Monday, February 01, 2016

The Tide Will Turn: Raging Sea by Michael Buckley

Spangler flashes me a strained smile. "I've watched all the footage of that day in Coney Island. I not only saw what you can do, I saw what you tried to do. You're not the terrorist they have painted you as. You're a hero, and I'm offering you a second chance at it," he says. "Before you can do that, we have to start over. No more solitary confinement. No more whatever it is they are feeding you. I'll free your mother. I'll let the prince and the Triton girl out of their tanks. In return, you have to accept my job offer.

"Job offer?" I cry.

"Saving the world, Lyric. You've seen the news. The world is on the verge of collapse. The East Coast is rubble. Did you see the thing with all the tentacles in the tank during your daring escape? It leaps onto your head, jams it into you, and then drinks you like a milkshake. How do you think that's affecting morale on the front lines? It's my job to make it all stop. You're going to help me."

Halfling Lyric Walker, half-human, half-Alpha, flees the first battle brought on by the seeming invasion of the Alpha sea creatures, capable of human shape but able to shape-shift in the sea into gilled and scaled creatures. The battle has shattered the coast, and Lyric's mermaid mother and human father, and the Alpha prince Fathom she loves are believed dead, and although Lyric knows the Alpha are fleeing the voracious Rusalka from the deep, the humans cannot help but fear and hate Alphas, too.

With her best friend Bex and the warrior creature Arcade, whose arms bear hidden knives, she flees to the west in a "Thelma and Louise" road trip in a battered car, shoplifting food and dodging police and the army in a search for a camp called Tempest where Lyric believes she will find her parents alive. The human inhabitants are hostile, fearful of Alphas and even of the human refugees they call "Coasters" who are trying to escape the carnage on the coast. And finally the three are captured by a militia and taken to Tempest as prisoners. Lyric is held incommunicado in a stainless steel cell, battered and barely fed on half-rotten swill, but she rallies and manages to escape, only to find her father gravely injured but alive, her mother, Fathom, and all captured Alphas floating in filthy tanks, some with amputated limbs or split open. And then the camp leader Spangler makes her a repugnant offer that she ultimately cannot refuse.

It is Lyric's job is to train 33 captured children and young teenagers, half human and half Alpha, to use their powers over water as she does. Like Lyric, they receive the Oracle, a glove which multiplies their power. Lyric feels she is asked to lead virtual babies to their own slaughter, but under her tutelage, their powers burgeon and soon she finds herself leading them in the second battle of Coney Island, The halfling children fight successfully against the Rusalka, but an unforeseen onslaught of the Undine, tentacled brain-sucking Rusalkas, sends her forces and the army into a full retreat. Lyric finds herself facing the absolute Undine, the Mother. And then...

The water is cold and black, and then there is nothing.

To be continued....

After devoting much of Book I of the trilogy, Undertow, to romance between Alpha halfling Lyric and the sea creature Fathom, in the second book, Raging Sea: Undertow Trilogy Book 2, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016), author Buckley turns his story to the continuing theme of an Armageddon between the sea people and humans. For readers who prefer fantastic warfare to forbidden romance, the second book provides almost constant conflict--initial power clashes between frenemies Lyric and Arcade, physical conflict at Tempest, the training camp, and a return to what is left of the east coast for a massive battle in the waters off the destroyed Coney Island. A Pyrrhic standoff battle with the murderous Rusalka leaves the storyline is limbo, with Lyric sinking into the ultimate black hole, the Great Abyss.

Readers who dote on dystopic fantasies such as The Hunger Games Trilogy: The Hunger Games / Catching Fire / Mockingjay will find much cross-species mayhem to mull over in this one, and with its cataclysmic cliffhanger conclusion, and will no doubt be back for more in the final book of Buckley's trilogy. Buckley's descriptive writing is vivid and cinemagraphic, the love triangles are intriguing, and the intensity of the plot will make seeing how this series resolves itself irresistible.

See the ominously scored trailer here.

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