this feeling. 

This book will make you see love in everything and everyone. It felt like a comforting hug. It felt like home. 

Bella is a senior at Michigan State majoring in Apparel and Textiles with a cognate in English. She is the Social Media Director for Her Campus at MSU, celebrating and uplifting members through various platforms. Bella is also the Secretary for the Creative Writing Club at MSU. She is a lover of art, poetry, literature, film, music, and nature. As a writer and artist, understanding and analyzing art as a reflection of society and a mode for social change is something that fascinates them.