Monday, September 3, 2012

SIREN'S STORM


Review of SIREN'S STORM by LISA PAPADEMETRIOU
(review based on an advance reading copy)

Papademetriou doesn't waste pages. The story dives in headfirst with a car collision, strong sensory detail, and talented character building. As I continued reading, it became apparent that this book might be a little less fantasy and more focused on suspense. Oh, it's definitely fantasy, but that element doesn't come into play for quite a while, so those of you looking for the sirens from the title, be patient. Instead, there's an accumulation of strange events, characters, and clues leading our protagonists to fantastical conclusions. Even with the fantasy details set aside, the book has a fast pace throughout. I also found myself impressed with exactly how Papademetriou handled the magic in her story. As a reader, I'm always willing to put skepticism on hold regarding how quickly characters in a world similar to our own jump to the conclusion "MAGIC!" in a fantasy book, since usually that quick jump from mundane to magical keeps the plot moving along. However, Gretchen and Will's reactions to the bizarre struck me as much more realistic. Part of why it takes so long for the fantasy element to really step forward is because neither Gretchen nor Will is the type of person who might assume strange = magical. Their journey from "That's odd." to "That's magic!" felt plausible and fresh.

Many scenes in SIREN'S STORM feel so vivid and tangible that it's almost like spying on real people. Papademetriou has an admirable knack for capturing volumes in one small observation: a detail about the room's layout, a perfectly described smell or sensation, an apt gesture. I especially love the contrast between dialogue and inner monologue. The book dips into both Gretchen and Will's perspectives and both of them frequently think much more than they say. It's entertaining and insightful reading some of their blander, clipped conversations and comparing what's said with all that neither of them will voice.

The foremost strength of the book rests in the characters and their relationships. (Or is the writing the best part? Too much to love!) Even minor characters have the sense of greater depth, their own lives with their own problems, everything interconnected in a big, complicated world.

The suspense builds with each unsettling event and crazy, hesitant theories harden into dangerous facts. The tension rises to a violent climax of action and revelations and, of course, that key element: emotion. Even the ending's structure feels distinctive, though more on that later, in my review of the sequel, FURY'S FIRE.

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