Sunday, August 26, 2012

Review: OF POSEIDON by Anna Banks

Galen is the prince of the Syrena, sent to land to find a girl he's heard can communicate with fish. Emma is on vacation at the beach. When she runs into Galen — literally, ouch! — both teens sense a connection. But it will take several encounters, including a deadly one with a shark, for Galen to be convinced of Emma's gifts. Now, if he can only convince Emma that she holds the key to his kingdom . . . 
My very first mermaid book, you guys! I know, I don't know how I went without one for so long either. They're everywhere!

Only we're not allowed to call them mermaids. They're Syrena, according to the book. Oh, who am I kidding? They're flipping mermaids/mermen. They've got tails. They (or at least one branch of them) can talk to fish!

Still, I understand the emphasis on the name, because Banks works hard to give her Syrena distinction from the typical tales. There's no Ariel here. Instead, there are dueling factions ("of Poseidon" Syrena vs. "of Triton" Syrena), underwater museums, ruins, betrayal, and even a real-life Atlantis (or what's left of it).

I loved the thought Ms. Banks put into their history.
Unfortunately, I had a hard time loving much else.

There's a reason I put that sentence after the jump break. SO many people love this book. I've read review after review just gushing with praise, and I wanted so badly to love the story as much as other readers have. I just couldn't, and my failure made me cranky for the rest of the day.

Of Poseidon started out fairly promisingly. We drop into the story as Emma smacks into a smokin hot boy in Florida. She wasn't watching where she was going and WHAM! Naturally, she's embarrassed, and the teasing by her best friend Chloe doesn't help matters. The boy in question is Galen, the Syrena royal mentioned in the book's synopsis, and HE gets some ribbing as well from his sister Rayna.

Emma gets in some inner zingers at her own expense before traipsing down to the water with Chloe, and then we're allowed into Galen's head to hear his side of the encounter. The whole book is dual-perspective, actually, and Banks does a great job of making sure we get a partial rehash of the big moments from each side without feeling like we're hearing the entire story twice.

I won't ruin what happened at the beach, but if you're like me, you can piece together what happens from the summary. Anyways, it was a crazy scene, very tense, and I was so excited, because if the beginning is this great, the rest of the book has to be AWESOME, right?

Meh. Not so much.

I can explain why this book didn't work for me in one sentence. I repeat, why it didn't work FOR ME. This is not an indictment. This is not an insult. In fact, what I'm about to say probably explains a great deal of the book's popularity because it uses some of the great hooks that reel a reader in (and that pun was completely unintentional).

This book is Twilight with mermaids.

I know, I know! But I couldn't escape the comparison, I just couldn't.

Let's look at the facts before us, shall we?

We have one shockingly pale girl who is unaccountably clumsy (like, run-into-a-door-and-knock-herself-out clumsy). I kept thinking some sort of Syrena-based explanation would be given, but none was forthcoming. She lives with one parent and doesn't get along with said authority figure. She doesn't have close friends. She's moody, wishy-washy, and really, really clumsy. I had to mention that one twice because we hear about it ALL THE TIME in the book. She attempts to fend off insta-love with the boy on the beach, but everyone knows it's a lost cause, because they both feel "that special spark."

Galen, on the other hand, is a tall, brooding hero. He's aloof, a bit arrogant, yet also cloyingly sweet. I think his actions are supposed to come across as protective and swoontastic, but I found him controlling and claustrophobic. He suffers from a heavy-duty case of insta-love with the aforementioned heroine and becomes blindingly enraged when any male shows interest in her.

Galen has a sister - Rayna - who, on the one hand, seems sweet and genuinely mourns when any living thing is killed. Except for, you know, when she's being a spiteful, needle-tongued witch.

Syrena can sense one another across great distances. They also live incredibly long, and their skin is so tough that they can break hurricane-proof glass and dive into sub-zero water without feeling cold. I half-expected them to start climbing trees or playing extremely loud baseball next.

And don't even get me started on the story itself. It was such a great premise. Emma learns she can talk to fish and therefore must be at least part Syrena - more specifically, a Syrena from the branch of Poseidon. Her branch of the family is at war with Galen's branch, and the only way to mend it is for a Syrena with the Gift (talking to fishies) to marry the king of the Triton side, Galen's brother.

Great, right? You've got some nice politics in there plus a seemingly insurmountable barrier between Emma and Galen. She can't fall for him if she has to marry his brother. So bring on the strife! Bring on the in-fighting! We've got some great consequences to juggle.

Again, not so much. The story was all about Emma learning to use her gifts. I like that the book didn't skip over the shock of learning that she might be a member of a mythical species, but the entire book? When Emma wasn't balking orders and trying to dive on her own, we were subjected to all this will-they-won't-they junk, not only from Emma and Galen but also from Rayna and her mate Toraf.

Control issues, manipulation, immaturity, communication snafus, pride, arrogance, out and out rudeness, it was all there. So dysfunctional, the lot of them. And that was the whole book. All that high-stakes political stuff? Sure, there was a bit of undersea Syrena stuff, but it all felt like an afterthought. I missed being able to ride the crest of the story arc.

WHERE WAS MY ARC?! While we're at it, where were my twists? Because sure, there were twists, but I guessed them from chapters away, and it was incredibly frustrating to have to wait for the characters to catch up. There wasn't even a bad guy!

The problem about the internet is you guys can't see how genuinely upset I am about all this. I wanted to like this book! In fact, I feel incredibly cheated by my own tastes, because so many others DID like this book, and I feel like I'm missing out.

Sigh. So yeah, that's my take. But a lot of people say that a bad review often makes them want to read the book more so that they can make up their own mind, so I hope that's the case with you all. A crazy amount of people loved this book, and I'll be tickled pink if every last one of you reads the book and decides that I don't know a cotton-pickin' thing.

Points Added For: The Titanic - the historical event, not the movie. The Syrenas having Mediterranean coloring and not the cliched purple/green/blue/pink hair.

Points Subtracted For: So I don't get any crankier, I'll say no comment. I said enough in the review.

Good For Fans Of: The Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer, Firelight by Sophie Jordan, insta-love, mermaids.

Notes For Parents: Language, makeout scenes, manipulative authority figures, drinking (if I remember correctly).

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