“Miranda!” Eleanor shrieked again, her voice piercing the air like a siren. From far off, Miranda could hear a dog bark. “Don’t do that. You know if you need to go swimming, you should have Louisa watching you.” Eleanor shook her head. “I’m worried about you. This isn’t normal. Dr. Dorn says that this isn’t healthy. You need to get back into your routines, into your life.”
Miranda swam over to the side of the pool and blinked up at Eleanor. “I said I was sorry,” she said in a low voice. In the semi-darkness, she noticed that her fingers gripping the gutter of the pool were ghostly white. The air was chilly, even though the water was a temperature-controlled eighty degrees. “I’m fine,” she repeated, a steely edge to her voice.
Author: Anna Davies
Synopsis: Born on the mainland and orphaned young, Miranda has always been out of place on tiny Whym Island—but when she’s involved in a boat wreck that takes the life of several of her friends, she goes from out of place to outright ostracized. Her only comforts are in swimming and in Christian, the stranger who saved her life the night of the wreck. But Christian has his secrets, and Miranda doesn’t dare believe in who he claims to be—nor in the sea witch who intends to kill both of them.
Notes: The cover and premise of this book caught my attention recently, and I made a point of tracking down a copy. The mythology Davies created around her setting—a touristy South Carolina island with strange, unchartable tides and a lot of local legends about a sea witch—is laid out in a beautiful prologue, which immediately hooked me on the storyline. I plunged into the first chapter, intrigued by the ominous feel.
To my surprise, the rest of the book read like a rough draft, suggesting that the author has good ideas but lacks technique. The first chapter showed strong signs of potential character development, but most of the interesting characters died at the end of it. Thereafter, inexplicable behavior progressions and disjointed dialogues were common. Occasional bits of story were summarized rather than narrated. The plot was woven neatly in the first chapter, but threads eventually worked free of the narrative and flapped aimlessly in the sea breeze. It became obvious halfway through that the overall setups were much too frayed to be tied up properly at the end.
My experiences with teen paranormal romances suggest that this sort of thing is fairly common. More startling, though, is how unedited the work is, especially coming from a top-tier publisher like Simon & Schuster. One small church is consistently referred to as “Cavalry Chapel”; I’m at a loss to know who or what to blame for a mistake like that. And I have spent years scolding fellow aspiring writers for capitalizing pronouns combined with dialogue tags after terminal punctuation and close quotes. This is all one sentence, and should be treated as such:
“Sephie!” He called as the wind whipped his face.These, and similar, errors would have been overlookable if they’d occurred once, but they iterated throughout till I gave up trying to read and began skimming. Unless the copy I got was pre-copy edit and final print run, which is unlikely but possible, I find this hard to excuse.
I felt bad, though. I liked Miranda very much at first; I would have liked to have understood her latter motivations better. Christian fascinated me, not least because of his very un-mythological name, but I never could decide what to make of what seemed like obvious but inept attempts at Christian symbolism—or, considering that the author couldn’t spell Calvary Chapel, possibly a subversion thereof.
Finally, the book bears two clear influences: Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid and Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight. Regarding the latter, overt homage—often juxtaposed with overt scorning of the more un-P.C. sides of Meyer’s story—is unbelievably common among current paranormal romances and urban fantasies, and is nearly always distracting. It certainly is in this case, the biggest offense being Christian’s “sparkly” skin, which, as he was an underwater creature, could have passed muster had it been done with any subtlety or logic or even thoughtful description.
Regarding the Andersen tale, I’m not sure whether to praise the author for having the courage to stick vaguely to the original in the end, or whether to express a very non-vague frustration at how badly the ending to the original sucks. There’s some redemption to Davies’ finale, but it’s not the startling visions of wonderful things that might have made the turbulent ride seem bearable in retrospect.
It’s really too bad. It was a great story idea, and Davies’ latent talent could surely have developed enough with time to give the concept and characters what they deserved. Maybe her next book will be better.
But I still like the cover. And the prologue.
Recommendation: It’s like me playing sonatinas on the piano: enthusiastic, sometimes expressive, but uneven and inaccurate and prone to jarring chords or abrupt halts in the more difficult passages. Read as you choose, just don't expect technical perfection.