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.
This is going to be an incredibly difficult review to write for a multitude of reasons but especially because I hate giving a not so positive review to a debut author. However, I cannot, in good conscience, let these things pass me by so if you are reading this, keep in mind that the following are my opinions and ones you may not necessarily agree with but are, nevertheless, opinions I have a right to express.
Of Poseidon promises a lighthearted story dabbling in the mythology of mermaids and some faint Greek myths that, superficially, has all the elements of an entertaining YA novel. The dialogue exchange is rapid and there is a lot of wit and humour in the construction of the novel that is, ultimately, very readable.
However, there are some troublesome issues in this novel that, try as I might, I cannot overlook. Emma’s best friend, Chloe, is black and she [happens to be eaten by a shark ]. She’s also a flirt and sabotages Emma’s potential happiness before she [was eaten by a shark (hide spoiler)]. I don’t see the purpose of the former as it has no consequence in the narrative and since I was left to draw my own conclusions on Chloe’s actions, I drew them. However, Chloe being black by itself would not have mattered as much to me had it not been for the fact that Banks keeps on reiterating Emma’s porcelain colour. Not once, not twice but many, many times. And I haven’t been reading texts closely for the past few years without learning something about reading, ya know? Why the emphasis on colour? Why is Chloe black? If you think I’m being too sensitive to the issue, please. You should be aware that any time a non-African American writer writes an African American character, she or he has to be supremely aware that they are writing from a position of privilege and that yes, colonization, neo-colonization, years and years of history of slavery, everything is right there, observing their seemingly innocuous characters. The reiteration of colour may not have been intentional and in fact, I don’t think it was but honestly? The emphasis of the porcelain skin tone on the main character who gets the happily ever after (I’m assuming) when juxtaposed with the [dead (hide spoiler)] black best friend speaks a lot. To me, anyway.
Now that I have spoken at length about the issue of colour, let me talk about how Of Poseidon does what Silence by Becca Fitzpatrick does: that is, both novels bring up murky issues in contemporary courtship particularly where the actions of the male love interest is concerned. Galen’s sister has no say in who she wants to marry. In fact, she is quite adamant about the fact that she doesn’t want to marry anyone. Does anyone listen to her? No. In fact, she is “married” against her will and WITHOUT her knowledge to a guy who insists that “no” means “yes.” Um. As another reviewer (Katya, read her review, it’s kinda awesome) stated, Toraf’s actions are justified by the assertion that Rayna is just playing hard to get. Am I complaining too much? Okay, fine, you can think that.
Let’s move on to Galen. There are several instances in the story that I found the love interest to be a supreme douchebag. He wasn’t redeemed in any satisfactory manner and in fact, by the end of the novel, I was questioning Emma’s sanity. I used to read a lot of romance novels. Harlequin or rather the Australian version: Mills and Boons. In those books, there was this trope of the overpowering and supermasculine oil tycoons who were possessive, rich and took care of the hapless heroines who just melted to putty in the face of their physical looks and domineering manner. I believe I’ve just described the actual romance in this novel. Apart from the oil tycoon part. Emma’s opinions and outrage “amuses” Galen suggesting that her being offended or angry with Galen is not so much concerning as entertaining. She stomps her foot so I guess I can’t blame him for being amused. But the point is, I had the overwhelming feeling that Emma was treated more like a child to be mollified rather than an adult to be taken seriously and you guys, serious ire at these instances. Not that Emma was such a wonderful character. Once and again, she goes on an internal monologue, listing the problems with her actions and with Galen’s actions – for instance, Galen shows up on a date Emma is with a perfectly nice boy and makes “serial killer eyes,” I’m not even lying, that is the exact term used and threatens to bodily harm the guy amongst other things if he doesn’t realize that Emma belongs to him. And Emma well realizes the stupidity of her actions even as she is going along with Galen but, again as the other reviewer (Katya) said, all it takes is for Galen to confess his love before she forgets everything she had been objecting to.
Excuse me while the feminist in me throws up.
I wanted to like this novel. A lot. But I didn’t. Though this novel may, superficially, hit the right spot, reading it closely and paying attention to the subtext brings up uncomfortable questions. Do I recommend this to you? I can’t say. As I said, the novel is readable but the lack of the plot, the characterizations and the other issues make me unable to tell you either way. You may not be offended by the same things I am. So. Make up your own mind.