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YA, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Paranormal Romance, 303 pages, Delacorte Books for Young Readers
- Series: 1st in Lies Beneath
- Pub date: June 12th 2012
- Disclosure: Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley. Thanks!
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 prey on humans, killing them to absorb their energy. But this summer the underwater clan targets Jason Hancock out of pure revenge. They blame Hancock for their mother's death and have been waiting a long time for him to return to his family's homestead on the lake. Hancock has a fear of water, so to lure him in, Calder sets out to seduce Hancock's daughter, Lily. Easy enough — especially as Calder has lots of practice using his irresistible good looks and charm on unsuspecting girls. Only this time Calder screws everything up: he falls for Lily — just as Lily starts to suspect that there's more to the monsters-in-the-lake legends than she ever imagined. And just as his sisters are losing patience with him.The Long...
It's cliche advice in YA: your first ten pages are critical. Polish them first, and the rest comes later. Better make them good or you'll lose your reader, and so on and so forth. The thing about this cliche? It's absolutely true, and even with my expert slogging techniques that can get me through all but the most insufferable slow beginnings, it's still a delight to find a book with a first chapter as tightly crafted and riveting as Lies Beneath's.
The story unfolds eerily, with the pieces of Brown's intriguing mermaid mythology falling into place in slow motion. She gives us just enough to keep going, but never enough to infodump. Calder is an enigma even as he shares his story in the first person, and best of all, Brown fully embraces the creepy stalker aspect of paranormal romance instead of attempting to explain her hero's behavior away. Calder is aware that what he's doing is wrong, and he could help it, but he chooses not to--he decides to be creepy, to get that job at the coffeeshop, to follow Lily home--and we forgive him, despite our better judgment. He and his sisters are so compellingly not human, in the tradition of the best fairy tales, that we are captivated. We don't fully understand their need for revenge, but we, too, seek blood.
Of course the story derails right around the time Calder and the somewhat bland Lily (spoiler alert) fall in love--is that really a spoiler, though?--when we descend into extended chaste kissing and snuggling scenes, and a somewhat predictable emotional and action-packed climax. Still, the sheer volume of mermaid romance stories told since time immemorial make it difficult to do anything exactly fresh with the material, and Brown does an admirable job with what she has been given.
One of my personal favorite quirks of this story is its setting on Lake Superior, instead of the more traditional mermaid setting on a sunny beach. While I've never been to the Apostle Islands, I've spent a great deal of time on Superior's North Shore, and I can say firsthand that its rocky foreboding is the perfect place for the homicidal mermaid revenge fantasy romance subgenre.
All in all, it's one of the better paranormal romance novels out there, especially for those who like assassination attempts along with their flirty banter.
...and the Short:
Not your typical mermaid story--tightly plotted and crafted, with an engaging and enigmatic narrator. Even if the story descends into well-trodden paranormal romance territory about halfway through, it's still great fun in a gorgeous setting.
The Final Word: Liked it.