Goddess of the Sea, by P.C. Cast

>> Wednesday, September 06, 2006

After the lovely Goddess of the Spring, I couldn't wait to read more of P.C. Cast's Fantasy Romance blends. The next one I grabbed from my TBR was Goddess of the Sea, an earlier book.

And yep, yet another very nice cover for this author! (though mine looked a bit brighter than this particular scanned image I found online. Not as bright as the first one I found that I put on my sidebar, but not as muddy as this one)

On the night of her twenty-fifth birthday, alone in her apartment, Air Force Sergeant Christine Canady wished for one thing: a little magic in her life. After drinking way too much champagne, she performed, of all crazy things, a goddess-summoning ritual, hoping that it would somehow make her life a little less ordinary...but she never believed the spell would actually work!

When her military plane crashes into the ocean, CC's mission overseas takes an unexpected turn. She awakens to find herself in a legendary time and place where magic rules the land--occupying the body of the mythic mermaid Undine. But there is danger in the waters and the goddess Gaea turns this modern, military gal into a beautiful damsel so that she can seek shelter on land. CC is soon rescured (literally) by a knight in shining armor. She should be falling in love with this dream come true, but instead she aches for the sea and Dylan, the sexy merman who has stolen her heart.
The good things about Goddes of the Spring were also present in Goddess of the Sea... a fascinating, fresh setting and a very strong heroine. However, Dylan here wasn't quite as interesting as Hades, so this one's getting a slighly lower grade: a B-.

Sargeant Christine Canady (known by everyone as C.C.) is turning 25 only a few days before she's deployed for 3 months in Saudi Arabia. After celebrating her birthday by watching one of her favourite movies, eating an entire bucket from KFC and drinking two bottles of champagne, she gets a bit carried away by the atmosphere and, in a scene very reminiscent of the one in Goddess of the Spring, half-seriously follows the instructions in a book to make an offering to the goddess Gaea (the goddess of the Earth), asking for some magic in her life.

Like in the other book, what starts out as a lark ends up with C.C. really feeling what she's doing, and over the next few days, we readers are privy to some very interesting events which make it clear that C.C. has acquired a degree of protection from the goddess. Nothing big enough that makes C.C. convinced that something strange has happened, though. Not until, that is, her plane crashes into the ocean and right before C.C. drowns, she's approached by a beautiful mermaid who, asking her "Do you desire to continue to live, no matter the cost?" switches their bodies.

C.C. soon understands why the mermaid was so anxious to switch bodies, when the first person.. sorry, mer-person she meets is her very creepy half-brother Sarpedon, who immediately proceeds to try to rape her. Sarpedon and Undine (the mermaid in whose body C.C. finds herself) share a father, Lir, some of whose other names are better known: Neptune, Poseidon, etc. However, that's no obstacle for Sarpedon wanting to mate with Undine, and for Lir to accede to it, never knowing that Undine fears and is repulsed by him.

C.C./Undine manages to escape Sarpedon on their first encounter, but she's very scared, and obviously wants to go back from being human. Fortunately, chance takes her to a cove that is the domain of Gaea, Undine's mother, who hearing her story, decides to help her. Gaea can protect her only on land, and can't definitely change her back to human, but she can give her a human body for a while, as long as she returns to the sea every third night. However, she will be allowed to keep her human form forever if she finds true love.

And so, C.C. pretends to be the amnesiac Princess Undine, washed up to shore after a shipwreck, and is rescued by knight in shining armor Sir Andras. Did I forget to mention that in this world, it's the Middle Ages on shore? And that the area where C.C. is now is right off the coast of Wales, even though her plane crashed in the Mediterranean, en route from Italy to Saudi Arabia? No, it didn't make much sense to me, either, but it was something I was able to let go and not worry about much.

Anyway, Sir Andras takes the Princess to a nearby monastery ruled by Brother William, an intolerant zealot who despises women, especially beautiful women. And while Sir Andras at first seems wonderful (total knight in shining armor, duh), it soon becomes obvious that he's very much a man of his times, his attitudes towards women included. Not like the very interesting merman C.C. had met right before being washed ashore, and who she meets on those nights she must return to sea. But what happens if the true love C.C. finds is with a merman, not with a human?

I thought Goddess of the Sea worked best as a story about female friendship and power. I loved C.C.'s enthusiasm and growth. She's a very different character from Lina, from Goddess of the Spring. Lina was very much a mature woman, and this was part of her strength. C.C., on the other hand, is much younger and it shows, though not in a way that I found annoying. I really ended up appreciating her sense of humour and adaptability and the way she faced her problems head-on.

I also enjoyed the development of her relationship with the other women in the monastery. These women work in the kitchens and were hired only because they are ugly, so at first, they don't like the stunningly beautiful Undine very much. But gradually they start to appreciate her, and I loved those scenes in which they join together to help her.

Another character I found very enjoyable was Gaea. I loved her relationship with C.C..From the beginning, she knows there's now a different soul inside Undine's body, but their relationship still is that of a loving mother and her child: warm, supportive and tender.

The setting is something else worked wonderfully. It wasn't as great as Hades, in Goddess of the Spring, but I still enjoyed the descriptions of the underwater world and the monastery. Cast's descriptions can sometimes feel a bit too lavish, but they create some very vivid and beautiful pictures.

The romance was probably the book's weakest element. It's nice enough; I liked that merman Dylan immediately knows there's another soul inside his childhood friend Undine, and it's very clear that it's the woman inside the body that he's attracted to, not the body itself. I also liked that Dylan is a sweetie. But... he's also very bland. I love beta, kind, sweet heroes, so it's not a matter of his not being an alpha. The problem is that he's just not an interesting person, maybe because he's so very shallowly drawn that we don't get a good sense of who he is.

This means that when C.C. is so excited because she's fallen in love with him, I didn't see it. Who is she falling in love with? I had no idea, and I was pretty sure that neither did she. I simply didn't buy the whole drama.

To close, a quick word about the ending. I liked it, but other readers should be warned that there are shades of Jude Deveraux's A Knight in Shining Armor there. I repeat, I liked it and I thought it worked wonderfully, but then, I actually liked the ending of AKISA, so be warned!


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