A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow (2020/21) Series Review

A Song Below Water

A Song Below Water #1

Why I picked up the book:

In a world where mythical creatures such as mermaids and sirens exist (and no, they aren’t the same), but aren’t well accepted, best friends and soul sisters Tavia and Effie learn how to navigate a society that doesn’t view them as equals. Not only are they one of few black people in Portland, but Tavia is also magical.

Keeping their secret isn’t easy, especially after a siren murder trial rocks the nation.

The book through my criteria lens:

Morrow delivered a powerful and relevant message through mythical characters. I am excited this is the first book in a series and can’t wait for the characters to grow. A Song Below Water was a slow-paced book, but I feel that this was intentional as it allowed world-building. Because it is such a similar world to us, I appreciated understanding most of the differences; I have high hopes for the series as it continues. I hope Morrow continues to elaborate on her mythos and that we learn more about elokos in the next novel.

My personal feelings:

 If you haven’t already, you should pick up A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow, an own voice YA Contemporary Fantasy. It has fresh and fabulous siren mythology as its core and as an analogy. Through her Sirens, Morrow educates us on privilege, racism, social injustices, and sexism. It’s an excellent way for those who aren’t quite ready to face the extent of their privilege to dip their toes into the waters of being an ally.

When I was reading A Song Below Water as I walked to work that day (yes, I read and walk sometimes), I saw those trees in the picture, and it really made me think about the many layers of privilege that we need to overcome to be better allies or advocates. The drier tree is still planted, and it’s still connected to its roots and ground. Yes, the winter – like our privilege – has kept it from blossoming. But it’s not dead; it’s just dormant. I have so much to learn still, but I hope that little by little, I can become like the green tree – that remains strong and itself through all seasons and life circumstances. I am ashamed of my privilege, and I know that there are still times when I only acknowledge it in retrospect, but I hope to grow as an ally continuously. Know better, be better. 

I feel that books like A Song Below Water are so relevant to our current world. Bringing to light the racism women, from a young age, suffer every day is crucial to empower and give voice to those who are affected and help people like me to be educated and become better allies. I hope I don’t sound tone-deaf, and I do not expect people who suffer racism to explain their hurdles to me – of course not! But fiction has the power to open dialogue to real issues and, through analogy, metaphors, and empathy, expose social injustice. 

wonder if it will work

Enjoyability     9

Characters       9

Ambience        9

Fairness          9

Plot          10       

Execution        9

My total rating: 4.58


A Chorus Rises

A Song Below Water #2

Why I picked up the book:

This is Naema’s story. In A Chorus Rises, we meet Naema again, now dealing with the aftermath of her actions. Her adoring fans have turned against her. She is currently the infamous villain who exposed a siren to the world.

Will she check her privilege and take accountability? Or will she continue to make excuses and miss out on the opportunity to learn about her powers and use them for the greater good?

The book through my criteria lens:

I read A Chorus Rises as an audiobook produced by Macmillan Audio. It is a beautiful production, and in my opinion, Cherise Boothe and Eboni Flowers brought the characters to life and honoured the story. The pace was impeccable, the chemistry undeniable, and Naema’s journey was even more potent through “her” voice. For such a polarizing character, after all, she starts the book as the villain; I feel that hearing her allowed me to go into her journey without bias. I hope that makes sense!

Naema’s arc was really well done. She was still the same character from A Song Below Water and acted her age very much as she is now facing things she didn’t expect – infamy, loss of followers, and bad press. I appreciated that her journey wasn’t linear and that she couldn’t change until she understood why changing was necessary. Hers was a beautiful coming-of-age story.

A chorus rises read more contemporary than fantasy, and I did miss a bit of the magical elements. I would love to see a third book, now that characters and mythology are established.

My personal feelings:

In retrospect, I appreciate not knowing much about elokos in the first book. Naema’s story was the perfect way to introduce the mythos and yet another nuance to racism black girls face each day.

Fame, wealth, and popularity ARE privileges some minorities have, but even with them, they are still the target of racism, albeit more subdued. We live in a society that will make exceptions for some minorities if they are considered “privileged enough” and will reward these “model minorities.” How TF is this okay? And do people lie to themselves to THAT extent of tone-deafness?? The answer is yes. And I am glad Morrow is talking about it. 

I won’t go much into what elokos are, as finding it out is an intrinsic part of Naema’s arc. Still, I think their power is an analogy to the aforementioned fame, wealth, and popularity. 

I also loved the critique of what happens when you seek your self-worth from external sources and then lose it. A Chorus Rise is a journey about finding your value within yourself and learning who you are. 

Morrow’s use of metaphors and analogies is superb, delicate, and powerful. I am excited about her next book. 

Enjoyability     9

Characters     9 

Ambience        9

Fairness          10

Plot                  10

Execution        9

My total rating: 4.66

Disclaimer: I first read it as an ARC. In exchange for an honest review, I am thankful to Macmillan Audio, Bethany C. Morrow, and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of A Chorus Rises.


Until next book, be the hummingbird!

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