by Zoraida Cordova

Tristan Hart has a problem. Several problems, actually. Tristan is a relatively normal adolescent boy; Awkward at times, tongue-tied when he really needs to not be. His troubles include problems with girls in general, an ex-mermaid for a mother and the fact that his grandfather has decided that Tristan should inherit his throne as Sea King. There are more problems as the book progresses but this short list will do for starters.

This reviewer decided that The Vicious Deep would be a great “beach-read” and so ensconced himself on the sands of Virginia Beach a few feet away from the 36th Street lifeguard’s station where he would have a good view of the nubile young females walking up and down the beach trolling for guys. Their trolling was intended to snag lifeguards as well as the rest of the beach’s visible male population – visible, meaning guys their age or older who might have a hot car, a wad of cash, and no problems buying alcohol – but on this particular day, the 36th Street lifeguard was female so she didn’t count. Imagine then, this reviewer’s surprise when he opened The Vicious Deep to chapter one and saw the same scene being played out on New York’s Coney Island.

Zoraida Cordova’s story has a number of things going for it among which are:

  1. It is a really exciting story
  2. The central character is male.

Usually, mer-fiction deals with females who:

  • Are mermaids but don’t know it
  • Are mermaids who do know it
  • Want to become a mermaid but don’t know how
  • Etc., Etc.

In this story, Tristan – the central character – is the son of a former mermaid and just a few chapters away from becoming a merman himself. True to form, Tristan knows nothing about his mother’s history – other than she seems somewhat like a retired hippie. This is a sterling example of the peril that parents face when they don’t talk to their kids as they grow up, leaving vital information to be discussed “later”.

In mermaid stories, there is, of course, the old occult royalty bit where the central female character not only learns that she’s a mermaid but that she’s a princess as well, which has played – with varying degrees of success – in so many stories that it has become hackneyed to a significant degree. (Brenda Pandos – in her Mer Tales series – seems to be one of the few authors who can carry this off with aplomb and brilliance.) Because this story centres on a guy, the fact that Tristan is the grandson of the Sea King makes this facet seem fresh and exciting. Tristan is more a raw recruit than a guy with princely aspirations.

Next, there is the love interest. A common plot device is for the mermaid who is the central character to have feelings for one boy – human or merman – and then have her insides turn to something like porridge when a second boy enters the picture. In other words, a love triangle. (Queue up the schmaltzy song form the late 70’s. “Torn Between Two Lovers”.) Tristan already has at least one girl that he is keen on but his head is easily turned. Like a lot of teen-aged boys, Tristan is a little over-convinced that he is attractive to girls and as the story begins, he is suffering the consequences. Meanwhile, there is his childhood friend, Layla, whom he is beginning to see as more than just a “friend”. Layla cares about Tristan’s well-being and demonstrates this by turning up in the wrong place at the wrong time. Outside of his family, she is the only human who knows about the changes he’s recently been through.

Then finally, there is the action/adventure element to this story. There is a sea-witch who is gunning for Tristan and her attacks become more and more bold as the story progresses. If that was not enough, Tristan has to go on a scavenger hunt of epic proportions in order to take over the family business from his grandfather. There’s just one catch; Tristan has competition from older, more experienced mermen and his success starts to look like long shot.

And there you have it. Girl troubles, “cousins” from out-of-town, a sea-witch to battle and pieces of his grandfather’s trident to find. If that was not enough, Tristan also has to finish the last weeks of his Junior year in High School.

Zoraida Cordova has masterfully created a modern odyssey with some intriguing characters and a story that should interest male as well as female readers. The book is well written and a very clean read with hardly a typo or misused word to be found. These two points make the story even more attractive and a pleasure to dive into. The reader will be disappointed because the end of the book seems to come so quickly but they need not fret too much. The second book in this series, The Savage Blue, is due for release in (very) early January of 2013. Overall, I would recommend The Vicious Deep for older YA’s, say 16 and up.

My Rating:

Zoraida Cordova has a blog at http://www.zoraidawrites.com/

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