From Goodreads: Galen, a Syrena prince, searches land for a girl he’s heard can communicate with fish. It’s while Emma is on vacation at the beach that she meets Galen. Although their connection is immediate and powerful, Galen’s not fully convinced that Emma’s the one he’s been looking for. That is, until a deadly encounter with a shark proves that Emma and her Gift may be the only thing that can save his kingdom. He needs her help–no matter what the risk.
This amazing read left me breathless with its cliffhanger, and I honestly can say that I couldn’t put the book down, nor did I want to! I’m already highly awaiting the sequel and the first book hasn’t even technically released yet; it’s just that good!
I think what really drew me into the story was the gruesome shark scene. Banks first introduces readers to Emma and her friend Chloe as they make their way to the beach on vacation. From the synopsis, it is plain that something terrible is going to happen involving a shark, but it isn’t until the two friends make their way into the ocean that the panic begins to overtake the reader. We know it’s coming, but we don’t want it to. And then it comes, a bit graphic, though I really liked how Banks portrayed it. Though bloody and ultimately leaving Emma is a state of shock, especially with the loss of her best friend, I was thankful that the author made it a quick scene. It also happens early enough in the story to pique interest, and the reader hasn’t yet learned to love the character that dies, so while it’s impossible not to feel bad for all the characters, it doesn’t leave the reader feeling destitute, or taint his/her thoughts throughout the reading. While I was a bit shocked by the violent end that Chloe endured, and the detail that went into it (I think all death scenes of innately good people leave readers a bit flustered), I think it was a great way to draw in the audience.
My favorite type of narrative is first person, and I loved that Banks chose to write most of her novel from Emma’s point of view. Now, the text does alternate between Emma’s point of view, and that of Galen’s, but when it comes to Galen, there is a switch to third person. It’s a little strange in regards to the flow of the story, but Banks is not the first to use this strategy when writing. I’ve actually seen it in a lot of books over the last year here, where alternating viewpoints range between first and third person. I’m not sure why this is, but although it’s jarring, it’s actually kind of nice at the same time. The reader is able to not only get the first person thoughts of Emma, but also see the situation through a third person omniscient speaker, who takes the reader from being right in the middle of the story, to more of a bird’s eye view. This back and forth storytelling actually gives the reader more details, in my opinion, though I do admit it’s something one has to get used to.
This probably sounds strange, but I actually really loved the anxiety that this novel made me feel as I read it. Though not a horror story, not even close, there was a constant feeling of trepidation that surrounded me as I read—partially because anything to do with sharks and the ocean gives me the creeps, and partially because Banks adds an unknown entity to the novel, a shadow, if you will, that constantly follows Emma through the ocean. Unsensed by the others until it is already gone, the stalker gave me goose bumps and I half expected an arm to reach out of the water at any moment and attack Emma. As I’m deathly afraid of the ocean, you can see how my overactive imagination ran rampant with this scare.
Of course, I loved the budding romance and the pacing. Banks did a great job explaining how things worked in Syrena, who Emma was, and though I wasn’t a fan of the whole “you must do what authority tells you” thing (just like Emma), I think Galen played it off well and wasn’t overbearing in the least. I love him—he’s so dreamy! In terms of other characters, I enjoyed Emma (though I wish I was her—how cool to control the animals in the ocean?), and Galen’s twin, Rayna, while originally obnoxious, grew on me as I read, especially as she began to warm to the idea of her suitor, Toraf, and I just loved how that all came together. It brought a smile to me face.
The cliffhanger, of course, left me breathless, though I have to admit I figured it out just a moment before the characters. There is just enough foreshadowing to make the reader wonder if perhaps there is more to the story than originally told, but it’s not so obvious that it stands out from the get go. I cannot wait for the sequel to see what is in store for Galen, Emma, and all of Syrena after such a big revelation! This novel is, in my opinion, a must read for all ages! Five stars.
Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group has been extremely gracious in allowing me to read a copy of this novel, via Netgalley, prior to its release on May 22, 2012.