Thu
Jun 21 2012 4:00pm

Treading Water: Of Poseidon by Anna Banks

Of Poseidon by Anna Banks

There are days when I despair with regards to the increasing predictability of the paranormal YA genre. Girl meets Boy, Girl discovers Boy is really some sort of mysterious supernatural being, Girl falls in love with Boy, Girl discovers her own secret past/hidden powers/true destiny, Girl and Boy fight Evil, Girl and Boy have adventures and misunderstandings before overcoming Problem of the Moment and setting the stage for Book Two of YA Paranormal Romance Series #332.

I know, there are still a lot of exceptions, and to be fair, every series has something to set it apart from its fellows. But when you’re calculating the difference by what flavor of supernatural beastie the hero is, something needs to change. What I found in Of Poseidon was a promising book with a few flaws, that doesn’t quite manage to escape the template mentioned above. But this one, you see, has mermaids. So let’s dive right in.

Emma has always been drawn to the water. While surfing down in Florida, she meets Galen, a mysteriously sexy young man who’s immediately drawn to her. However, their encounter is cut short by tragedy, and Emma returns home to the Jersey shore, never expecting to see Galen again.

But then he shows up at school, and her life is turned inside out. It turns out Galen’s a prince of the Syrena, an aquatic race responsible for the mermaid myths, and he’s convinced that Emma is a long-lost member of his people, one with unique and powerful abilities. As he helps her to realize and unlock these powers, they grow close, maintaining the masquerade of a relationship to explain all the time they spend together. Before long, Emma’s fully entangled in Syrena politics, even as she masters her newfound nature. Now if only they can figure out who’s stalking her, and just how someone like her ended up on land, totally unaware of her heritage….

On the surface, this is a perfectly serviceable, if less-than-impressive start to a new series. I’d even call it inoffensive, except for something which really stuck in my craw: Emma’s best friend Chloe, described as being black, is eaten by a shark in the first thirty pages. Isn’t there some sort of moratorium against the black best friend being dispatched so quickly into a story, just so the heroine has a reason to mope on the rare occasions when she remembers? For all the focus and impact Chloe’s death has upon the story, it could have been anyone Emma knew, including her dog. It’s a sad and all-too-quick writing out of a character who seemed much more interesting than Emma herself. It’s a sour note that stuck with me as I made my way through the rest of the story.

What else can I say about Of Poseidon? I can see the appeal. It has all of the usual romantic beats and undertones I’ve come to expect from the YA paranormal romance genre. They fight, they make up, they argue, they fall in love, they go on long underwater adventures together, and eventually they overcome enough obstacles to their relationship that everything seems clear for the future. The supernatural premise does have some validity to it; mermaids are hot right now, and the ocean can be fascinating in its vast deepness and unexplored mysteries. This book is perfect for people wanting a quick fix of romance and urban fantasy.

And yet…I’ve come to demand more of my YA. As the field explodes, I’m not so easily satisfied by the same old same, and ultimately Of Poseidon fits too neatly into the same mold as its peers. Perhaps if future installments dare to take a chance, and move into the deep end of the pool, we’ll see if this series can hit its potential or if it’s destined to remain in the shallow end.

 


Michael M. Jones is a writer, editor, and book reviewer. He lives in Roanoke, VA, with a pride of cats, way too many books, and a wife who occasionally steals whatever he’s reading. For more information, visit him and an ever-growing archive of reviews at Schrodinger’s Bookshelf. He is the editor of the forthcoming anthology Scheherazade’s Facade.

2 comments
Rowan Shepard
1. Rowanmdm3
I was putting this book away on the bookshelf the other day and my roommate asked me how it was. "Good enough that I will likely read the next one, not so great that I'm recommending it to people." One of its saving graces is that there are mermaids, which I haven't read much of, so at least there's a little novelty in that. This is one of those books though, that I care more about the secondary characters than the primary ones.

SPOLIER ALERT The element that makes me want to read the next book is Emma's mom being engaged to Galen's brother; the interaction between family dynamics and politics could be really interesting in the next book.
Charliemerl
2. Charliemerl
I agree in that the death of the protagonist's best friend at the very start of the novel really wasn't dealt with enough throughout the narrative - in fact, the particularly gruesome nature of the death did not have much affect on the characters at all (I mean, come on, Emma was THERE watching her friend get mutilated ... how mentally damaging must that have been?). Her sassy, loveable best friend is more or less forgotten once the hot merman is on the scene (and really, the likelihood of being attacked by a shark is so miniscule that the whole thing seemed silly). I think Emma would have been a far more interesting and believable character if she was seen to struggle more with the loss of Chloe, not to mention with this new world/species she encounters.

Other things that grated: the lack of actual substance to Galen's character/his almost sinister possessive tendencies towards Emma, the way Emma says 'ohmysweetgoodness' about a million times (seriously, just say OMG like a normal teenager), and how obvious it seemed that Anna Banks has read Twilight and was trying to emulate it but with fish-people rather than vampires: clumsy female narrator who is "beautiful but doesn't know it", hottest guy in school (who happens to be supernatural) is magically drawn to her and ONLY her, plus supernatural character drives really expensive cars and has a weirdly-violent-but-loveable family (aggressive Rayna, mafia Rachel, smirking Torak) ...

My main problem with these kinds of supernatural YA romances: that young female protagonists are always drawn into these fatalistic relationships with jealous, possessive males that they can never believe would actually be attracted to them (which is problematic in itself for young women). Even the character of Rayna in this book (Galen's sister), goes from being a feisty against-the-grain female character to someone who is content with an arranged marriage that she fought so hard against at the start of the book.

Basically, merpeople aside, there's just not that much going on beneath the surface of this book, if ya know what I mean...

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