Book Review: Unearth the Tides by Alissa J. Zavalianos

I’ve seen this series of “Classics Retold” going around my author/reader circles for a while now, and it looked pretty cool (I enjoy classics) but I didn’t really stop long enough to add any of the involved books to my TBR. But then I connected with Alissa on Instagram, discovered she writes “cozy” fantasy, and said, “Hey, would you like to do a review swap?” So here we are with my review of Unearth the Tides (and I will probably check out more of the Classics Retold series in the future).

While I received a copy of this book to review, I was not required to leave a positive review and all opinions are my own.

What is Unearth the Tides about?

๐๐ž๐ฐ๐š๐ซ๐ž ๐ญ๐ก๐ž ๐–๐š๐ฌ๐ญ๐ž๐Ÿ๐ฎ๐ฅ ๐“๐ข๐๐ž๐ฌ
๐’๐ก๐จ๐ฎ๐ฅ๐ ๐ญ๐ก๐ž ๐‚๐ซ๐ข๐ฆ๐ฌ๐จ๐ง ๐ƒ๐ž๐š๐ญ๐ก ๐“๐š๐ค๐ž ๐˜๐จ๐ฎ

Huxley Krew Gannon III always knew he would be a royal guard; defending the Crown is in his blood. And coming from a long line of Gannons, that means the job is to be taken seriously at all costs.

When tragedy strikes, Huxley is framed for treason, and his only option is to flee to Braka’s most feared place: The Wasteful Tides.

It’s rumored a monstrous beast haunts those waters, but what Huxley encounters is even worse: an elusive captain, magical herbs, a beautiful lady, and unearthed truths that could change the course of history.

Unearth the Tides is a fantasy retelling of Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Filled with mystery, found family, and themes of truth and forgiveness, Unearth the Tides is perfect for those who love the coziness of the classics and the thrill of adventure.


So, funny story, I’ve participated for about a year in a Jules Verne-focused online book club and our most recent read was 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. And, while all of the above about the Classics Retold series is true, I didn’t actually realize that Unearth the Tides was part of that series or that it was a retelling of 20,000 Leagues until I opened it, lol. So the timing of starting it just after finishing its source material was pretty fun and providential.

One of the first things that struck me about Unearth the Tides–beyond discovering it was a retelling of 20,000 Leagues–was how fast-paced it is. It dumps you straight into the story and there’s not really a lot of breathing room for the first several chapters–even where it sometimes seems like there should be. My biggest disappointment with this was that it felt like the pacing did a disservice to the characters and world. It’s evident that both the characters and the world were well-developed, but that depth gets lost on the page as there’s not a lot of processing time with Huxley to really understand how he’s thinking about things or come to see the world through his eyes. He responds to things in real-time and then seems to sometimes forget about them until they become relevant again–even things like the inciting incident that led to his entire predicament. This also has a detrimental effect on the climax, as there’s not a lot of lead-up or foreshadowing before we’re thrown into a discovery with Huxley and the ensuing plan for resolution. In short, the pacing made it hard for me to get invested in the story in a lot of places.

However. The characters were still engaging, in certain points toward the middle of the book especially. Huxley was a little difficult for me to connect with for the reasons stated, but Willa, Monty, and Aldo were compelling side characters. I would have liked to see a little more from Monty because he struck me as rather one-dimensional, there just to serve a purpose in Huxley’s story instead of really having his own, but that desire came from the fact that he had enough depth to seem like he had more to offer the story. Willa was a great feminine character, and I enjoyed the way that her relationship with Huxley was written. I found Aldo to be the most compelling character for a while because of his similarities with Captain Nemo; he was a really well-done counterpart, and I enjoyed the intrigue carried over from 20,000 Leagues.

I don’t have much to say on the world. It was largely unexplored, as the majority of the story takes place on a submarine, but it was pretty typical fantasy fare. The propulsion of the submarine was well-done; I enjoyed that detail. The way that the ship was generally constructed–as well as the restoration of Monty’s boat–stretched my disbelief a bit. But those were minor details easily moved on from.

As this book is a retelling of a classic novel, it seems appropriate to discuss its merits as a retelling. For those who enjoy very distinct retellings, this is a fun read. It keeps vestiges of the original, while spinning them into what is very much an original story. On the other hand, if you enjoyedย 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea for its slow pacing, its ambiguity and intrigue, or a main character who is fascinated by the research opportunities afforded on a submarine, you should be aware that Unearth the Tides steps away from all of those elements. Huxley is more of a Ned Land than an Aronnax, the submarine’s crew plays much more of a role, and the ending–built on the captain’s backstory–is clearly defined. None of these are faults in the story, whether as a retelling or not, but they are worthwhile details to be aware of if you go into this book as a fan of Verne’s story.

Overall, Unearth the Tides is a fun adventure story that draws bits of inspiration from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea into a fantasy world. It takes a fascination with the Nautilus and Captain Nemo and answers the questions that arise from that curiosity in the context of a new story in a new world.

Rating: 4 stars

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