Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Review: Of Poseidon by Anna Banks

Goodreads review, last updated March 08, 2012

Note: A copy of this book was provided by the publishers via NetGalley. Now that this is out of the way, onto the review.

Okay, so here's the thing: I thought about not writing this review. It felt like a lot of unnecessary effort, given how much has already been said about this type of books. Also, I realized that my writing this review will make me come off as some cruel hater bitch, as there are almost no negative reviews of this book on GR, and none of them seem to be articulated.

But these days have been all about the debate on women's reproduction rights (which shouldn't even BE a subject to debate) and Russia still threatening to outlaw the word "gay", and I realized that sometimes silence is not the way out.

Of Poseidon is the story of Galen, a prince of the house of Triton, who acts as an ambassador of sorts between Syrena and humans. He and his sister come to Florida looking for what appears to be a rougue Syrena, who has broken the law of non-fraternizing with humans, and find Emma - a seemingly human girl who just so happens to fight off and order away a shark. 

As it turns out, Emma's powers are not only unusual for humans, but also for Syrena. In fact, hers is a gift that is believed to be extinct, and her having it means that she would have to mate Galen's older brother Grom. Which is a problem since Galen has the "tingles" for her.

Okay, first things first, this is a YA PNR book, which means that it rides directly on the wave of Twilight and its brethren. Not all of the books in the genre are bad - in fact, Unearthly and Angelfall have proven that subversions of the genre can work, and going into this, I hoped that it would be one of those pleasant surprises. Unfortunately, Of Poseidon sticks to the trends to an alarming degree and ends up reinforcing some of the worst traits of the genre.

What I didn't mention in the summary was that Emma's powers manifest themselves when a shark kills off her best friend, Chloe, who also happens to be black. So not only is Emma deprived of a healthy, normal female influence in her life, the token character doesn't get to live to chapter ten. And, here's the kicker, she's also not remembered once the romance gets on the way.

And if it hasn't become morbidly obvious, this review is not a positive one. Turn back now, it doesn't get better.

Chloe was not the only female influence in Emma's life, but she is by far the most positive one. The other three reoccurring female characters are her mom, who is made to look over-paranoid and slightly off-the-hook, Rayna, Galen's sister, who wins my sympathy in one minute, and then makes me wanna punch her in the next, and Rachel, Galen's "assistant" and ex mob member, who... well, let's just say helping the mermaids snoop around Emma's past doesn't warm me to her. 

You may have noticed I did not mention the plot to this book - that's because it doesn't really develop past the basic premise. There are hints about a bigger conflict, but a large chunk of it is the mermaids trying to figure what Emma is, since she neither knows of her special powers, nor can she grow a fin. I would have been fine with a novel focusing more on internal conflict, grieving and acceptance, but no, that's not it either. The closest we get to a conflict is Galen being hot-and-cold, presumably because he would betray his brother if he falls in love with his intended mate.

And here is where the shit really hits the fan.

You see, Syrena are practical creatures who choose their mate based on their suitability. Things such as consent or even acquaintence are curtain dressing, as exemplified as early as the first two chapters.

See, Rayna, Galen's sister, was mated to their friend Toraf without her knowledge, consent, or presence. She naturally outraged, especially since Toraf has known her from childhood and was made aware of her passionate desire never to mate. Toraf going against her wishes and acting like she just plays hard to get could have provided enough conflict to carry the story forward... but it doesn't because after Toraf changes strategy and makes Rayna jealous, it is revealed that she does love him and wants to be with him, and that she was, in fact, playing hard to get.

*bangs head on desk*

Okay.... okay... I can do this....


Okay, first of all - this is not right. Rayna said she never wanted to mate. She made it out like Toraf had betrayed her friendship and confidence... and then gives in the second he acts indifferent? What the actual fuck? 

Sometimes this happens. I get that. And I would have accepted it if Rayna's character was developed, and her reasons made known. If she and Toraf had discussed this and given us a reasonable explanation for her change in attitudes. But no. The problem is resolved off-screen, and the only thing we readers get from it is that when a woman says "no", she never means "no."

This rubs me the wrong way, especially because I know just how difficult it is to keep a friendship with a guy just that - a friendship. Because you know what, sometimes women really want to be friends. We don't want romantic entanglements. Sometimes we won't change our minds, and getting touchy-feely with us will not help your case. And going to the king and getting married to us without even asking us or even having us there is a big no-no.

I can't believe I actually have to spell this out.

And from that, you may imagine what the rest of the book is like. Galen and Emma's romance is hindered only by this idea that Emma belongs to his brother (who doesn't even know she exists), and is resolved in a slap-dash way only for the book reach the end, and the obligatory cliffhanger which you probably would have seen from a mile off.

A note on Emma: She's feisty, but not in the way that makes you think she's a good character. She stands up to Galen, but only because she thinks he uses her as a means to an end - not because he's a creey jerk. There is a moment late in the book where she laments on the fact that she has become that girl, who loves a guy who doesn't love her, and who treats her like a rag. She does this after he follows her on her date, drags her away, and is in the process of driving them to an unknown locale. But once he confesses his love to her, all is well in the world and he's forgiven.


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