Saturday, October 26, 2013

5 Heart Review and Giveaway: Waterfell by Amalie Howard

Waterfell (Aquarathi #1)
Amalie Howard

Page Count: 368

Release Date: 1 November 2013
Publisher: Harlequin TEEN (Harlequin)
Source: Complimentary ARC provided by publicist in exchange for an honest and unbiased review as part of the virtual book tour (thank you, JKS Communications!)
Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Enter the dangerous and mysterious world of the Aquarathi, the ocean's best-kept secret...

Nerissa Marin hides among teens in her human form, waiting for the day she can claim her birthright—the undersea kingdom stolen from her the day her father was murdered. Blending in is her best weapon—until her father's betrayer confronts Nerissa and challenges her to a battle to the death on Nerissa's upcoming birthday—the day she comes of age. 

Amid danger and the heartbreak of her missing mother, falling for a human boy is the last thing Nerissa should do. But Lo Seavon breaches her defenses and somehow becomes the only person she can count on to help her desperate search for her mother, a prisoner of Nerissa's mortal enemy. Is Lo the linchpin that might win Nerissa back her crown? Or will this mortal boy become the weakness that destroys her?
The laws of human attraction are new to me.
I'm breathless.
Just before I walk into the classroom, I glance over my shoulder. Lo's eyes are deep and piercing. I feel the weight of them hovering, watching. Holding me motionless as time, too, stands still. I force myself to peel my gaze away from his compelling stare, making my feet obey weak commands to enter the classroom... the one in front of the other, like a drone. Something hot pulses across the back of my neck, racing across my body, and I can't even think.
It's not Ehmora who will be the death of me.
It's this boy.

Sixteen-year-old Nerissa Marin, daughter and next heir of the Aquarathi's High Court, just wants to be normal. She goes to a normal high school, has normal friends, and does normal girly things like shopping and surfing and field hockey, but when her father is murdered for reasons she knows are beyond political, she is forced to face her greatest fear: sacrifice her "normal" life and return to the kingdom of Waterfell to serve as the reluctant queen. However, Ehmora, an evil and spiteful lower-ranking ruler, wants to take over the fallen kingdom, and is even willing to challenge Riss for the throne, which won't only make her transition to ruler even more difficult, but may reveal secrets about Riss's family—and about Riss—that are beyond her wildest beliefs.

Even though Waterfell is about supernatural beings that live underwater, it is a far cry from your typical mermaid romance. In fact, the species here aren't even mermaids; they're Aquarathi, a vividly created variety of alien, who look more like Loch Ness monsters (but can take on human forms) and reside at the bottom of the ocean.

The alternate Aquarathi world Howard constructs is stunning and really elaborate, but that's where my praise for this book ends. As detailed as Nerissa's universe is and as original as the story was, everything is painfully predictable, from the character twists (I guessed Lo's "deep dark secret" the moment we meet him), to the final battle against Ehmora, which isn't only predictable, but also anticlimactic. There are random curveballs thrown into the plot—which I'll refrain from giving away out of respect for spoiler-phobics—and these are unexpected, but none of them are particularly shocking or significant to the story. The organization of the elements of surprise is very poor; although there is a lot of tension regarding Nerissa's safety and royal obligations, there is no "Oh my god" moment. Waterfell just plateaus at a certain point, and afterwards it's all just very "meh."

Even more unfortunately, I really, really disliked Nerissa. She does have her tender, vulnerable moments (in which I momentarily pity her, at best), but there is nothing about her that is friendly or even pleasant. She's quite bitchy, as a matter of fact; I tolerated her as a character, but as a narrator, found her excruciating. Her priorities blur when she meets a charming, troubled boy with mysterious, jolting blue eyes... Lo Seavon, a mere human boy—and yet unlike any human she's met before. As she becomes more and more entangled in the mess that is teenage love, her faith in humanity proves to be her biggest strength and possibly even her most catastrophic downfall... which is just what Ehmora may be anticipating from her.

Lo, the love interest, isn't much of an improvement in terms of irritating characters. There's a lot of focus on the color of his eyes and the angle of his smile, but he's so unmemorable and insubstantial, that the entire "romantic" aspect of this book just completely falls apart. There is no spark between him and Riss, no love (none I could feel, anyway). This establishes very flimsy grounds for a YA romance, and I was highly disappointed with it.

Another thing that made Waterfell difficult to get through was Howard's penchant for telling, rather than showing. She has a solid style and tells a linear story studded with danger, betrayals, and plenty of secrets, but her superfluous descriptions are exasperating—eventually, an undemonstrative style gets dull. I swear I'm not being nit-picky, here; there are literally lines and lines that go on like this: "Lo is so arrogant but at the same time sweet, smart, and caring ... He's handsome but troubled." Why would anyone EVER try to summarize such crucial characterization into single sentences like that?! Okay, rant over.

Pros


Creative notion of Aquarathi and underwater kingdom // Steep tension (which admittedly leads to a disappointing peak) // Easy to follow; fantasy world well explained // Strong narrative voice // Messages about humanity, friendship, and duty

Cons


Hate Nerissa as a person/alien // Romance is a dud; I neither liked Lo, nor did I feel any chemistry // Every. single. character. is annoying and so two-dimensional that it's unrealistic // Terribly anticlimactic // Lots of telling over showing; makes for lots of boring details

Love

I stare blindly at the ocean, considering all the reasons that I don't like [Lo]. I hate the way he looks at me as if he knows me, when he knows nothing about me at all. I hate the way he talks, the way he looks, and the fact that everyone—including my own best friends—seems to adore him. I hate the way he smiles so easily at anything Jenna or Cara say, when all he can do is snap mocking comments at me. I hate the way he makes me feel with one glance as if all the water in my body is electrified and I can't breathe. I hate how he surfs, and how his lips curve into a lopsided smile when he's happy. I hate everything about him, especially his stupid lips.

Ignoring the tiny shiver coursing through me at the thought of Lo's lips, I sigh and swallow past the knot in my throat, watching him laugh easily at something Jenna says. Suddenly, I realize that I'm envious because, deep down, I want him to be that way with me.

Effortless.

And then the truth hits me like a curling wave.

I don't hate him at all.

Verdict


Waterfell shows some promise with its highly imaginative underwater universe, but I couldn't really get into it because of its static, predictable plot combined with even more static, even more predictable characters (Nerissa MARin? Lo SEAvon? That isn't just a coincidence, and it's ridiculous how the naming just go casually unnoticed). Amalie Howard's first in the Aquarathi series isn't miserable; I do think it was worth reading, if only just for the straightforward story, as well as for Nerissa's fascinating transition into the royalty kingdom. If you're looking for a really good toe-curling fantasy young adult romance, however, this would not be the first book I'd recommend you reach for; while it does illuminate upon the humanity of love and how it can both weaken and empower, I found it mediocre at best, and weak in multiple vital areas Americanflag

5 hearts: Doesn't particularly light any of my fires; I feel indifferent about this book (x)

Giveaway!

I know I wasn't completely smitten with this one, but all books settle differently with different readers, so you may want to give it a try! One Books à la Mode reader will get the chance to read Waterfell, themselves—we have one finished PRINT copy to give away today! Leave a comment on my review for the chance to win. Be sure to leave your email address so I know who to contact when I draw a winner! Only meaningful comments will go into the contest, which means irrelevant comments consisting of only "Thanks for the giveaway" will not count as an entry!!!

Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and conditions!
Sponsored wholly by the publicist—a huge thank you to JKS Communications!
Giveaway ends November 9th at 11.59 PM (your time).
Open to US readers only. Sorry, everyone else! Check out my sidebar where you'll find a list of giveaways that currently are running internationally—there are plenty to choose from!
Void where prohibited.
Winners have 48 hours to claim their prize once they are chosen, or else their winnings will be forfeited.
Although I do randomly select winners, I am in no way responsible for prizes, nor for shipping and handling.
As a reminder, you do not have to follow my blog to enter, though it is always very much appreciated ❤
Good luck!