We Kraken by Eule Grey is a YA dystopian fantasy that unexpectedly hit me hard in the feels. When I read the excerpt, I was expecting more of a monster fantasy/quest storyline with the kraken and mermaid references (y’all know how I feel about tentacles!) and I wasn’t prepared for the complete emotional smackdown that I experienced with the overall theme of children and war.
Not so long ago there was a brutal war. A war that saw the children of Craw thrust into battle. A war that ended with a massive bomb chasing the people and the Sea Mother away from Craw.
The children that survived this war were moved to Exer City. They ended up working hard labour construction jobs and struggling just to make ends meet. They were not welcomed by the people but instead segregated, barely tolerated, shunned for both the sins of their parents and the guilt that everyone tries to keep buried deep inside.
Devora Kraken is just trying to navigate school with an apathetic teacher and a cute classmate who is vying for her attention. She is also part of the Kraken gang along with her brother Korl and cousin Jon. It’s a rather benign gang that isn’t into violence so much as it is into mermaids and hope. Hope that the future will be better, and they will once again be reunited with their home, and with the Sea Mother. But how can the future improve when nobody is willing to confront and accept the past?
When a gun shows up in the gang’s headquarters, Devi’s life changes forever. Jon disappears, headed for the speak-and-listen trials, the Exer gangs are becoming restless and edging toward violence, and her brother won’t talk to her about anything. The only thing to do is to set off on her own quest back to Craw to confront the past, even if it could mean leaving her brother, and new love interest behind.
Pros And My Favourite Parts
Whoooowee, I would say my favourite thing about this book was the surprising emotional impact it had on me. I just wasn’t ready for it and ended up teary eyed on more than one occasion. The way the author portrayed the resilience of the children, both during the war and in the struggles afterwards, and the different ways in which they were able to keep hope alive enough to survive, was so poignant and affecting.
Another integral theme of the story, and something I will take away and hold dear about it forevermore, is how it highlights the importance of discourse in healing.
The interpersonal relationships between all of the characters were also so well done, and I loved the budding romance between Devi and Ren which layered another level of hope for the future into the story. The many references to mermaids, the Sea Mother, and the relationship of the people to nature and the spirits of their homeland were also great additions.
Cons And Heads Up
I have zero cons for the story itself. My only comment would be that the blurb didn’t really prepare me for the serious and emotional tone of the book.
There are a lot of content warnings listed by the author which I will repeat here: the book contains themes of war and oppression, of children being used in wartime; discussions of othering and exclusion, the use of weapons/guns, child endangerment and abandonment; depiction of PTSD and anxiety.
While it is thematically heavy, the way the author tempers this weight with the fantastical elements of the sea, the connections between people and nature, and the hope that envelops the ending, leaves the reader on an emotionally high note.
This is the second book in the Volcano Chronicles series; however, it can be read as a standalone. I haven’t read the first book, I Volcano, yet but after reading We Kraken, I will be seeking this out immediately. I simply could not put this book down and highly recommend it. Just be prepared for the emotional rollercoaster. Maybe keep a box of tissue handy for both the tears of sorrow and the tears of joy.
Excerpt from We Kraken by Eule Grey
The night I called my brother a murderer was the worst of my life. It was early summer, with heat bristling and people noising until dawn. Even the birds didn’t sleep. But I’d always been sent to bed at ten, like always. Grumbling and defiant. Sick of the status quo. My brother was a stickler for rules. Although I was fifteen, he treated me as if I were a little kid.
School tomorrow, Devi!
Don’t forget to clean your teeth.
No wandering the flat during the night.
The usual Kraken rubbish. I went to bed and somehow nodded off. Just after midnight, I crashed awake to an unsettling dream about a stone bridge.
I called in vain for my cousin. “Jon?”
Then got up and padded into the kitchen, half asleep, with ultra-raw senses. A single light bulb stung my sensitive eyes. A high-pitched electrical scream emanated from our battered fridge.
It took a few minutes to make sense of the midnight scene. Except for my cousin, Jon, every member of the Kraken gang was present. Farlo, who paced the kitchen. Bersha and Tomi, scrubbing blood from their hands. My brother, Korl, and his girlfriend, Anees, talking in a corner.
A gun lay on the edge of the table. Black, metallic, and menacing.
I should have asked where it came from and why it was in our kitchen. Rumours of guns and knives were rife throughout Exer City, but I’d never thought my family were involved. as far as I knew, the Kraken gang avoided trouble.
“What’s going on? Has anyone seen Jon? I did knock,” I said stupidly. Obliviously. Trying to avoid being told off. My brother was a rule dictator, and I didn’t want to be grounded again.
Korl stopped whispering. For a really long minute, he didn’t say anything, only looked across at me where I huddled in striped nightie and cat-print socks.
It was then I realized and acknowledged something was very wrong.
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Bits and Bobs
ASIN number: B0BHCYTDWN
Publisher: NineStar Press
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