And The Ocean Was Our Sky is one of those rare genre-bending books that sits in a niche all on its own. (It was shelved under “Teen”, probably because of Patrick Ness’s previous works, but it definitely doesn’t belong there.)
I would describe it as existential fantasy.
It is the story of a small team of whales who hunt the humans who hunt them. Their hardened captain, Alexandra, is in a vicious search for a mythical foe known as “Toby Wick”.
Their story is told by Bathsheba, a young apprentice, and the only one who is asking the important existential questions that nobody else is. “Are we hunting a devil? Does that not make devils of us also?”
Besides the obvious phonetic similarity between Moby Dick and “Toby Wick”, the epigraph also quotes that book. I haven’t read Moby Dick yet but if you have, I’d be interested to hear about any parallels with Bathsheba’s story.
Lastly, apart from loving Patrick Ness’s previous work, Rovina Cai is half the reason I got this book. Her illustrations skillfully set the dark, contemplative mood of the story. They are mostly monochromatic, using dark greys with the smallest tinge of dark blue, plus the occasional bright scarlet stream of blood.
I would recommend this to: readers looking for something different and reflective, someone who wants a deep read that isn’t necessarily long and dense, and people who appreciate dark wispy illustrations.