Thursday, August 22, 2013

Ashes on the Waves

Ashes on the Waves
Mary Lindsey
$17.99, Hardcover
Philomel, 2013

Genre: Mystery, Romance 

Age: 14+

Description: Liam lives on an island called Dochas where the villagers still believe deeply in old Celtic myth and lore. Unfortunately for Liam, this means his entire life has been a living hell. The villagers regard him with fear and hatred—they believe that he is harboring a demon inside him since he was born and his mother died with her chest ripped open (they say he clawed his way out of her). It also doesn’t help that the birth was a difficult one which left him with a paralyzed left arm—another reason for the villagers to claim that he is cursed. Raised barely by a drunken father, he has mainly been looked after by a woman named Francine who treats him like a son. Liam surrounds himself with art and books and beautiful things and is actually a very good artist himself despite his disability. He longs for a visitor to come back to the island—a girl from New York City named Anna Leighton. She often visited her family’s ancestral home when she was young and befriended Liam who has loved her ever since. When Anna is banished to the island by her parents because of her bad behavior in public, she and Liam rekindle their feelings and fall in love. However, the villagers and the myths that they believe in don’t approve of their pairing. The Bean Sidhes make a beat against the Na Fir Ghorm—if Liam and Anna stay together the Bean Sidhes win but if their love falters the Na Fir Ghorm win. The losers are banished from the ocean surrounding the island forever (which is a big deal since they creatures rely on the strong beliefs of the villagers). Will Liam and Anna survive?

Opinion: I picked up this title because it said it was a take on Edgar Allan Poe’s poem, “Annabelle Lee”, and I love Poe! I have to admit that Lindsey did a great job of turning a poem into a 400+ page novel! First of all, the novel might seem slow to some people but I think that slower pace really matches the eerie atmosphere of the plot. I love that it is a paranormal romance that is told from the point of view of Liam and not the girl. I love the incorporation of paranormal creatures that you don’t often see in teen books. The inclusion of the Bean Sidhes (aka banshees) was a super pleasant surprise and I loved that they weren’t really the “bad” guys of the book since most people associate them as bad spirits that wail and predict deaths. They actually were represented as intelligent women spirits and, yes, while they did wail they did it for a reason (they initially wanted Liam and Anna to figure out that an accidental death on the island was not so much an accident). The Na Fir Ghorm seem like sirens in a way but not as pretty—evil creatures who can lure people to their deaths at sea. However, my favorite creature in the book was Muireann—a selkie who falls in love with Liam and is forced to betray him by the Na Fir Ghorm. She is a very innocent creature—naïve to the ways of humans. She is just adorable and loveable. The best part is that even though she loves Liam she realizes that he loves Anna and therefore there is no horrible, awkward love triangle to deal with because she accepts the situation and just wants him to be happy. There were some things I was disappointed with. Anna at first was a very self-centered socialite. I really don’t care how much she and Liam played together when they were kids, it just seems a bit too convenient that she’d be banished to the island and she all of a sudden decides to fall in love with Liam—a boy who is very much different from the New York boys she is used to dating. Also, once they are in love, the love is very melodramatic—and maybe that is because the book is supposed to be a Gothic tale but still, at times, it was very over the top. The other thing that bothered me was that the time period was kind of confusing. It is supposed to be a modernization but Liam’s small island (which is just a short helicopter ride from NYC) seems to be way too isolated. Everyone there is still living like in the 1800s or early 1900s frontier times.  They are deeply superstitious, they jobs are mainly manual labor, there doesn’t seem to be much importance placed on education, they are willing to become vigilantes and attempt to hang Liam at one point, there is a total lack of modern day technology (the only phone—a landline—on the island is in Francine’s store and Liam and Anna actually handwrite letters to each other!). It seemed like the world was totally separated from the modern time except for when Anna’s friends from NYC came to visit and they are pretty much total jerks who make fun of Liam and complain about how boring the island is.

Thanks to the people at Penguin Young Readers Group for the ARC for the YALSA YA Galley Group!

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