The Fires Beneath the Sea

Lydia Millet  - published April 2012

April 2012 · 280 pp · trade paperback · 9781931520478
— Includes a sneak preview of the second book in the Dissenters series, The Shimmers in the Night

July 2011 · 256 pp · hardcover · 9781931520713 | ebook · 9781931520416

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A Junior Library Guild Pick
Kirkus Reviews
Best of 2011
Selected for the ABC Best Books for Children Catalog
Locus Notable Books

Cara’s mother has disappeared. Her father isn’t talking about it. Her big brother Max is hiding behind his iPod, and her genius little brother Jackson is busy studying the creatures he collects from the beach. But when a watery specter begins to haunt the family’s Cape Cod home, Cara and her brothers realize that their scientist mother may not be who they thought she was—and that the world has much stranger, much older inhabitants than they had imagined.

With help from Cara’s best friend Hayley, the three embark on a quest that will lead them from the Cape’s hidden, ancient places to a shipwreck at the bottom of the sea. They’re soon on the front lines of an ancient battle between good and evil, with the terrifying “pouring man” close on their heels.

Packed with memorable characters and thrilling imagery, Lydia Millet weaves a page-turning adventure even as she brings the seaside world of Cape Cod to magical life. The first in a series of books about the Sykes children, The Fires Beneath the Sea is a rip-cracking middle-grade novel that will make perfect beach reading—for readers of any age!

* “Millet’s prose is lyrically evocative (“the rhythmic scoop and splash of their paddles”). A lush and intelligent opener for a topical eco-fantasy series.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“In her first novel for children, Millet introduces readers to 13-year-old Cara; her brilliant 10-year-old brother, Jackson; her popular 16-year-old brother, Max; and her history professor father, who live on Cape Cod. Her mother, a well-known marine biologist, disappeared a few months earlier. The family is grieving yet still hopeful for her return. While swimming in the ocean, Cara meets a sea otter that mysteriously communicates with her, giving her the following message: “Take care of them for me.” Cara is both frightened and thrilled as she is sure this animal is somehow linked to her mother. In subsequent chapters, there is an increase in odd happenings and terrifying encounters with the Pouring Man, a deadly creature that takes different forms, including becoming the children’s doubles to gain entry into their house, and is seemingly intent on destroying Cara’s family. An intriguing mix of everyday activities and the otherworldly, The Fires Beneath the Sea pulls readers in. Cara is a likable character who has been put in the uncomfortable position of trying to save her family and help her mother with a mission way beyond the ability of most tweens. Her bravery and fierce love will cause readers to long for her to succeed. A well-done beginning, with some riveting moments and frightening escapes, to what should prove to be a popular series.”
School Library Journal

“A thoughtful and thought-provoking beginning to a new fantasy series. The Cape Cod woods, wildlife, and beaches are depicted with loving detail, and the dark forces arrayed against the young protagonists are at once tantalizingly mystifying and alarmingly timely.”
—Patricia McKillip

“Lydia Millet knows the sea like a selkie. The Fires Beneath the Sea smells of salt and tastes of mist, and that beauty speaks as strongly as its story of peril and hope for the future of our fragile world.”
—Kathe Koja, author of Talk

Lydia Millet says:

“I lived on Cape Cod for three summers, in an old, woody gambrel house next to the national seashore. After three summers we had to give up that house—we live the rest of the year in the desert far away, and it turns out we weren’t the kind of family who could afford a summer home—and the following summer I missed it terribly, nostalgic for the windy, scrubby cliffs over the beach, the sweeping dunes near Provincetown, even the fragrant fish taco stand on the Wellfleet pier. I was reading books for children that summer—I always read books for children, alongside the many books I read (and write) that are utterly unsuited for them—and it occurred to me that I could go back. I could make a small adventure for myself and travel back to both the Cape in the summer, which I love, and to the world of magic and animals that adults are told they have to give up, and which I have never given up, even though I have written, before this, only books for seasoned readers. So I wrote myself back to the beaches and the ocean, the feeling of freshness and near-infinite possibility carried by the roll of the tide and the salt air. I wrote the story of a girl not unlike the one I’d been some three decades before, in an academic family with a old-fashioned scholar father and a beautiful mother with long black hair, and also not unlike Meg, of a Wrinkle in Time, with a prodigy baby brother who has ESP and one beloved parent missing. Those books were a particular inspiration to me for the way they married some of the tropes of magic to science and theology while creating, at the same time, a homey and familiar place for pre-adolescent readers to abide; I treasured in particular the unexpected appearance of the outlandish and galactic in the everyday world. So The Fires Beneath the Sea was a gesture to my own childhood and to the books I’d loved, and still love, as well as to a place for which I long. And it did turn out to be an adventure: I did feel, while I was writing Cara’s story, that I was back on the Outer Cape and could smell the sea air and hear the wind moving the pines. I remembered magic is real.”

The Fires Beneath the Sea by Lydia Millet

About the Author

Lydia Millet is the author of six previous novels, including My Happy Life, which won the 2003 PEN-USA Award for Fiction, and Oh Pure and Radiant Heart, which was shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke Award. Her short story collection Love in Infant Monkeys was a 2010 Pulitzer Prize finalist.