Friday, March 30, 2012

WAKING STORMS


Review of WAKING STORMS by SARAH PORTER
(second in the LOST VOICES trilogy, review based on advance reading copy)

I adored the first book in this trilogy, LOST VOICES, but Porter raises the bar even higher with WAKING STORMS. As amazing as the book was, I find the lengthy list of characters and choices I want to discuss reigned in by my reluctance to give away too much. I lamented once, in my very first review on this blog actually, that mermaid fiction often circles the same plot formulas, but not WAKING STORMS! This series is utterly fresh, unique, and unpredictable. Not to mention layered. There are so many twists and climatic events all linked together in unexpected ways that it's easy to start revealing a little of the beginning and find I've outlined the entire book!

Suffice it to say: the boy’s back. Know who I mean? The boy Luce rescued, despite mermaid law forbidding such actions. Due to the unpredictable nature of this story, I honestly didn't know if we would ever hear more from him again. Certainly it seemed probable and highly possible that the boy Luce saved would come back to haunt her, but at the same time I could just as easily imagine that transgression fading into the back of Luce's mind, influencing her actions at crucial points in her life. However, WAKING STORMS actually opens in Dorian's perspective and he plays almost as great a role as Luce as the story shifts between their two viewpoints.

It shouldn't be that terrible a spoiler to reveal that a romance develops between Luce and Dorian. (The back cover tells you this, anyway.) However, Porter addresses a key question that similar young adult mortal/mythical romances annoyed me by sidestepping: does Dorian even love Luce or is he enchanted by her? Certainly, she doesn't intentionally manipulate him with magic, but her very nature not to mention Dorian's occasional obsessive, clingy, and desperate behavior hint that this isn't love - it's something else, a possibility that hurts Luce in ways she didn't know she could hurt anymore.

Along with a complicated but well-handled romance, tension builds between Luce and the tribe she abandoned despite her rightful claim as queen, characters I thought long gone make shocking re-appearances and characters I hoped would re-appear remain gone, new human girls turn to mermaids, Luce meets mermaids much older than her, we learn more of mermaid origin as well as how strictly other tribes adhere to the timahk, characters I feared would betray Luce help her at their own detriment while characters I entirely believed she could trust betray her, and, last but not least, the FBI might be on the verge of discovering the existence of mermaids, perhaps due to Luce’s violation of the timahk when she rescued Dorian.

Porter impresses me by avoiding even the slightest hint of a didactic tone anywhere in this series, a mistake especially common in young adult. Each characters becomes a person - ahem, or mermaid - with individual strengths, flaws, opinions, and morals, and Porter keeps judgment out of the equation, allowing readers to reach their own conclusions. There isn't a single character in this book that I agreed with 100% of the time, but neither is there a single pure evil antagonist. (Um, Anais comes close, though.) While I can always understand the logic and emotions behind characters' decisions everyone possesses that all too human capability to make choices that seem right at the time, but have disastrous consequences they didn’t predict.

However, my favorite aspect of this work has to be the incredible, fantastical metaphors for real problems young adults and adults alike face. Sex is a great example. Luce and Dorian lust for each other, but Luce's mermaid figure isn't designed for sex. This leads to the fear that Dorian might leave her for a human girl who IS capable of having sex, a dilemma that brings to mind when boys in real life leave a girlfriend who isn't ready for sex for a girl who is. Then there's Luce's concern that Dorian doesn't really love her, a concern we can see mirrored around us for countless reasons. Whether the "enchantment" is beauty, wealth, fame etc, many people struggle with similar fears to Luce's: does he love me for me? If not, would he stay if I lost what enchants him? In Luce's case, she's considering ill-advised, experimental attempts to turn human again. Along with the fact that Luce isn't even sure that's what she wants, she can't help wondering if Dorian would still love her if she lost the magical appeal of being a mermaid. And let's not forget the mermaid Nausicaa, a new addition in WAKING STORMS. Since Nausicaa has lived for thousands of years, she believes she can foresee the end results of Luce's decisions; after all, she claims, she has seen other mermaids make the same decisions more times than Luce can imagine. This puts me in mind of how adults often claim to "know what's best" for teenagers, simply because they have more life experience. "I know this story," Nausicaa tells Luce. While she might be right, Nausicaa's statement still smacks of self-righteous arrogance and Luce insists, "But I don't know this story."

The ending of WAKING STORMS is even more climatic than LOST VOICES. It teeters right on the edge of being frustrating for cutting off so abruptly while still finding a relatively nice closure point in an increasingly messy plot. I cannot wait to get my hands on the third and final book in the trilogy and, as I'm finding common with this series, I have absolutely no idea what's going to happen next.

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