Cover of Hidden Currents, featuring a dancer in front of a field of stars and blue and purple nebula-like clouds

About the Book

Title: Hidden Current (The Dancing Realms #1)
Published: 2020
Series: The Dancing Realms
Swoonworthy Scale: 4

Cover Story: Dancing Under The Stars
BFF Charm: Yay
Talky Talk: Praise the Maker
Bonus Factors: Ballet, Cute Monster Pet, Big Questions
Anti-Bonus Factors: Abusive Guardians, Ableism
Relationship Status: Dance Partner

Cover Story: Dancing Under The Stars

The image of a dancer under a starry sky is both book-accurate (you’ll recognize the exact scene in which it happens) and beautiful. She’s wearing the costume of the “blue form” (dance classes are organized by color) and surrounded by patterned lines that recall the strict rules of the Order, but that gravity-defying jump speaks of joy and freedom, which perfectly captures the central conflict of the book.

The Deal:

Carya has spent her whole life being trained by The Order, an elite school of dancers whose choreography literally keeps their world (a floating island called Meriel) turning. She has been taught that dancing is her highest duty, despite the severity of their rules (failed dancers are exiled and even their names forbidden), but her compassion for her fellow trainees often leaves her questioning her teachers’ methods. So does the mysterious divine voice she hears, calling out that their world is “shackled” and needs to be free. When a fisherman named Brantley sneaks into the school to rescue his little niece, who he says was taken from her family by force, Carya takes the opportunity to escape with them, hoping to find out more about her own forgotten past, the voice she hears, and the true history of the Order.

BFF Charm: Yay

Yay BFF Charm

I liked Carya from the first chapter. Her kindness, curiosity and love of dancing, versus the anxious perfectionism drilled into her by the Order, made it easy for me to sympathize with her. She’s not a rebel by nature – all she wants is a quiet life with her loved ones – so when she does break rules, it’s because of deeply held convictions that are stronger than her fears. I’d love to watch her dance or even get some lessons from her (even though I’m hopelessly unathletic), and in return, I’d reassure her that she doesn’t need to be perfect.

Swoonworthy Scale: 4

Carya’s traveling companion, Brantley, is hostile to her at first for being part of the organization that kidnapped his niece but becomes a friend and potential love interest later on. He can be arrogant and she can be closed-minded, especially at first, but they learn to love each other in spite of or even because of their arguments. She admires his practical life skills and his love for his family (he infiltrates a cult headquarters to save his niece!), and in return, he learns to appreciate her strength and empathy for everyone they meet. Not much happens physically between them – Carya’s training includes a vow of celibacy – but that makes their unspoken attraction all the more powerful.

Talky Talk: Praise the Maker

Hinck’s writing style is simple and straightforward for the most part, with flashes of real beauty when she’s describing the natural phenomena of Meriel, like star rain (meteor showers) or the taste of seawater (sweet and citrusy instead of salty – I’m no scientist, so I’ll suspend my disbelief). It’s only Carya’s prayers to the Maker, the creator-god of their universe, that sound a little silly to me. Since the Order never gave her any religious instruction, how would she know to invent flowery epithets like “Precious Maker” or “Tender of my soul”? It becomes especially jarring when she’s upset with Him, or otherwise talking to Him like a normal person. (Also, was anyone else reminded of C-3P0 from Star Wars?) 

Bonus Factor: Ballet

line of ballerinas in tutus on stage

Using dance patterns to connect with and/or control nature is a unique idea and gracefully executed. Hinck is a former ballet teacher and it shows: Carya’s strong awareness of body language allows her to communicate with people and animals in a way that feels both slightly magical and totally believable. The Order, by contrast, uses the patterns to impose their will on the landscape in a way that evokes real-life climate change controversy: what do you do when the status quo is harmful and the people in power won’t listen?

Bonus Factor: Cute Monster Pet

Brantley rides a stenella, a sea creature with a long neck and floppy ears, whom he trained to help him catch fish. I pictured her as something between a golden retriever and a Loch Ness Monster; in other words, bizarre but adorable. I also added at least one point on the Swoonworthy Scale for Brantley’s care and competence with his animal companion.

Bonus Factor: Big Questions

A bunch of white question marks on top of each other

In a world where the Maker a.k.a. God is real, why does He communicate clearly sometimes, but not most of the time? Why does He allow evil? How can people with different beliefs work together? How can a believer discern His will? This book doesn’t give us any easy answers, but it did give Carya and me a lot to think about. 

Anti-Bonus Factor: Abusive Guardians

Clenched fist pounding into a table

The Order and their soldiers abduct children, brainwash them into forgetting their families, inflict permanent injury for asking too many questions, and that’s just the first couple of chapters. There is one especially violent scene near the end that I found difficult to read. 

Anti-Bonus Factor: Ableism

The Order’s – and sometimes Carya’s – perfectionism includes pity and/or contempt for anyone considered less than perfectly healthy. Carya’s experiences do open her mind eventually, but as in real life, internalized prejudice is not easy to overcome. (Side note: Carya and Brantley meet an elderly woman with physical and mental difficulties who lives all alone, and who is later forgotten. I would have liked to see this character get some help.)

Relationship Status: Dance Partner

Book, we had a great time together. You spun me around with adventure and romance and lifted me up with spiritual reflections. I’ll take off my shoes and meet you at the center ground – regardless of some less-than-perfect patterns.

Literary Matchmaking

The Girl of Fire and Thorns (Fire and Thorns #1)

Rae Carson’s Girl of Fire and Thorns series is another high fantasy series that explores faith, politics and self-esteem, although with a very different tone.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received no compensation for this review. Hidden Current is available now.

Regina Peters works in the video game industry, but her favourite imaginary worlds are on paper. She lives in Montreal, Canada, with her family.