Publication: October 22nd 2019.
Genre: YA / Fantasy / Supernatural / Retellings
Edition: Advance Reader copy ebook provided by Netgalley.
Date finished: October 14th 2019.
Synopsis: (from Goodreads)
A centuries-old curse plagues the island of Viaii Nisi and an ancient enemy lurks beneath the depths of the surrounding water.
Annie Mayfield has heard all the stories and rumors about the island that is now home to the brand new Mayfield Villa resort, and she is definitely not psyched about having to spend her summer working there. The island’s name alone—Viaii Nisi, or violent island—is enough to make any sane person seriously reconsider it as a vacation destination. Then there are the mysterious deaths of every previous owner! It’s a history Annie’s mother is quick to shrug off, but when a guest goes missing on opening night, Annie really starts to get the creeps.
And then Annie makes a truly terrifying discovery: ruins filled with bones and one skeleton that seems to be half human and half fish. Intrigued by the strange remains and determined to help find the missing guest, Annie channels her inner Nancy Drew—minus the skirt and pearls, of course—in an attempt to uncover the truth about Viaii Nisi. But that truth is beyond anything she could ever have imagined. With her mother in complete denial and local officials unconcerned, Annie finds she’ll have to face her biggest fears if she’s to attempt to save everyone she loves.
Before I say the only negative thing I will write, I will first say this: I loved the originality of this story and I thought Emily Layne did an excellent job of making this story unique and true to its own, despite the retelling aspect (it’s minor, regardless). It grew tremendously with its progression and became better with every chapter and I enjoyed it very much.
First impressions: the fiercely independent, rule-bending millionaire teens who scoffs at her mother’s success and fantasizes about her rich caretaker of all-her-life is my first impression of Annie, and therefore, I hate her. The forced description of the MC coming from Benny’s mouth came out as way too try-hard, and Annie’a disdain for her mother, while the roots are unknown, are irritating at best, especially while the point must be made that “most babysitters don’t make 200,000$ a year like Benson does”— stop. Cliche cliche cliche. Like, of course there’s a limo waiting for scornful Annie. Noooooo.
I don’t usually like to start any review with a negative so early, but my first impression was important to me. That doesn’t mean I hated this book. I actually really ended up enjoying the story for the most part, and it became more of a page-turner once more characters were introduced and more substance made its way into the story. The resort staff were mostly endearing, some people had just enough mystery to make you “wonder”, and the switching storylines between Lorelei and Annie were woven strategically enough for me to have to really wrap it up together for myself before I was positive about what happened and when. It was actually quite lovely!!
Now that that’s out of the way: the writer has good style. I thought her pace of show & tell was even and wasn’t lacking in the imagination department. She left enough to imagination but also showed what she wanted me to see at a good tempo. The atmosphere was unique and created well for the plot. The mythological references and classic story borrowed references made for an incredibly interesting idea, and I thought how well it must have been planned out reflected easily.
This book got better as it continued. I thought that while Annie was super predictable, it was with the understanding that you knew her, not because the plot was predictable. I enjoyed almost every character fully, and while I wish there was more backstory (sister, Annie’s past excluding delinquencies, her parents relationship) I thought it was solid and well-written. I began to dislike her less and understand her more, though as I said before I would have appreciated more backstory to really be able to grasp the dynamic of Annie and her very messed up family.
I believed whole heartedly that this would be a stand-alone book until the very end, which was interesting. I have no idea if it will be a sequel— I read this before it was released so nothing has been announced, as far as I know, but the author left it open enough to expand in an entirely different direction.
There’s one thing I’d like to add, that made this book better for me and I think it would make it worth the time for readers looking for something at little bit different. While this was clearly a slight retelling in the way of the classic Anderson Little Mermaid (kind of), the author did something ambitious and brave- something I’ve tried to master (and someday you can tell me if I’ve succeeded if I’m lucky enough to be published). She took a paranormal fantasy story and turned it into a paranormal magical realism world-clashing everyone’s-included smash of reality. I thought it was meaningfully well-delivered and really brought home the maybe-magic-like-this-could-be-real feeling, which I think all of us are looking for.
If there is a sequel, I’m looking forward to reading it. Annie’s growth through this story was admirable and the storyline became more interesting with every page-turn. Well done.