Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Perilous Sea (The Elemental Trilogy #2)

I was not quite as enthralled with The Perilous Sea, a young adult novel by Sherry Thomas, as I was with the first book in the fantasy romance series: The Burning Sky. In fact, my rating dropped from four and a half stars to three. I still liked it; three isn't bad. Sequels are just hard, and if you come to a resolution in the romance aspect of the book, which the first book does already, you have to change things up to keep the reader interested in that. When everything's happy and mushy, that's great. The reader wants things to end there, but the interesting part is the conflict. Granted, I think more books should be written about the happily-ever-after-or-not, what happens after love's first glow fades when reality sets in. I think the Divergent series does a decent job of keeping the romance interesting by adding depth to it once the characters are finally together.

So, The Perilous Sea changes things up to keep the reader interested. In some ways, the changes aid the plot of the story, but as far as the romance goes, it's basically a reset, which is a cheap way to liven things up. Iolanthe (Fairfax), supposedly the greatest elemental mage of her time, and Prince Titus experience memory loss (it's almost cheesy!), and the reader gets to see them fall in love all over again. Yay.... The book alternates between two storylines, one which takes place in the Sahara Desert as the two lovers run for their lives, though they can't remember who they are, and one which takes place in the weeks leading up to their memory loss, in which their relationship takes a downward turn. It would be an interesting dichotomy...if we hadn't already been there, done that. We already got to see them hate and then love each other in the first book.

But in setting up an intriguing mystery for the reader to unravel, the two storylines, past and present, work great, the stronger of the two being the one before the memory loss when things start to go south. The conflict between Iolanthe and Titus is rather painful, but the circumstances that pull them apart are intriguing and leave the reader guessing until the end--who is good, who is bad, who is powerful, who's a pawn.

Since Sherry Thomas is an adult romance writer, I had concerns after reading the first book that the trilogy wouldn't remain sex-free, even though the first book was. This second book teetered dangerously close as the two made plans to have a romantic getaway, but they never ended up doing it. It's possible book three may have that sex scene, though one can always hope they'll be too busy fighting the bad guys to have time for it. In any case, the implication that it's coming and that the characters have no moral reservations about it lowers my opinion of the romance even further.

If the romance wasn't in the way, I think this could be a really good fantasy series with fun characters (Iolanthe pretends to be a boy at an all-boys school in Victorian London, which provides many entertaining moments) and high-stakes danger in a world part-normal-part-magic, similar to that of Harry Potter. Hopefully the next book will be as epic as the first book's set-up promised.

The Immortal Heights, book three of The Elemental Trilogy, comes out in October of this year.

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