Saturday, June 23, 2012

Book Review: What Lies Beneath

Title: "What Lies Beneath"

Author: Anne Greenwood Brown

Synopsis: Calder White lives in the cold, clear waters of Lake Superior, the only brother in a family of murderous mermaids. To survive, Calder and his sisters must prey on humans and absorb their positive energy. Usually they select their victims at random, but this time around the underwater clan chooses its target for a reason: revenge. They want to kill Jason Hancock, the man they blame for their mother's death.

It's going to take the whole White family to lure the aquaphobic Hancock onto the water. Calder's job is to gain Hancock's trust by getting close to his family. Relying on his irresistible good looks and charm, Calder sets out to seduce Hancock's daughter Lily. Easy enough, but Calder screws everything up by falling in love — just as Lily starts to suspect that there's more to the monsters-in-the-lake legends than she ever imagined, and just as the mermaids threaten to take matters into their own hands, forcing Calder to choose between family and the girl he loves. One thing's for sure, whatever Calder decides, the outcome won't be pretty. (From NetGalley)

Why I picked it up: Like pretty much every other little girl who watched "The Little Mermaid" a million times as a child, I spent all my time at the pool pretending I was a
mermaid. A novel about a merman sounded interesting.

General thoughts: Though I probably should have known from the description, "What Lies Beneath" focuses heavily on the romance between Calder and Lily. I'm usually not a fan of purely relationship stories (I like it to be a side-plot, not the main plot of the novel). I think that's why I was a little bored at first, when Calder is pretty much stalking Lily and trying to make her like him.

Their relationship itself doesn't seem to form very naturally either. Lily is creeped out by Calder at first (good for her!), and Calder seems to "fall in love" with Lily after a few meetings. And then it seems Lily is all of a sudden in love with him, too. After that, though, I was more interested as the pair had to struggle to keep Calder's sisters from finding out about their relationship and also keep the girls from killing Lily's family.

Mythology: The story had hints of interesting mythology about the merpeople, but I wish there had been more. It seems like Calder and his sisters spend the majority of the book on land, when the whole reason I picked up the book in the first place was that I wanted a story about merpeople. The part I most enjoyed was the struggle at the end, where Calder is fighting under water.

Characters: I didn't particularly love any of the characters more than the others, but I didn't hate anybody either. I did like that the sisters, the "villains" of the story, were not completely evil and that they had reasons for what they were doing.

Writing: The writing itself I thought was good. There were a few spots here and there where I had to read a sentence over again because I didn't quite understand it -- the worst case being toward the end when someone was killed and I'm still not sure I understand exactly how it happened. But overall I had no major problems with the writing.
I also enjoyed the surprise "this is what was really going on" reveal at the end. I hadn't expected it, since the book had seemed mostly relationship fluff between the two main characters up until that point.

Recommend?: I'd recommend the book to anyone looking for a fast, fun read, with merpeople who are not happy creatures dancing with fish like in the Disney version.
I will probably read the planned sequel, "Water Lily," because the reveal at the end of the book piqued my interest. Here's hoping the second book will rely more heavily on interesting plot developments like that one and less on the romantic relationship aspect.

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