“When the Sea turned to Silver” is a tough call. It is better than its predecessor in every way except the most important: the theme.
“When the Sea Turned to Silver” is a direct sequel to “Where the Mountain Meets the Moon.” It not only follows the same family but wraps up a few lose ends from that story. I was pleasantly surprised by this fact. Seeing some of the ideas from the first book fleshed out and some stories come full circle was immensely satisfying. I do not known if Grace Lin had this sequel in mind when she wrote the first but the continuation of the story and characters is masterful. Overall, I am highly impressed by the fact that Grace Lin did not settle as a writer and strived to do better in her sequel.
My biggest qualm from the first book is also addressed. While storytelling is the heart of this series the first book proportionately had too many pauses in the main story to convey the pacing of a folktale. This disruption at certain points lessened the story’s impact in my eyes. Here, the balance is sound. There are still plenty of folktales that flesh out the truth behind the narrative, but the main story is not forgotten. Plenty happens and the characters feel more autonomous and the main story more epic for the entirety. The narrative in general is also better. While the last story was very personal, very little was at stake. Here the whole kingdom could suffer if the story teller’s granddaughter fails and the narrative has more power for it. There is also more action in this sequel which helps to make the stakes feel dire.
The writing is better has also improved. The metaphors and similes do not get in the way of the storytelling but paint beautiful word-pictures. These echo the idea of storytelling and its power and bolster the themes of stories in the book.
The only place this book falters is the main theme. “Where the Mountain Meets the Moon” had flaws, but its heart was a powerfully realized message. Here there is no main message, no driving theme besides how stories weave into life and eternity. At least, that was my opinion. It is a shame because while this is an objectively better read, it is hard to say it is a better book without the universal theme anchoring it.
If you enjoyed “Where the Mountain Meets the Moon”, give this a read. It is everything you like about the first and is more polished. Young children and young readers should also read this. Time to check out what else the author has written.