Friday 16 January 2015

Reviewed by Arianne: Rogue Wave by Jennifer Donnelly.

Product details:
Publisher: Disney Press.
Hardcover, 320 pages.
Release date: January 6th 2015.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Ages: 10+
Series: Waterfire Saga #2.
Other Books in Series: Deep Blue.
Reviewed by: Arianne.

 In this exciting sequel to DEEP BLUE, Serafina uncovers more clues about the talismans, Neela ventures into a sea dragon's nest, and Ling learns the identity of their foe.

Serafina, Neela, Ling, Ava, Becca, and Astrid, six mermaids from realms scattered throughout the seas and freshwaters, were summoned by the leader of the river witches to learn an incredible truth: the mermaids are direct descendants of the Six Who Ruled-powerful mages who once governed the lost empire of Atlantis. The ancient evil that destroyed Atlantis is stirring again, and only the mermaids can defeat it. To do so, they need to find magical talismans that belonged to the Six.

Serafina believes her talisman was buried with an old shipwreck. While researching its location, she is almost discovered by a death rider patrol led by someone familiar. . . . The pain of seeing him turned traitor is devastating.

Neela travels to Matali to warn her parents of the grave threat facing their world. But they find her story outlandish; a sign that she needs to be confined to her chamber for rest and recovery. She escapes and travels to Kandina, where her talisman is in the possession of fearsome razormouth dragons.

As they hunt for their talismans, both Serafina and Neela find reserves of courage and cunning they didn't know they possessed. They face down danger and death, only to endure a game-changing betrayal, as shocking as a rogue wave.

If you’ve read my review for Deep Blue, you’ll know that I have a love-hate relationship with this series. The Waterfire Saga is a light-hearted, fun foray into the mystical realm of upper middle grade fiction (despite what the marketing team may try to tell you).  I love Jennifer Donnelly’s writing and the rich underwater world she’s created, but I just haven’t fallen for the Waterfire Saga the way I’d hoped I would — yet.

Serafina has been on the run – or should that be on the swim? – ever since the events of Deep Blue left her home in ruins. Her only hope lies in finding six talismans which once belonged to the founders of her world’s six kingdoms, but she can’t do it alone. Thrown together by fate, Serafina, Neela, Ling, Astrid, Ava and Becca must combat myriad forces of evil or face a lifetime enslaved by brutal captors. Ghosts, death riders, death traps, sea dragons and even ruthless former allies make their quest a perilous journey indeed.

Serafina and Neela are once again leading ladies, with a quick visit to Ling and occasional glimpses into the lives of the other heroines (there doesn’t really need to be six of them, but I expect it will make for a spectacular showdown in the final instalment). I enjoyed Neela’s storyline immensely, particularly her role in the uprising of Kandina, a settlement led by the fantastically fierce Kora. I love so many of the secondary characters in this series, but Kora is definitely at the top of the list after reading this book. She’s so dazzling — tough, fearless, skilled, commanding; she’s everything the other heroines should be and more.

Serafina’s love interest Mahdi found his way into my heart again, too. He’s the most complicated character in the series and it really pays off. He’s certain of his love for Serafina but as one of the few royals left who can go out in public without being imprisoned, he’s forced to make difficult choices and takes a huge risk in helping to lead the underground (undersea?) resistance. Serafina inevitably clashes with him over his twisted loyalties and seemingly traitorous actions, but fans of their romance will be pleased to see their relationship ultimately strengthen over the course of the novel.

I only had one other major issue with this book. Deep Blue was magnificently fuelled by girl power, but Rogue Wave is a book which sees its fabulous female lead experience catcalling and harassment, without giving her a chance to call the perpetrators out on it in a way that would tell readers “This kind of behaviour is not okay, whether it’s in fiction or reality.” There’s one sequence where Serafina is assaulted by a leering soldier because of what she’s wearing, but instead of having her use her kick-ass abilities to get herself out of the situation, Donnelly writes: “She decided to go along with him. She had no other choice. She couldn’t afford to make a scene…” I’m not the kind of person who insists that all books should have a moral or be used to ‘teach’ readers, but even I could see that the way this incident was treated in Rogue Wave was wrong. This is a book that should be fun for young girls and make them feel empowered, not reinforce unhelpful, stereotypical responses to a dangerous situation.

That said, I really did enjoy the rest of the book. It’s absolutely packed with plot, and I loved it. The pages race by in a frenzy of friendships, discoveries, chase sequences, betrayals and determination. The pacing’s not quite perfect and there are several unnecessary puppet villains, but as a reader you’re flung from one deadly situation to the next, and I was hooked. It ends with a shocking revelation which, while not executed in the most original of ways, is sure to come into play in the next book.

In short: Rogue Wave is a novel so good it hasn’t even heard of the second-book slump. It’s full of action, adventure, magic and romance, and while it’s not without fault, it’s got a lot of heart and will you keep hooked right to the last page.


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