Someone has kidnapped the sons of the Duchess Dianda Lorden, regent of the Undersea Duchy of Saltmist. To prevent a war between land and sea, Toby must not only find the missing boys, but also prove that the Queen of the Mists was not behind their abduction. She’ll need all her tricks and the help of her allies if she wants to make it through this in one piece.
I’ll keep this review short and sweet, because if you’ve made it to book 5 in this series, you already know if the writing style works for you or not. So specifically, how did this particular plot work out?
This is the Toby Daye book I’ve liked least so far in the series. Part of that is probably for personal reasons, but part of it is for repetitive plot reasons. Toby just….seems to have to save children an awful lot. Now, I’m not saying that an urban fantasy that basically involves someone solving crimes in a world where there’s a huge taboo on murder of immortals won’t repeat some crimes. I am saying that I think doing abducted children again right after a book that did that theme so incredibly well (Blind Michael is the ultimate in creepy) is just too repetitive. There are actually some sly nods to the reader that the author knows abducted children plots are happening a lot. Toby comments something along the lines of gee she’s sure sick of saving children. If your main character is sick of saving kids, maybe the readers are tired of reading it. Just saying. Beyond that, there were two other things that made me meh about this plot.
First, we’re clearly supposed to sympathize with Toby in the whole “whyyy does everyone think I’m a terrible mother” plot, but honestly I don’t sympathize with her, and I do think she’s a terrible mother. So. There’s that. But I fully admit to having some of my own mom issues, so it might be harder for me to see this with a neutral viewpoint. Other readers may have a different experience. But be prepared to possibly like Toby less.
Second, you know how most romances have various love interests and you’re on a certain team? Well, I am 100% #TeamTybalt, and I was not pleased by all the Connor scenes. I just find him dull and drab and I am massively creeped out by the webs between his fingers that never go away. Plus…male selkies….eh. This book could easily be called the #TeamConnor book so readers who like him….enjoy. For the rest of us, you might find yourself rolling your eyes a bit.
I know that sounds like a lot of negatives but it is the book I’ve liked least in the series so far, in spite of really enjoying the series, so it seemed apt to discuss at length why it didn’t work so well for me. All of that said, I read it quickly, and I fairly soon picked up the next book in the series, so I certainly didn’t hate it. A lot about the series works really well for me, there are just certain aspects of this book and plot that I think might make it less enjoyable for certain readers compared to the rest of the series.
Ty lives with his pioneer family subsea but he can’t convince his crush Gemma to leave Topside. Why is she so afraid of subsea? This was his biggest problem until his parents get kidnapped by surfs when they attempt to do a trade. Plus, Gemma wants to convince her fugitive brother to let her tag along with him. And townships keep disappearing, only to turn up later, chained up and anchored subsea with everyone dead inside. It’s a giant web of mysteries but do they intertwine at all?
I absolutely loved the first entry in this scifi series, which is unusual for me, since it’s YA. Not generally my genre. So I was excited to see the sequel available on Audible. It’s still an exciting adventure and interesting world but not quite as tightly and expertly constructed as last time.
Whereas Ty’s voice worked perfectly in the first book, in this one he reads a bit young. He went through a lot in the first entry, he should have presumably matured a bit more than he has. Similarly, Gemma hasn’t developed much since the first book either. I think these characters should have been given more space to grow more. Particularly in a YA series, it’s important to let the characters develop and mature at a more rapid rate. That’s the reality for teenagers after all.
Plot-wise, I honestly felt that there was a bit of a deus ex machina at work that also didn’t fully play into the rules of the world as originally set up. Still, though, the mystery is well-plotted and difficult to predict. It includes real danger without being too violent. It’s the perfect level of thriller for a YA reader who’s not so into the gore. On the other hand, I also found it frustrating that Ty’s parents aren’t around for most of the book. One of the things refreshing about the first one was that his parents were actually present and helpful without being too pushy or overshadowing. This time around, Falls went the more popular YA adventure route and just flat-out got rid of them for most of the book.
But the world Falls has built is still rich and unique, and she expanded upon it. We now get to see more of what the surf life is like, in addition to more of the shady side of things, such as the boxing/fighting rings. We also see some more of the government and law enforcement and have a better understanding of the world as a whole. It’s all richly imagined and drawn, right down to what styles of clothes different groups wear to what they eat. One detail I particularly enjoyed was that the surfs, a poor outcast lot, eat a lot of fish and blubber because it’s easy to catch, whereas Ty’s family eats a lot of vegetables because they grow them. Details like that really make a world.
The audiobook narrator, Keith Nobbs, read the whole thing a bit flat for my taste. He didn’t have as much enthusiasm and inflection as I thought was appropriate for a book about a subsea adventure starring two young teenagers! The production quality was high, he was easy to understand, but he didn’t really bring Ty to life. I’d recommend reading the print book over the audio, honestly.
Overall, then, the characters are a bit slow in their development and the plot feels a bit lazier than last time, but the characters are still well-rounded and the plot maintains an appropriate level of mystery. Toss in the richly imagined and describe post-apocalyptic and very wet world, and it’s well worth the read.
4 out of 5 stars
Most of the time it’s just Jack and Ma in Room. Jack likes watching shows on the planets on the television, but Ma only lets him watch two a day. She says his brain will turn to mush if he watches it too much. So instead they have phys ed where they run track in a smile around the bed or Jack plays trampoline while Ma calls out his moves. Sometimes Ma reads to Jack or they lay in the sun that comes in through the skylight. All day things are good in Room. But every night Old Nick comes, and Jack has to stay in Wardrobe while Old Nick spends time with Ma. Ma doesn’t like it when Old Nick comes. Neither does Jack. Jack’s whole life Ma has told him only they are real, and everything on television and in books is just stories. But one day she tells him those were lies. And now she’s unlying. Because they have to escape soon to Outside. Outside Room.
This is a mind-blowingly powerful book. I totally devoured it. It was impossible to put it down. Told entirely from the perspective of 5 year old Jack who was born in Room, it puts an incredibly heart-wrenching and revealing look into what has unfortunately been all over the news in recent years. Cases of women kidnapped and then locked up to be used by their kidnappers as, essentially, sex slaves. These cases often result in the births of children, and although stories have been told from the woman’s point of view, I am unaware of any others that tell them from the child’s point of view.
I have no idea how Donoghue was able to sound so completely like an actual 5 year old, but not just a 5 year old. A 5 year old going through such a unique and painful situation. From the very first page, I entirely believed that I was listening to what was going on inside Jack’s head. That means sometimes there are a few paragraphs about playing, and how Jeep and Remote Control play and fight with each other. But it also reveals what incredible insight children can have into life. That children are in fact little people and should be respected as such. For example, at one point Jack says:
I have to remember they’re real, they’re actually happening in Outside all together. It makes my head tired. And people too, firefighters teachers burglars babies saints soccer players and all sorts, they’re all really in Outside. I’m not there, though, me and Ma, we’re the only ones not there. Are we still real? (Location 1257-1261)
Jack is simultaneously childlike and insightful, and that lends a powerfully unique touch to a tale of evil inflicted on others. I honestly cannot think of anyone I would not recommend this book to, except perhaps someone for whom the events in it might be triggering. Beyond that, everyone should have the experience of reading it.
5 out of 5 stars