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The Rebellious Tide

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The Rebellious Tide is an interesting book in that its premise is solid and characters are well-drawn, but something still feels to be missing. The book clips along at a surprisingly brisk pace considering its introspective subject matter, and by the time the mystery kicks in, I already found myself lost a bit amongst all the moving pieces. 

Tan is good at giving us shorthand to understand the wide cast of characters that fill the world on board the Glacier, but the character I found myself wanting to know even more about was Sebastien, our main character. By the time all of the pieces are filled in, the book is basically over, and I wished that we had learned some of the vital information revealed in the final third of the book a bit earlier. 

Overall, it's a solid read, especially for folks looking for an LGBTQ protagonist whose entire story doesn't revolve around being queer (though there is a bit of angst when Sebastien is outed by a friend in a flashback).
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In Eddy Boudel Tan's sophomore novel, we follow Sebastien on a journey to find his father which soon explodes into a protest for workers rights and an investigation on what's really happening in room A66. This book has plenty of threads, revisiting Sebastien's past and present to tell the complete story. At about the 80% mark in the book, I worried that there were too man threads, and that a satisfying ending would be hard to pull off. Tan's writing was beautiful, and by the end of the book, every plot thread was answered in a meaningful way. 

One concern I had for the book early on was the main character's seemingly black and white perspective on the world around him, as I felt it lacked nuance and would be used as an excuse to avoid development on the antagonists in the story. While Sebastian remains mostly hard-set in his ideals, it was great to see some of his decisions waver as the story went on. There were undoubtedly some characters he wanted to believe more than the evidence he was gathering, and it added a great sense of tension to the story. When other characters started revealing their own views on morality--many of which were more grey--I found myself enjoying the sharp juxtaposition they shared with the protagonist. 

While the protagonist is always fighting for ideals which readers should easily emphasize with, such as friends, worker's rights, and transparency, there are moments where Sebastian goes too far. His relationship with the ship's captain
Spoilermeans that early on, many of the protagonists decisions seem self-serving. Later on, Sebastian goes to certain extremes in his own investigation, such as
Spoiler. These are all meaningful for the plot, and are used to compare the similarities between two characters on opposing sides.
SpoilerIn the end, the protagonist does reveal the mystery of Room A66, the worker's right protest is resolved, and Sebastian gets the answers he had about his father in the beginning of the novel. 

My favorite aspects of this story, beyond the cinematic writing style and strong themes, was definitely the character interactions. Despite being a flawed protagonist, it is clear that Sebastian cares for and loves those he swears to protect. In an adventure to find out more about his father, he gains an entirely separate family and rekindles past friendships in the process. While most of the characters are Greek, there is plenty of LGBT representation, with some POC representation in the book (Asian-Canadian, Hispanic, Asian) as well. Racial background and sexual orientation enhance the plot, but are not at the center of the story, which is refreshing compared to other modern LGBT literature. 

Thank you to Netgalley for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts are my own. If this review seems interesting to you, the book comes out on July 13th, 2021.
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This was an interesting, well-paced page-turner. You feel fully immersed in the world the author creates, and it is a story I felt I hadn't heard before. The protagonist is a complicated, fully-formed character whose sense of purpose is understood as he journeys to find answers about his father and his past on the ship. I had a little trouble understanding some of the motivations of some of the secondary characters, particularly the at the end when the mystery is revealed and the true nature of everyone is uncovered. However, overall, I would recommend this book to fans of mysteries and LGBTQ stories.
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Within Boudel Tan's sophomore novel is quite the thrilling story. Unfortunately, the way said story is told (i.e., like a screenplay with most of the blocking already on the page) detracts from what could have been a much more compelling read. This novel falls victim to the sin of telling, not showing. Characters are said to be this or that, but neither this nor that will ever be examined with any depth. The reader is just expected to accept this as a truth. Action happens off camera and motivations are revealed post-hoc. Thus, this novel unfolds like an autopsy, not a compelling read. 

This becomes all the more complicated due to the author's choice to omnisciently jump from POV character to POV character: sometimes in the same paragraph. This is a confusing choice for a thriller, especially when some of those heads are those of the villains once the masks are removed. 

This compounds over the narrative to undermine the interesting story at the hear of this novel. Ultimately, what could have been powerful third act twists instead cause the reader to scratch their head, wondering why the narrator's omniscience decided to hide all of this pertinent information and motivation from them until after said information was important. 

Finally, this novel hosts a top-tier example of why instalove is a trope best left in the Noughties. A simple sexual relationship  was forced into a cloying (and heavy-handed) love story for no discernible reason other than a throw-away line at the denouement. 

Overall, an interesting story that could have used some more editing in its early stages. Two stars.
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The Rebellious Tide is the story of Sebastien, a man in his late 20s who, upon the death of his mother, decides to find and seek revenge on his father, who abandoned them before Sebastien was born. After a brief search, Sebastien finds his father working on luxury liner in the Mediterranean, and joins the ship's crew in order to gain proximity to his father. However, in his quest for both revenge and answers, he also becomes galvanized to fight against the ship's rigid class system, which leads to a number of revelations.

I thought the book was good, but I ultimately had trouble connecting to some of the storylines and characters. While I understood Sebastien's rage, I also did not feel like I fully understood or knew his character, even by the end of the book. However, I did find the plotline regarding his mother and his family's story to be very emotional and engaging.

You can definitely tell the author has done their research on cruises and luxury liners, and I found it be informative and interesting. And while I have no doubt that there is an unofficial class system present among these types of crew, I ultimately had mixed feelings regarding the staff's rebellion against the officers. There's also some cheesy and even cinematic moments that made it difficult for me to connect with the story.

Overall, I enjoyed reading this book, but I did find myself wishing for a bit more emotional depth and a more grounded storyline. I am happy that this book has introduced me to Eddy Boudel Tan, and I do plan to read the author's other book, After Elias.
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Rebellious Tide is a story of a man who, after the death of his mother, seeks out the father that never stuck around in his life. The book attacks some heavy topics that aren't always seen within current day books. The author spoke from a well of truth, and I greatly appreciated that. 
 Such a premise had me yearning for emotional depth and character progression, but sadly, I didn't get much of that. The plot of this book felt rushed, throwing me from one situation to another, not giving me enough realistic dialogue or character progression. I'm not sure if I just didn't connect with the characters and the plot didn't hold my interest.
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2 ½ stars (rounded up to 3)

This is one of those rare cases where I actually feel bad for not liking a book. The more I read The Rebellious Tide, the less I liked it. Yet, I really tried to pretend otherwise. Having loved Eddy Boudel Tan's debut novel (it moved me to tears, something that does happen often to grinches like moi) I had high expectations for his sophomore novel and I can't help but be disappointment by it. If you are thinking of reading this novel I recommend you check out some positive reviews out as this review won't be particularly 'rosy'.

The Rebellious Tide follows Sebastien, a young man who is grieving the death of his mother. He resents his hometown as he believes that the townspeople have always treated him and his mother like outsiders (his mother was originally from Singapore). We learn of his on-off again relationship with Sophie and of his hatred towards his father, a Greek man who allegedly abandoned his mother when she was pregnant with Sebastien. So, naturally, Sebastien decides to take revenge on his father. Lucky for him, he manages to get himself hired as a photographer on a luxury cruise ship monstrosity (as a former Venetian I abhor cruises) which happens to captained by his father. He makes fast friends with two other members of staff and decides to make inquiries about his father, wanting to learn what kind of person he is. Soon Sebastien realises how rigid the hierarchy among staff members is, and his resentment towards his father makes him start a 'rebellion'.
There were elements of the story that I liked, such as the cruise as microcosm of society. The 'confined' setting augmented the already brewing tension between the ship's crew and the staff (who are deemed 'inferior' or 'expandable'). But...I just could not believe in any of it. I couldn't suspend my sense of disbelief, and I never bought into any of it. The characters were painfully one-dimensional, the female ones especially, and yet the storyline tried for this serious tone which...I don't know, it just didn't work for me. As I said, I wanted to like this so bad but the more I read the less I liked what I was reading. The story is very on the nose. The 'Greek myth' connection was jarring and out-of-place. While I could have bought the whole 'lower decks=Hades', 'passageway in the lower decks=Styx', okay...we get it, lots of Greeks work on this ship. But the whole thing between Sebastien and his supposed 'love interest' where they call each other Achilles and Patroclus? Come on! The two men barely know each other, their relationship struck me (and yes, this is once again my personal opinion) as just sexual. And there is nothing wrong with that! But why present it as a tragic love story? Bah!
The characters did not sound like real people, the dialogues were clunky, and the writing...I don't know, I guess I preferred the author's prose in After Elliot because it was in the 1st person (making the whole thing much more 'intimate') whereas here we have a perspective that is all over the place and yet it doesn't really delve beyond a character's surface level.
And the whole storyline is so damn cheesy and gave me some strong soap opera vibes. Convenient coincidences and clichés abound! And don't get me started on Sebastien's father (and that done to death line, "you remind me of myself when I was your age").

As I said (or wrote) I do hate myself a little bit for not liking this novel. While I am of the opinion that this novel is in desperate need of an overhaul, I hope that it will find its audience and that readers will connect to Sebastien in a way that I was not able to.
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***Special thanks to NetGalley and Dundurn Press for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review***

This book is about Sebastien as a tries to track down his father after he had left Sebastien and his mother (it had been over 30 years). Sebastien becomes obsessed with finding his father and is filled with strong emotions, especially after his mother dies, suffering from years of hardship. This dark novel follows Sebastien as he stalks his father in his own workplace and Sebastien's eventual recognition of life-changing secrets.

I would recommend this novel, it was highly entertaining and left me at the edge of my seat
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After his stunning debut ‘After Elias’ Eddy Boudel Tan delivers another powerful novel covering themes like suppression, dominating (white) men, homophobia and being good or bad, black or white and all the grey in between. His writing reminds me sometimes of Fredrik Backman’s Beartown, so if you liked that one, you might like this one too. 

Eddy Boudel Tan’s writing is rich and captivating once again; the descriptions, the characters, the surroundings, they are all so vibrant. This kind of writing keeps me hooked to the pages:
<i>Emotion is like water. Some people keep it in a well, drawing from it by the bucket. Others put it behind a dam. But you - you are an ocean.</i>

The dominating (white) men are visible throughout the story and I loved how Eddy Boudel Tan describes men time after time:
<i>It’s not enough for men to take something away from another. They must make it their own. Brand it for themselves. Leave their mark.</i>

<i>They were simply men - imperfect, impulsive, helpless men. That didn’t mean they deserved to be pardoned, though.</i >

The first half of the book we’re immersed into Sebastien’s life and his friends on the ship, his understanding of the different classes on the Glacier and injustice done to others. The second half of the book slowly reveals more of the darker secrets the Glacier harbors. I love the way Eddy Boudel Tan throws snippets around, like he also did in ‘After Elias’, connecting the dots later in the story and revealing more and more of the past and the present.

While Sebastien is on the ship incognito to get to know his father, other characters fled their homes because of mistreatment or homophobia, hoping to find refuge on the Glacier. It turned out otherwise though, life on the ship being so much darker and uglier than they could have known in advance. In ‘After Elias’ the author made references to the Mayan culture, in this book to Greek mythology. In both books those references and metaphors are spot-on. 

Whereas ‘After Elias’ was sad and tender and intimate, ‘The rebellious tide’ is powerful and dark and more distant. ‘After Elias’ will always have a special place in my heart and is one of my favorite books of 2020 but ‘The rebellious tide’ is a great second novel by a talented writer.

4.5 stars rounded up to five.

I received an ARC from Dundurn Press and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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I enjoyed the book.  I thought the bones of the story were really strong, but it lost me a bit in the campiness of the cruise ship.  I think a little more subtly would have gone a long way.   That being said, I thought the plot twists were smart and I certainly wanted to see where it ended up.   There's always something so enticing about Europe, regardless of the context.  I definitely found myself engrossed enough to find my way into caring about Sebastian and his choices.
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