I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Of Poseidon by Anna Banks
Series: The Syrena Legacy #1
Published by Feiwel and Friends on May 22nd 2012
Genres: Paranormal Romance, Young Adult
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Galen is the prince of the Syrena, sent to land to find a girl he's heard can communicate with fish. Emma is on vacation at the beach. When she runs into Galen—literally, ouch!—both teens sense a connection. But it will take several encounters, including a deadly one with a shark, for Galen to be convinced of Emma's gifts. Now, if he can only convince Emma that she holds the key to his kingdom...
Told from both Emma and Galen's points of view, here is a fish-out-of-water story that sparkles with intrigue, humor, and waves of romance.
I don’t read many books that I would rate 1 star these days. I seem to have mastered my preferences and hit a stride of excellent books – or at least mostly readable books.
Admittedly I only made it fifty-six pages into this book before I threw my hands up in disgust and tossed a pillow at the wall – so I suggest you take that into account when deciding whether to buy this book.
Why did I stop reading?
The death of a token character
We didn’t know her long enough, but I’m pretty sure she could play base.
Right off a POC character is killed and whilst that would be annoying in its own right, since killing off POC characters is a frustrating cliche in books, TV shows and films, this was even more annoying. Firstly because her description was extremely stereotypical – to the point that she was less of a character and more of a caricature. Perhaps even worse and more degrading is that there was no real lament to her death. It was used as a story progression so that the male protagonist could wax lyrical about how beautiful and brave the female protagonist for trying to save the dying POC character. I kid you not. A girl is dying in a terrifying, violent, horrifying way and this is what he’s thinking:
“It’s just that… she doesn’t look as though she needs help. Her pale face is contorted with anger. Not fear. Not distress. Just fury. Her white hair floats like an aura, jerking in delayed reaction with each of her capable movements.”
Like I said – a girl just died and he’s having a hard on for Emma. And even worse, we’re supposed to be having a hard on for how awesome Emma is. The text is all about Emma.
In fact, Chloe’s death seems to be nothing but an agent for making us sympathetic for Emma. It felt cheap and dirty. Sure, taking on a bullshark is a seriously awesome thing to do. Almost as awesome as that time a wrestled a crocodile. But let’s not get off track here. When sitting down and planning how to make a main character rock super hard, I could think of a hundred ways that didn’t involve creating a token character, immediately killing her off and then using that death to wank about how awesome the protagonist is.
I mean, first of all… gross from an imagery point of view. Second of all, holy flipping duck twat, Batman, way to be offensive.
There’s nothing wrong with creating a sexist society. However, there is some responsibility when doing so. That the writing doesn’t actually support or romanticize or give tacit approval for the sexism is a good start. Of Poseidon features a heavily misogynistic mermaid society. And as such, the male characters act like a bunch of misogynistic dicks. Once again, completely understandable. But then it’s when everyone else just kind of goes along with that and doesn’t see a problem that my eye started to twitch. And then when some pretty outright paternalistic bullcrap takes place, I started seeing red. Like when a stalker mermaid arrives for a female character, Rayna. They are mated against her will and her refusal and hatred of him is treated as a comical device in the story – just her being a fickle and childish girl – not actually a woman rebelling against a system that doesn’t allow her to choose her mate or even requires her to be present for the ceremony. She’s angry at him because they were childhood friends and he’s always known that she never wanted to mate. He went behind her back, asked her Dad and organized for them to be mated. She’s pissed at hi. Naturally. Personally, I would have seduced him out onto an isolated locale and impaled him on a rock. Rayna’s anger and hatred toward him is just laughed off by everyone. Including her brother.
Excuse me? EXCUSE ME!? What the ever loving fuck?! Oh, I see. Women in this world don’t know what they want until the smarter, better men come along and show them. Right. RIGHT.
Then there’s Gallen who is just sexist plain and simple. He dismisses his sister, does not discuss the information he’s working on with her – but will with her mate – another man. I am told that he takes over Emma’s life and treats her much like a bit of baggage in the name of taking care of her. I didn’t see any progression toward a less sexist Galen having any kind of revelation that women weren’t all a bunch of objects to be ordered around like sheep.
You expect women to be unreasonable barnyard animals too busy masticating and going into heat to do any reasonable and logical thought, fine. But think like that and try to be a romantic interest in a YA novel I’m reading? No way. Sorry, Galen. You are the weakest link. Goodbye.
I truly disliked the writing. Not only was it incredibly telling and flat but the story also jumped awkwardly between the first person narrative for Emma and the third person narrative for Gallen. It did not feel polished or finished at all.
“Stop!” she yells.
Galen stops. But Emma’s not talking to him. She’s talking to the shark.
And the shark stops.
Emma wraps both arms around Chloe and hugs her to her chest, leaning her friend away from the attack. “You can’t have her! Leave her alone! Leave us both alone!”
The shark turns, saunters away as if sulking.
SHARKS CAN SAUNTER?! AND SULK!?
I know what she’s doing here and that’s being abrupt and edgy with a tense moment. But I just trip over those sentences every time I read them. And a lot of this book is like this. Part of me wants to take a red pen to it and just clean it up a bit. It’s not like Banks is necessarily a bad writer – but that her writing isn’t smooth. There’s no poetry or rhythm to it. Just these jarring, awkward sentences that hurt my brain.
“Hi! My name is River Swan Desmonda Sparkle-Eyes!”
Emma was, in my opinion, a Mary Sue – and that is a term I don’t use often. Basically, I felt she was an author insert. Rare compelling eyes, one of a kind in her species, ultra special, father AND friend died to create sympathy. Even Gallen, when not with Emma, only thinks about Emma. He can sense her on land when that’s supposed to be impossible. It’s always the same with Mary Sues. Impossibility surrounds them and they’re just so fucking SPESHAL while being the most boring, repetitive, inoffensive turds around. They problem with Mary Sues is that, if you’ve read one you’ve read them all and the only thing that deviates them is the degree to exactly HOW speshul and ewnique they are. And the more Mary Suish they are, the more the other characters spend every fucking moment talking and thinking about Mary Sue – which as far as I could see, what exactly what happened in this book. The only character flaw the author has given her is that she’s clumsy. Clumsy is not a character flaw. I’m sorry, but it’s not. It’s a lazy way of trying to make a young, beautiful female character immediately adorable and relatable to an audience and writers do it all the time. Stop. Just stop it, okay?
Even if the story telling explains the clumsiness (she’s not meant to be on land – she’s meant to be in the water) it still makes for a weaker character. Because if you can’t bare to give your MC a more intense flaw than ‘clumsy’ than that becomes ALL you can say about her. “What’s Emma like?” “Oh, she’s just this really clumsy, insecure teenage girl.” Clumsy and insecure? No! Never. That only marginally ties her to like 95% of the YA MC population!
Basically, I can deal with bad writing – to a degree. And bad characterization – to a degree. And sexism – to a degree. But throw them all in with the death of a token character and smoosh it into a terrible mess? Then I can’t deal. Then I throw my hands up in disgust, delete the book off my ereader and try to scrub my bloody brain free.