REVIEW: The Rebellious Tide by Eddy Boudel Tan

Sebastien’s search for his father leads him to a ship harbouring a dangerous secret.

Sebastien has heard only stories about his father, a mysterious sailor who abandoned his pregnant mother thirty years ago. But when his mother dies after a lifetime of struggle, he becomes obsessed with finding an explanation — perhaps even revenge.

The father he’s never met is Kostas, the commanding officer of a luxury liner sailing the Mediterranean. Posing as a member of the ship’s crew, Sebastien stalks his unwitting father in search of answers as to why he disappeared so many years ago.

After a public assault triggers outrage among the ship’s crew, Sebastien finds himself entangled in a revolt against the oppressive ruling class of officers. As the clash escalates between the powerful and the powerless, Sebastien uncovers something his father has hidden deep within the belly of the ship — a disturbing secret that will force him to confront everything he’s always wondered and feared about his own identity.


Queer fiction, self-discovery, crime solving, based on cruise ship


​I really enjoyed Boutel-Tan’s first book “After Elias.” It is a clever book filled with emotion and it’s very well-written. I didn’t feel the same connection to Boutel-Tan’s second novel, The Rebellious Tide.

When his mother passes away, Sebastian Goh embarks upon a journey to find his absent father. He knows who his father is, but his mother has revealed very little over the  years. Sebastian finds his father is Captain on a cruise ship and wrangles himself a position as ship photographer. Once he’s onboard, an attempted assault by one of the officers sparks off a mystery that carries through the rest of the novel.

To begin with what I enjoyed about this story I will start with the cruise ship environment. I really felt as though it was an interesting setting for a story. The confined space and limited population allowed the author to speed up some of the plot without it seeming too unbelievable. I quite liked the “found family” sensibility that most of the staff had although it did seem as though Sebastian became “one of them” entirely too quickly.

I feel as though the pacing of the story suffered by the POV switching that happened on occasion. It was a little disconcerting and I wasn’t quite sure why the author chose to switch narrators. Sometimes, it was very jarring and took me a bit of time to realize I was no longer reading Sebastian’s voice.

I really liked the way that the author described the small town that Sebastian grew up in. The flashbacks were my favorite part of the story. The closeness and sometimes suffocating small-town environment was conveyed really well. Sebastian had never fit in and perhaps that is why he seemed to quickly accept the “found-family” atmosphere of the cruise ship.

As the story unfolds, I found it a bit difficult to keep track of some of the characters. There were multiples officers, dancers, staff and I had trouble keeping track.

The main relationship in the book is between Sebastian and the officer who is head of security, Nikos. I’m afraid I found it went from 0 to 60 amazingly quickly and I found it difficult to buy into it. They met, hooked up and were suddenly referring to each as Achilles and Patroclus like love-sick teenagers. It was all a bit overwhelming and I couldn’t suspend my disbelief to buy into their bond.

Sebastian is an interesting character but I found that I certainly didn’t “like” him. That’s not necesarilly a bad thing, but I find it deifficult to write anyhing pleasant about him. I thought he was maniulative, aggressive, at one points he terrifies and threatens a child. More than wanting to discover what his father is like, he seems to want to destroy everything around his father. Ther’s very little interaction between Sebastian and his father, although his father does eventually reveal that he has known who Sebastian was all along. I found the whole thing very strange.

The mystery/ crime plot that runs parallel to the self-discovery of Sebastian is almost like a different book sometimes. There is a crime being perpetrated on the cruise ship – it’s clever… and makes sense as the kind of crime that would lend itself well to being at home on a cruise ship. But, I found the crime story and the family issue became tangled almost in a forced way. I feel as though there would have been a really engaging story if the author had simply stuck with writing about Sebastian’s discovery of his past without him becoming almost a crime fighting super hero.

Even though there was a fair amount that didn’t work for me, I finished this book because I wanted to know what would become of the relationship between Sebastian and the others. I was a little disappointed with the ending as it felt a bit rushed.


Things You May Want To Know: Please be aware, I’m by no means an expert on what may or may not have the potential to disturb people. I simply list things that I think a reader might want to be aware of. In this book: (SPOILERS) violence, violence again a child, father disowns child, abandonment by parent, adult threatens child, infidelity, domestic abuse is alluded to, betrayal, lying, death of family member



Goodreads || Author || Publisher

I received an ARC of The Rebellious Tide  by Eddy Boudel Tan from Dundurn Press via Netgalley in exchange for an unbiased review.

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