Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Book review: Wake by Amanda Hocking

The deadly lure of a siren’s call awaits those who venture too close to the sea.  

Disclaimer: A shortened version of this review also appears on Women24.com, a South African women's lifestyle website where I manage, amongst other things, an online books section.
 


Wake by Amanda Hocking (Tor)

 I was first introduced to Amanda Hocking when I heard about her book deal with Pan Macmillan publishers.

For those of you who don’t know, Hocking was offered a book deal after her the sales of her self-published novels shot through the roof, resulting in her becoming one of the best-selling, self-made authors we’ve seen to date.

Before that I had not heard about The Trylle Trilogy, so when I picked up Switched, the first book in said trilogy, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.

Surprisingly, I really ended up enjoying it, but still ended up taking a break from reading the follow up books to Switched.

In retrospect, I think I actually made a good decision as my experience with Wake actually makes me want to revisit Switched and finally get around to reading the rest of the books.

To put it more bluntly, my reading experience of Wake was far more superior one to Switched.  In fact, the series surprised me in more ways than one.

What I initially thought was just another paranormal story about mermaids, ended up being a book about murderous sirens interspersed with a good splash of action, romance and Greek mythology.

Told from two different points of view (the main protagonist and her older sister), Amanda Hocking’s Wake chronicles the story of Gemma Fisher, a young and pretty teen hailing from a small town where almost nothing eventful happens.

With her love of swimming and a growing fondness for Alex, the boy next door, Gemma’s life is pretty stable. 

At least, that is, until the arrival Penn, Lexi and Thea, the beautiful but strangely eerie outsiders who decide to make a pit stop in town for the rest of that summer. 

With their strange allure, Gemma  and her sister Harper can’t help but feel uneasy around them and strive as far as possible to avoid bumping into them.

Harper, who has always had a bit of an overly protective streak with regards to Gemma, is especially leery of the girls and constantly warns Gemma to stay away from them; a rule she’s only too happy to follow given her rebelliousness.

One night during one of her late-night swimming sessions, she inadvertently runs into Lexi, Penn and Thea who invite her to join their little party. Following the events that occur, Gemma soon begins to realise that there’s something wrong with her. 

She’s stronger, faster and attracts even more attention than usual. It isn’t long before she realises that something dark and hungry lives inside of her, changing her, calling to her and seducing her. 

With her new found power, it also becomes increasingly apparent that her loved ones aren’t safe and that trying to resist the “gift” the girls have bestowed upon her is an exercise in futility… because what the girls want, the girls get.

And Thea, Penn and Lexi are not about to let Gemma go.

Wake is one heck of a fun read.  Drawing inspiration from Greek mythology, Amanda Hocking’s take on sirens is one that I certainly haven’t come across as of yet.

Most of you should, on a basic level, be familiar with the Hades and Persephone myth. What many people don’t know is that sirens, once considered amongst the most highly regarded figures, were punished by Demeter for failing to protect and rescue Persephone from the clutches of Hades.

Essentially, Amanda Hocking draws upon this myth and expands it to form her own take on it, and I for one, certainly enjoyed it.  

Initially I found the writing to be a bit clunky, but once I got into the story, everything just flowed together. The book a fast-paced read, jam-packed with action, intensity and characters that are incredibly likeable.

Generally speaking, I’m not a fan of the “devastatingly beautiful” character trope, but in this instance, I can understand why it’s been used. Amanda’s exploration of the sirens is incredibly intriguing.

She injects their presence in a way that makes no doubt that these girls are aware of their allure, while also ensuring that there is a sinister and menacing aura that surrounds them.

The history behind their transformation not only explores the one form they take, but also another version which is a lot closer to some of the myths told around their origins.

More than that I can’t say, as it will give it away, but suffice to say that in spite of their role as the manipulative villains of the story, there is something that’s incredibly fascinating about them; so much so that I’m actually keen to read more about their history.

As far as the main protagonist goes, Gemma, while not one of my all-time favourite heroines, is a pretty likeable character.  I loved how Amanda didn’t make a fuss or big deal about the kind of life that she lives.

Here’s just an ordinary girl who spends each day doing ordinary, normal things, until something weird happens to her.

She’s a girl who tends to feel stifled by her father and sister’s over protectiveness, and while she does feel frustrated, her dad and sister, Harper’s concern are more than a little justified given Gemma’s late-night swimming activities and the fact that reports of missing people have been rife.

Hocking’s characterisation of Gemma’s older sister Harper, is pretty phenomenal too. I dare say, that in some instances, her wisdom to think through situations and her love for her sister often came through more clearly.

The parts of the book though, are the scenes when the supernatural elements come to life. Think underwater magic, beautiful mermaid tails and dark, seductive and vicious siren behaviour. 

Add in a cyclone of twisted transformation, unexpected revelations, romance and moments where bravery and loyalty is tested to the extreme, and you have yourself one fun paranormal read.

I can’t wait to read the next book in the series.

P.S.  Just a fair warning to younger readers: there’s one or two scenes that are rather gory and graphically detailed, so if you’re sensitive to that, make sure to skip those pages.

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