Monday, May 7, 2012

REVIEW: The Vicious Deep by Zoraida Córdova

The Vicious Deep The Vicious Deep by Zoraida Córdova
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

CAUTION: Long Review.

The Vicious Deep begins with Tristan on lifeguard duty at the beach when suddenly a freak wave hits. While everyone runs for their lives, Tristan races to rescue a drowning victim thinking he could make it. Alas, he didn't. Soon, Tristan washes up on shore and taken to the hospital.

People say a near-death experience can be life changing, but with Tristan it reached to a whole new level.

Tristan learned he was lost for three days at sea and was the only survivor of the freak wave. Yet he was mostly tired and ready for things to get back to normal. His parents agreed and quickly took him home from the hospital. Barring a few odd occurrences, things seem fine.

Till chapter 10.

After getting a fishtail for the bottom half of his body, Tristan learned he's a merman, his mother's an ex-mermaid, they're merfolks royalty which made him a Prince.
I can forget all that. But of all the creatures in my mom’s fairy-tale books, she had to go and be the girliest? Come on!
The Writing

TVD had less than 87000 words and was written in present tense, making the action forefront. Imagery was driven by characters' action; character development was driven by dialogue. On occasions, the prose was slightly flowery.

Speaking of flowery, the characters cursed using the "mother-flower" euphemism. Fuck, shit, and damn were part of the vernacular but I didn't understand why a variation of fuck would be euphemized. I thought it was silly and stupid.

The Characters

+++ Tristan

TVD was told in 1st Pov from Tristan's side. Right from the start, Tristan was not your usual YA protagonist...because he's popular.

The YA genre love its loner, its outcast, its "woe is me because I'm a freak and no one understand me" protagonist. Tristan had social skills and enjoyed being around people. In any other YA, he would be the jock love interest our ostracized heroine like because he's nice to her and dislike because his attention to her brings the the mean girls' attention.

Tristan is a swimming athlete and a lifeguard, always wearing a Speedo and being flirtatious. His one big flaw was that despite being a girl magnet Tristan treated girls in his relationship quite horribly. Yet it wasn't because he was naturally a jerk. I disliked how Tristan treated Mandy but I pitied him because for all his charm with girls, he couldn't get the one girl that mattered.

Tristan was in love with Layla — apparently since childhood — but he didn't how to properly deal with it.

+++ Layla

Layla is Tristan's love interest and his best friend since childhood. I liked how she refused to be relegated as Tristan's sidekick. She followed Tristan to find out why he has been so secretive and intended to protect him in case he needed help. She stuck with Tristan after learning his secret and sensibly forgave him for not telling her.

Far too often in YA the best friend would be mad at our protagonist in beginning, disappear in the middle of the story, and reappear at the end — sometime as a hostage or an antagonist. Layla was not like that; Layla was a strong character in her own rights.

+++ Tristan's Parents

TVD didn't suffer the Missing Parents Syndrome. Plus, the parents loved each other and their son Tristan. In short, they were genuinely a happy family. It was...unusual because in YA the protagonist's family are always unhappy or dead. Seriously.

Mr. Hart was like a geek while Mrs. Hart was like Ariel from Disney's The Little Mermaid because she had red hair and a hobby of collecting junks.

+++ Other Characters

Tristan's "cousins" Thalia and Kurt were funny. Thalia was carefree and mischievous while Kurt was haughty and magisterial; the two siblings were total opposite in personality. They made great sidekicks to Tristan (technically, they're his royal courtiers).

I even liked Gwen the mean mermaid princess. Turned out she was more than I initially thought because I found her meanness warranted. Hell, I would be mean too if I was stuck in her situation. Her family forced her to marry a spoiled merman prince and be happy with the asshole.

The other supporting characters such as Marty did not stand out and seem unimportant and unremarkable. The characters from the ship had a muddled introduction.

The World Building

TVD's world was filled with all sorts of supernatural, from vampires to fairies, but the book focused on merfolks. The book used Poseidon from Greek mythology as the basis for its merfolk world. The world building was one of the few unoriginal things about TVD because pretty much every mermaid YA use Poseidon.

The Plot

Tristan's grandfather was nearing his end so he wanted Tristan to replace him as king. However, his grandfather could not directly crown Tristan because the mer-people would revolt. A quest was put forth and Tristan — among other champions — must collect all three dispersed pieces of Poseidon's Trident from three of the five oracles to win the quest and ultimately become the Sea King.

The champions must locate the nomadic oracles, figure which one has the Trident piece, and win it from the oracle. Like any other quest to become king, anything goes and survival is part of the goal.

I expected the plot to be predictable and largely it was. Yet there were few twists and turns, such as Gwen, that caught me off guard. The book had some slow moments, but for the most part it was quick paced.

Things I Didn't Like

+++ Lack of Parental Involvement

I liked the presence of Tristan's parents in the story but I disliked how uninvolved they were in Tristan's quest. They should've fussed about Tristan trying to become the Sea King because 1) he's not an adult 2) he's ignorant of the supernatural world and its danger 3) he wasn't a trained Prince let alone a merman and 4) everyone will try to kill him so they could become king.

The only thing I recall the Harts fussing about was Nieve, the distant great-aunt who is crazy and evil and essentially the merfolk's version of the bogeyman. She showed up in Tristan's nightmares and she may be the series' Big Bad.

+++ The Awkward Romance

Another thing I dislike about TVD was the romance between Tristan and Layla. Their relationship could be summed up in one short sentence: it's complicated. I didn't think it needed to be that way.

I thought Tristan spent too much time thinking about Layla and not enough about his quest and his survival.

+++ The Ho-hum Hero

What mainly stopped me from rating TVD higher was how ho-hum Tristan was as a hero. There was a plot-hole of Tristan knowing how to fight bad mer-guys when he didn't know any martial art or have any fighting experience. All he had was a magical dagger, but it didn't make him a warrior.

Beside his magical dagger, his half-merman half-human special status, his look and charm with girl, Tristan didn't exhibit anything special that made him stand out as a hero. He didn't fully grasp the urgency of his quest, the weight of being a king, the secrecy of being a merman, and the danger of it all. Many times I wanted Tristan to stop and think about the depth of the situation.

In Conclusion

I rate TVD for 3 stars for I liked it. TVD may not have been original but it did lack much of the cliché that are prevalent in YA. The plot had some action and comedy, and the protagonist was believable as a teenage male.

I recommend TVD for readers looking for something different than your usual YA, readers wanting to jump on the mermaid YA bandwagon, and readers hoping for a light and decent YA read.

Memorable Quote
“Is there a way you can fix that? Make yourselves look different so that you don’t attract so much attention?”

“We do look different. We are glamoured,” Kurt says indignantly. “It’s a light spell to tone down our natural colors. We are no longer achingly beautiful. Now we’re just exceptionally beautiful.”
Amazon GoodReads

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