This was one of my more highly anticipated books of last year (because hello? Fairy tale freak. This is not news to anyone.), and it's sort of shameful that I am just now posting a written review. (Though yes, I did have a mini vlogged one here. But still.) I feel like I've talked about this book a lot, but nothing's all official-like until I write about it. So.
This was my favorite Jackson Pearce book to date. I've enjoyed everything I've read by her, but there's always been something a teensy bit off for me, especially in her endings. As short as her books are, they seem to lose steam a bit at the end, which is disappointing on its own, of course, but more so considering how much I enjoy them up to the steam-loss. But while Fathomless isn't perfect by any means, its come the closest to being exactly what I wanted from it. It has this really good dark streak that is perfectly suited to both the original tale and to the world Pearce has set up in her retellings series. There's this quality of a car crash in remarkably slow motion, a great sense of foreboding over the whole story, that creates excellent tension, and Pearce uses that to get at the unhappiness and emptiness at the core of The Little Mermaid - and is it weird to say I was so very happy to see that? This aspect is one of the things I potentially love most about a fairy tale retelling (especially one as dark as TLM(1)), but it's also often one of the most disappointing and neglected aspects. Modern audiences are so out of touch with original fairy tales that retellings that make use of the actual endings and tones are considered novel and creative, rather than traditional. We've been Disneyfied, and I'm on a tangent, so I'm going to rein myself in and just wrap that up by saying, I love it when a retelling is more traditionally bleak(2)... Fortunately Pearce capitalizes on it, to which I say THANK GOD. This is what I wanted from a TLM retelling. It's a little off. It's a little disturbing. Perfect.
A big part of what makes this work is the characters. The sisters and the romance are means to an end, but the "3" main characters (one of them being a 2-in-1 deal...) are what make this story what it is. How they interact with/react to each other and their colliding worlds, and how they use each other to make sense of their lives - and in a desperate attempt to break away from the things holding them back - is what gives this story that car-crash feeling. It's impossible for them to all get what they want, to all have their HEA(3), but you're made to care for each of them, damaged as they are. And so you know pain is coming, and it's simply a matter of degrees... It leaves you a little conflicted(4) because you both see flaws and feel sympathy for each of them, which makes things excellently ambiguous. Add to this an overall dark tone and sort of desperate, lonely, magical atmosphere with not all of the loose ends tied up, and you've got a book nicely calculated to make for Happy Mistys.(5)
This complements the rest of the series very well, but can also be read completely as a standalone, which is excellent for readers wanting who've been wanting to pick these up, or even just Fathomless specifically, but weren't sure about making a series committment. Though all of the stories are linked, and they will expand the readers understanding of the rest, they work perfectly as potential companion novels to be read on their own. You don't have to feel tied down by them, or obligated to read them (to know what's going on or to have closure), which is something I really like from a series of this type. So if you've liked Pearce in the past or have been wanting to give her a try, I think you can't really go wrong with Fathomless.
1. Originally, of course. I love me some Alyssa Milano-Ariel as much as the next 80s kid, but in case you didn't know, Disney changed the story a whole lot. Like, it's actually a real bummer... 2. Ok, nothing's going to keep me from sounding weird, so whatever. I like the sad, tortured feels.†
3. Happily Ever After. 4. Unless you don't root for non-humans, maybe? I'm not always Team Human. 5. 1 out of 1 Mistys agree. † What's this? A note within a note? Yeah, I only like those feels in fairy tales. Add 'em to some YA PNR and I might have to cut you....more
The Vicious Depp dammit every time Deep popped up on my radar when this happened, and from that point, I knew I hadto read it. And by the time that unThe Vicious Depp dammit every time Deep popped up on my radar when this happened, and from that point, I knew I had to read it. And by the time that un-happened and a new cover was born, it was so firmly planted in my to-read wishlist that I found myself becoming a member of the Bloggers of the Deep street team. And for that, I am glad.
The Vicious Deep is a very engaging, somewhat unusual take on mermaids. Riding the crest of the wave of what looks to be a pretty good mermaid craze, TVD forgoes the expected female heroine and her mysteries of the deep, and follows instead an unsuspecting male lead who finds himself in over his head. [You see what I did there? Okay, I'll stop.] Tristan is likeable: charmingly flawed, self-deprecating yet cocky, typical teenage fuck-up and stunner all in one. He's one of those guys that, even while you know they're playing you, you can't help but sigh and bat your lashes. That guy. And because of that, when he finds himself tossed into this completely unexpected situation where he has to actually put himself out there and try at something that had never even entered his head, it comes together with the way he'd begun to think about his life and trying there, too. And it just works.
His narration is nearly pitch-perfect. It had a very friend-like feel, like chatting with your besties and the jackasses you hung out with as a teen. It's a little colloquial and just - authentic feeling, for the most part. (I'm not now, nor have I ever been, a teenage boy who has just found out he's a mermaidman, so I can't speak to how completely authentic it is...) It's just very funny and cheeky and teenagery in a not-so-angsty way (and AMEN for that). The voice is just great. It played well off of the other characters, too, which I think was one of the strong points of the novel. I really enjoyed the characters and their interactions, and the fact that there is some gray area within them. Tristan is not always a shining hero, (for all that he is shiny), and some of the more dubious, possibly villainous characters turn out to be pretty okay (I love Gwen! #GwenFTW!)
The characters draw you in, but I think the story is enjoyable in other respects, too. At its heart, it's a good, rollicking adventure story with a bit of heart and charm at the core; a thread of romancifulness and a dash of badassery. It's something that will appeal to both genders, I think, and could easily transition to the big screen. It's a bit of a more grown-up Percy Jackson - a little less wholesome and cutesy, and a little more...vicious, with a mythology all its own and solid, enjoyable world-building.
For awhile, I was held back a little bit by the necessity of the story. There were questions, the foremost being, Why does Tristan need to become Sea King? Why should he even care, and how is he in ANY way qualified? (I come from a Kingless place, you'll remember. We stopped believing in de jure divine some time ago...) But where so many YA books wouldn't have addressed it, Córdova DID, and that won me over big time. Someone flat-out asks Tristan why he gives a flying fuck (? swimming shi-..nevermind), and he actually does stop to consider the choice he could make (to ignore it, to let someone else deal with it, to wonder what his place is in all of it), and then makes a decision based on heart and instinct. I respected that; not only that he is choosing to go down this path, but that he (and Córdova) recognizes that there would be questions and other paths, and that thought does need to go into the decision. This got points, friends. Points* in the meaningless scoreboard that is my head.
I have to say, there will be those that are put off by the fact that there's a lot of build up for not all that much accomplished in the end. I don't want this to sound like nothing happens; I just mean there's a lot still in the air at the end, and the story has really just begun. But it's a trilogy, so that's something any regular reader should see coming a mile (fathom?) away. Also, I think it made for good world-building, and things would have been much less believable and weighty if everything had been solved in this book and tied up with a pretty little bow. Things can happen a little quicker now in the rest of the series, and still have a good foundation as a result of the time spent building the story in this first book. So I didn't have an issue with where things stand at the end, but it just bears mentioning, I think.
So yeah. The Vicious Deep. Fun for a girl and a boy. (Though I still wish it had this cover. Though I know it would pretty much mean =/= fun for boys, cause they'd never pick it up...)
*1000 points redeemable for a slinky or sticky slap-hand. Winners choice!
Even though I'm normally a little hesitant about books that have really pretty covers and lots of excited squeeing attached, when this came out last yEven though I'm normally a little hesitant about books that have really pretty covers and lots of excited squeeing attached, when this came out last year, it went straight on my wishlist. To balance the squeeing, I did see some pretty thorough reviews from trusted people, so I figured there was a good chance I would like this one, despite the pretty cover curse. So imagine my delight when the Polish Outlander sent it to me for Christmas!
Just after Christmas, I was in a little bit of a reading funk. Even though I have a lot of great stuff that I'm excited to read, and even though I know there are a lot of books on my TBR that I'm fairly sure I will like (some even love), I just couldn't seem to find something to suit my mood. In fact, I couldn't even figure out what I was in the mood for; it was just one of those listless funks you go through every now and then. On New Years Eve, I was sick in bed but wide awake, and I really wanted to read something, so I grabbed a big stack of books and decided I would read a page of each, and whatever captured my attention would be the one I'd go with -- first book of the new year. Flash-forward about 5 hours, when I'm still wide awake with no idea of the time (really, really late), laughing aloud as I tear through Paranormalcy.
I'm always hesitant to write a purely glowing review. Even amidst all the good of a book, there's generally something that I caution people about. But when I think about Paranormalcy, I'm hard-pressed to come up with negatives. It was the prefect funk-breaker. The world Kiersten White creates is a lot of fun, and there is great room to grow over the course of the series, which I love. Evie is an absolutely delightful character. She's fun and fresh and youthful in such a great way, but she's rounded enough -- she begins to question and doubt enough -- to make her more dynamic and fully fleshed out. And she's a great narrator to have leading you through the book because she's got a really enjoyable voice and great sense of humor (which means White has a great sense of humor. It shows through out the book). It's a really refreshing read, and I think Evie is really relatable in such a great way, even when the circumstances she is in are not. On a purely for-fun level, I think you can do a lot worse than Paranormalcy.
But what's great is that there is more to it than that. I sense more to the story for each character that's introduced. I know there's something lurking in all of their pasts, and I love that we don't get to see all the cards. It adds depth to balance the lightness of the story. Also, White doesn't shy away from showing some heartbreak. In spite of all her kick-ass attitude and abilities, Evie has had a very lonely, sad type of life. She never really gets to be a girl, or to be care-free, and occasionally you can see the strain it causes. And there's more, and I have to be careful here, because I don't want to give anything away, but I do want to mention that I absolutely Loved (with a capital L) Evie's interactions with Vivian. A lot of YA authors -- debut ones, especially -- would have gone the easy route and made everything black and white/good and bad/right and wrong. But life is never that easy or clearly defined, and White knows this. I get Evie, and her actions and motivations, and I get Vivian's as well. The scenes with Evie and Vivian, especially towards the end, and the sadness that pervades them was really authentic and beautiful to me. Even more so because of the fact that I wasn't expecting it in such a funny-sometimes-silly book. I think Carrie Ryan captured it completely when she said "Kiersten White creates the perfect blend of light and dark." She really does.
Very nicely done; I will certainly be keeping an eye on Kiersten White....more
Some time ago, I fell in love with this cover. I was already a fan of Dolamore's from her debut, Magic Under Glass, and while I was eagerly searchingSome time ago, I fell in love with this cover. I was already a fan of Dolamore's from her debut, Magic Under Glass, and while I was eagerly searching Goodreads to see if/when I was going to get more stories about my darling little automaton, I came across this companion novel of a mermaid in love with a winged boy. And I thought, well isn't that just lovely? I mean, beyond the sheer obvious loveliness of the cover, isn't the idea of a love bridging these two contradictory worlds just lovely. [And every time I thought of it, the bit of dialogue from Ever After would pop into my head about "A bird may love a fish, signore, but where will they make their home?" "Well, we will have to give you wings!" would pop into my head...] So I put it on my wishlist and settled in for the long haul. Somewhere along the way, I had a little event with an awesome person, and got to chatting with Jaclyn Dolamore, who participated. Her lovely book that I was settled in waiting for got pushed back (because they were trying to torture us, I can only assume) - but I needn't have worried, because Jaclyn sent me a copy!
Once the drooling was over, I convinced myself to wait to read it until closer to the publication, because I know myself and I know how I will put off writing a review until I've forgotten damn near everything I wanted to say. But eventually the time came, I was finally (finally!) able to sit down and read it. And I was right, it is lovely.
Now, I was a little hesitant in the beginning. The reader is plunged into this very foreign world and though I generally like that, this is a very foreign world (they're mermaids! Things operate on a totally different level). I liked the differences; it makes sense that their world would be vastly different, and their thoughts and day-to-days concerns, would be vastly different, than anything we're familiar with on this world. That is as it should be. But things were...simpler, I guess, and I was a little lost and a little meh on the beginning. But Esmerine and her eldest sister are different, and I connected with their yearning - and the story really picks up when Esmerine leaves the water. It's a great fish out of water story (ah-ha-ha) [SO MANY PUNS. I'll stop myself now so you don't feel the need to hurt me.]
I felt like there was a good struggle. Enough is built into the world-building and the situation to make you empathize with Esmerine and wonder what is the right decision for her, even while you're hoping she makes a certain one (because no matter what we say, we're all suckers for a happy ending). Esmerine's worries and her torn feelings seemed true to her character and situation; the way she has been raised and the way she, and those around her, have been taught to think and behave, contrasted with what she feels and what she wants made it a really enjoyable story. But beyond just Esmerine, we get snippets of other characters' struggles to be true to themselves and choose happiness. I loved the glimpses we get of Alan's struggles as the book goes on - I loved that his struggles came first, actually, long before Esmerine must come to terms with what she wants, and that he tried to be really brave about his lot in life, and kind of deadened himself in a way. And again with Dosia and her struggles, which we never actually get to know about until we see their effects - Dosia's selfishness was interesting. It was necessary in that reckless, careless way that you have to be sometimes for your own happiness, and she overcomes her struggles and goes for what she wants boldly (if thoughtlessly). There's this over-arching theme of sort of following your bliss, doing what's right for you and what will bring more happiness into the world. It's this great dimension to the story, which is told very simply but slyly layered with things like this.
Another thing that I like, and this may seem silly, is that there's no real villain. I feel like, so many times villains are a crutch. Don't get me wrong, they can be great, and I love a good villain, but the fact is, that's not always life. There's not always an arch-nemesis, and doesn't need to be. This was a great example of that, because though there is some opposition in some respects, there is certainly no villain, nor even a need for one - the situational tension and misunderstandings are enough.
The few things that bothered me were fairly minor, but worth noting. Foremost, it was very brief, which is something I actually like, but - But when something is so brief, I feel like there's no excuse not to flesh things out that need fleshing. You're not over your word count, you're not cutting things just to keep it from being mammoth. In short, you have the space, so there are times when I just felt like things could have been filled a bit more, could have been fleshed and finessed a bit more. The 2nd thing is just a product of having read an ARC - there were a lot of typos and some minor plot holes that just broke me out of the story occasionally. I would actually like to reread the book as a finished copy to get the "real" feel of it, once everything is smoothed and lovely, so I can read it without getting snarled in the errors. But this drawback is, in itself, actually a good thing - I wouldn't want to reread it as a finished copy if I didn't like the story.
All in all, it's a solid companion to Magic Under Glass, and a solid story in its own right. Esmerine's growth and the visual aspects of the story and the world make this one absolutely worth it. (In fact, I would love to see mock-ups of the world!)...more