Review originally published here
.Why I Read It:
This was the April selection for Calico Reaction's
Theme Park book club. You may also have noticed that this isn't actually on my review cue (over on the left). That's because I actually just finished this last night. I bumped it up and decided to review it today because I'd rather review a book club pick while it's still fresh in my mind. :) There will probably be spoilers, so read ahead with caution.
I have to admit, when I first started reading this I found it was SO SLOW. The first couple of chapters chronicling Henry's abandonment and then err.. adoption? by the Allards, felt like they meandered at times. I *liked* learning about the merpeople during Henry's very early years, and I liked the story of how the Venetians made their pact with the deepsmen, but the rest of those beginning chapters felt slow-moving: we get to see Henry's thought-processes in excruciating detail and it's a lot of him being angry, tearing stuff up, and trying to figure out what the hell is going on. I am forgiving of this slow beginning though because it really is necessary in characterizing Henry.
Once we get to the second part of the novel which introduces us to Anne's POV I found things picked up a bit. It's where the political intrigue is introduced, and we get to see how things work in the court. It's still not action-packed or anything -- it's very much about the political machinations of the court -- but Anne was an extremely likable heroine, so reading her story arc was really enjoyable. She starts off as a meek and quiet girl who tries to hide behind her less-than stellar looks and anxieties to keep out of harm's way, but she really grows into her own and learns to be independent and really seizes her agency; she refuses to be a pawn in a game and vies to take control while still maintaining her moral integrity (though she often questions that as well, though she never becomes indecisive). By the time her and Henry meet and hatch their own plan I was already so invested in her story and was quite hooked (heh) by that point.
So as you can probably already tell, I liked Anne quite a bit more than Henry. I tried to be sympathetic towards him -- he was thrust out of the sea and into the arms of people who keep him hidden constantly and rarely give him answers -- but he was such a BRAT sometimes. He's very demanding and entitled and it drove me up a wall sometimes. His friendship with John redeemed him somewhat in that it made him more likable, but he was still bossy towards him. I never once found myself rooting for him to take the throne, and when I was, it was for Anne's sake. As much as Henry drove me kind of crazy though, I did admire his resolution at times; his refusal to lie for the sake of appearances, and his disdain for court politics elevated him in my eyes, even when I wanted to shake him for being so stubborn and unchanging. So even though I never loved Henry, he wasn't a BAD character, nor did he mar my liking of the story. I never warmed up to him, but I understood why he was the way he was.
Despite there being such a focus on characters in this novel I should mention the awesome world-building. I love that this is a world ruled by people who are half mermaid and half human (though Anne's relatives are so in-bred I'm not sure if that's entirely accurate). The "origin" story of Angelica and the Venetians was awesome and I loved it, and the fact that other nations would want such a strong pact with the deepsman makes so much sense, especially when you consider that places like England and Scotland are islands, and that half of France borders the ocean. The rituals involved with the royalty and the deepsman was also really cool, and everything just felt really well thought out; it honestly felt like that reality could be TRUE if merpeople actually existed.Final Verdict:
This book was a definite win for me. It started out really slow, but it didn't take too long for things to pick up, and when they did, they REALLY did. I was much more invested in Anne's story arc than in Henry's, but that didn't tarnish my enjoyment of the novel as a whole. Even though I wasn't Henry's biggest fan, he wasn't a BAD character and he had some redeeming qualities that added some layers to him, even though he was so stubborn and unchanging. The world-building was another great aspect of the novel where beings who are half merpeople and half human rule the courts, and it was AWESOME. It made a lot of sense to me and was so well conceived and thought out that it felt like something that could actually happen. So yeah, I really enjoyed this book and definitely want to check out Whitfield's other novel Benighted