When the Sea Turned to Silver
By: Grace Lin
Publisher: Little Brown Books
Publication Date: October 4th, 2016
Pinmei’s gentle, loving grandmother always has the most exciting tales for her granddaughter and the other villagers. However, the peace is shattered one night when soldiers of the Emperor arrive and kidnap the storyteller.
Everyone knows that the Emperor wants something called the Luminous Stone That Lights the Night. Determined to have her grandmother returned, Pinmei embarks on a journey to find the Luminous Stone alongside her friend Yishan, a mysterious boy who seems to have his own secrets to hide.
Together, the two must face obstacles usually found only in legends to find the Luminous Stone and save Pinmei’s grandmother–before it’s too late.
A fast-paced adventure that is extraordinarily written and beautifully illustrated, When the Sea Turned to Silver is a masterpiece companion novel to Where the Mountain Meets the Moon and Starry River of the Sky.
This is, frankly, an absolutely adorable middle-grades read. I picked it up because I needed something and light to enjoy, and this book was the perfect pick. When the Sea turned to Silver felt beautiful, authentic, and inspiring.
Much like A Thousand Nights, this book is driven by stories within a larger story–in this case, of Pinmei and companion Yishan, who are searching for a way to free Pinmei’s grandmother from the Emperor’s clutches. Both Pinmei and her Amah are storytellers, and for every situation they have a tale to tell, which all tie to each other in clever and inventive ways. Needless to say, I adored it from the get-go.
This was a wonderful story which wound its way around pockets of stories, fantastical characters and magical encounters. Pinmei is an unusually self-assured tween, even when confronted with the loss of the only family she’s known, but still very relatable. And Yishan is every thirteen-year-old boy who thinks he’s invincible (albeit for different, and better, reasons). And Pinmei’s Amah is a lovely character in her own right. I can’t imagine a middle-grades child objecting to any of them.
Mostly, though, I loved the plot. It was measured but exciting, building up to a stunning conclusion made all the better by how the many little tales wove together and helped to explain what had happened. I feel as if I need to reread and pay more attention to them, try to figure out which threads tie in to which other tales. In fact, this book is one that would be just as much a delight to reread as to read.
I also loved how much Grace Lin had drawn on Chinese culture to create her own fantastical world. I read an ARC, which had black-and-white sketches and sometimes no pictures at all, but I imagine that the colored pictures to be found in the completed version would add even more depth and general amazingness to the plot. Frankly, although this is a Middle Grades book, I’d encourage story lovers of any age to pick this one up, and I will be making a beeline for the companion novel, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon.
Disclaimer: The synopsis and cover picture were pulled from the book’s Goodreads page. Neither belong to us. An advanced copy was provided in exchange for an honest review.