THE PEARL HUNTER, by Miya T. Beck, Balzer + Bray, Feb. 7, 2023, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 8-12)
A young pearl diver sets out to save her twin sister from death in Miya T. Beck’s debut fantasy, The Pearl Hunter.
Kai and Kishi share the same futon, the same face, and the same talent for pearl diving. But Kishi is the obedient daughter, while Kai tries to push the rules, and sometimes they fight. Still, when Kishi is stolen and killed by the legendary Ghost Whale, nothing will stop Kai from searching for her, deep in the ocean, hoping for a way to bring her back to life.
But such a rescue is beyond the power of an ordinary mortal. Kai strikes a deal with the gods: she’ll steal a magic pearl in exchange for her sister’s soul. As she journeys across treacherous land scape, Kai must navigate encounters with scheming bandits, a power-hungry war lord, and a legion of conniving fox spirits. And when a new friendship becomes something almost as powerful as her love for her sister, Kai must make impossible choices and risk everything just to get home again. —Synopsis provided by Batlzer + Bray
Set in a world inspired by pre-Shogun era Japan, The Pearl Hunter is a magical read. Author Miya T. Beck’s world-building skills are lovely. She transports readers to the bottom of the ocean, the top of a mountain and everywhere in between. From the first page, she sets the tone and doesn’t stray from it once.
Kai is the sort of hero you want to succeed. She’s imperfect and single-minded and wonderfully complex. Her supporting characters, while less developed, are compelling and fleshed out enough that they don’t feel like props.
The Pearl Hunter is an engaging adventure along the lines of Grace Lin (Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, When the Sea Turned to Silver). It captures the imagination and leaves you wanting more — especially Beck’s ending, which turns the entire book on its head.
The Pearl Hunter is a fantastic standalone novel, but there is room for Beck to make it a duology. Whether she does or not, I can’t wait to read more from this author.
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