Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Of Poseidon by Anna Banks

Anna Banks debut novel, Of Poseidon, is a well written novel with an unique storyline, good characters, and plenty of romance.

Emma McIntosh and her best friend Chloe are summer vacationing in Florida when an apparently chance encounter changes their lives forever. On their way into the water with their surf boards, Emma collides with a handsome guy named Galen and his sister Rayna. Unknown to Emma and Chloe, Galen and Rayna are Syrena, beings from the sea who have the ability to change into human form.

Syrenas are forbidden to have any contact with humans, whom they despise, but Galen has special permission to be on land. He is an ambassador assigned to keep an eye on the world of humans. One human Galen does have a friendship with is Dr. Jerry Milligan, a highly respected oceanographer. Galen was responsible for rescuing Milligan in a scuba diving accident.  It was Milligan who contacted Galen to let him know about  "a blond Syrena visiting the  Gulfarium in human form" who seemed to be able to communicate with the fish - a characteristic of Syrenas. That blonde is Emma McIntosh.

Galen has managed to locate Emma in Destin, Florida. He believes she is a Syrena, even though she doesn't look like one, with her white blonde hair and porcelain skin. If she is indeed a Syrena, why is she here? If she is a Syrena, this means that she must be from the House of Poseidon and that is significant as we later learn.

As Galen is pondering this, Emma and Chloe's swim  takes a tragic turn when Chloe is dragged off her surfboard by a bull shark. With no one to rescue her, Emma dives into the deep to confront the bull shark, ordering him away from Chloe. But she is too late. Galen witnesses this encounter and is now convinced that Emma must be a Syrena. She has the requisite violet eyes and the gift of Poseidon; the ability to communicate with fish.

The Syrenas are divided into to kingdoms, that of Triton and Poseidon. Galen and his older brother Grom belong to the kingdom of Triton while King Antonis rules the kingdom of Poseidon. The two kingdoms were always united every third generation, by the pairing of their first born children, which allowed the Gifts of Triton and Poseidon to passed on. Grom of Triton was engaged to Nalia, King Antonis's daughter, but after an argument, she fled into a human mine field and there was an explosion. Grom was injured but Nalia was never found and is assumed to have died. King Antonis blamed Grom for her death and decided that he would not sire another heir so that that the two kingdoms would never again be joined. Grom is now in the position of becoming king of Triton and that means he must now find a mate - one from Poseidon. If Emma is a true Syrena from Poseidon, then she will be the next in line to be Grom's mate. This is what Galen must determine and so he needs to find Emma.

After the accident Galen catches up with Emma in Jersey, enrolling in Middle Point High School. Emma is still dealing with the death of Chloe and is creeped out by Galen's reappearance. Galen manages to get Emma to come over to his home to have dinner with his sister Rayna and her husband, Toraf. But when Rayna and Emma get into a brawl that spills out onto the beach, Galen grabs Emma and takes her into the sea where she learns that she can hold her breath for an extended period of time. Galen explains to Emma that he believes she is a Syrena. However, Rayna does quite accept that Emma is a Syrena because she doesn't seem to be able to change form like a true Syrena. In order to spend more time together to determine whether Emma can change into a full Syrena, she and Galen pretend to be dating.

Despite spending hours in the ocean, Emma does not seem to have the ability to change, although she can definitely talk to marine animals and stay underwater for lengthy periods of time. At this point, Galen decides to take Emma to see Dr. Milligan and during his examination they conclude that Emma must be half human and half Syrena. This means that she is unsuitable as a potential mate for Grom. This is bittersweet for Galen, because he has fallen for Emma, but because she is likely half-human, it means they cannot be together as it is forbidden by the House of Triton for Syrenas to mate with humans.

The discovery of another Syrena of the House of Poseidon, Paca ensures that Emma is no longer necessary for the unity of the two kingdoms, because Paca will now be mated to Grom. Things become complicated however, when Galen, Toraf, and Rayna sense another Syrena who seems to be stalking Emma and when Paca doesn't measure up. The results of Dr. Milligan's DNA tests also indicate a deeper puzzle as to whom Emma really is and who her parents might be. Add to this the romantic conflict Emma and Galen experience over his mission and how they feel about each other and you have the makings of a story with plenty of twists and an exciting lead into a second installment.

Although complex, Banks succeeds admirably in presenting the story of the Syrena to her readers. Their backstory is gradually constructed throughout the novel, as Galen tries to solve the mystery of Emma's heritage. While the romance between Galen and Emma is definitely the main attraction of the novel, the world of the Syrenas is fascinating too because what is happening in the depths of the sea has a direct bearing on what is happening on land with Galen and Emma. There are some problematic areas concerning Emma as a Syrena; for example how Emma is able to "talk" underwater to animals while holding her breathe was never explained.

The characters are well developed, and the author does a good job developing the inter-relationships between characters, with great dialogue and by allowing us to know what the characters are thinking. Emma is strong willed and smart, while Galen is kind and honourable. There is great chemistry between Galen and Emma, with plenty of sexual tension, but also lots of admirable restraint on the part of Galen. Banks uses both characters narratives to tell the story; though strangely, Emma's chapters were written in first person and while Galen's were in third person.

At times, some of the writing and turn of phrases were weak and choppy, suited to a more juvenile book, but for the most part, despite my initial skepticism, this novel works, and in the end, left me pining for the next book!

Banks second installment in the trilogy, Of Triton, will be published May 28, 2013.

You can read about Anna Banks on her blog  Anna

Book Details:
Of Poseidon by Anna Banks
New York: Feiwel  and Friends      2012
326 pp.

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