Everblue–Brenda Pandos

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Everblue–Brenda Pandos

Plot: 2/5       Characters:3/5       Writing: 3/5       Entertainment: 3/5       World Building: 4/5

Everblue is an imaginative and artistic piece that has the potential to reshape the YA fantasy landscape if it had more press. It takes the world of mermaids, which is surprisingly untouched in the paranormal romance subgenre, and gives it some creative and original spins. Unfortunately, the actual romantic elements is lackluster at its best and cringe worthy at its worst.

Ashlyn Lanski is ready for her life to start. With her best friend Tatiana at her side, Ash wants to leave her sleepy home town on the edge of Lake Tahoe, start college, and explore the world. Maybe then Ash can get over her feelings for Tatiana’s brother, Finley, too. Unfortunately, fate has different plans, due in no small part to the fact that Tatiana and Finley are merpeople. For years their family has guarded the ancient gate to Natatoria, their underwater homeland. When a routine meeting in Natatoria takes a strange turn, the siblings find themselves trapped there with Ashlyn still on shore, none the wiser. Can she figure out their secret and help protect their home? Can Tatiana and Finley escape and return to the place and people they truly call home?

I should mention that this review is bit of a rewrite. I read Everblue some time ago before I started blogging. Since it’s not a very long book, so I went back and reread it because I really do think the well-done aspects deserve credit.

As much as Finley and Tatiana hate the place, Natatoria is a lot of fun. The locations are really interesting, colorful, and creative. Given the conflict it brings with it, Natatoria brings out the best in the siblings as well. Finley’s not only frustrated by being stuck in Natatoria, where he knows almost no one, but his father goes on a special mission ordered by the king, leaving Finley behind. Being a seventeen-year-old boy, he’s hurt, frustrated, and tries to prepare himself for the day his dad decides to rely on him. Tatiana is incredibly limited in what she can do due to her gender and mer-culture, which leaves her frustrated and homesick. Both personal conflicts were well-fleshed out, believable, and I’d even say relatable. Around that age, teens want more responsibility. They want to be trusted. They want to branch out and find who they are, regardless what their culture’s customs dictate. I still think that, if Pandos had made the book purely about that, she could have launched a new YA fantasy fad. But, unfortunately, we have to put up with Ash for half of the book.

She’s blander than I remember. Her whole purpose is still to fall in love with Finley through mermaid ritual called “Promising.” Once a couple kisses, they’re “promised” to each other and fall in love for life. Outside of that subplot, Ash doesn’t really do anything crucial to the story. She just lives her normal human life or mopes around missing Tatiana or gives Bella Swan a run for her money in her obsession over Finley. It’s particularly disappointing since there’s so much going on in Natatoria, minus the mermaid misogyny.

The first time around I didn’t notice it as much, but the whole idea of “promising” and the way mermaids are treated sounds a lot like the toxic “purity culture” that plagues certain Christian denominations. Merpeople are “promised” on their first kiss and they will only ever want each other for the rest of their lives, no matter how horrible the other person is. Mermaids have to be carefully watched at all time lest they bewitched mermen who can’t help but fall under their spell. This all sounds like toxic doctrine that I’ve spent years unlearning so reading about an entire mythos built around it rubbed me the wrong way. Especially when there were more exciting, creative conflicts brewing.

Normally I’d just roll my eyes at the “promising” nonsense (lazy romances are a dime a dozen so what can you do?), but there’s also whispers of merpeople going to war with humans, which lends itself to a lot of excitement and build up. Apparently, mermaid magic works on human men too, so why not use their magic as a weapon? That would be awesome to read. Unfortunate for humans, obviously, but awesome to read.

Despite Ash being a cardboard cutout and the whole “promising’ thing creeping me out, I really do think the parts in Natatoria are worth a read. The scenes themselves are fun because you get to see how a society functions under the sea, what newcomers have to adjust to, and the siblings really are more interesting here. Not to mention the potential mer-human war. That still sounds pretty cool. The nice thing is that Finley and Ash’s chapters alternate, so she’s easy enough to skip. Also, I just found out that Pandos is running a promotion where her book is free to download on Kindles, which is always a perk. So, if you like fantasy in general or paranormal romance in particular, dive on into Everblue, or at least get your feet wet.

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