It’s a while since I’ve read a Marjorie Liu story, and now I can’t think for the life of me why I left it so long
This is the latest Dirk Steele story, but assured that I can dip in and out of the series, I went for it. I got this book as a galley, and the first thing to attract me was the cover. The second was the merman hero. I’ve written mermen, my friend Judi McCoy has written mermen, and—and—who else? There’s a sad shortage of mermen, or to use Liu’s term, Krackeni, in the modern paranormal romance. It seems an odd omission, when so much of our earth is covered in seawater.
Our hero, Perrin, and heroine, Jenny, meet briefly as children and the haunting prologue describes this meeting from Jenny’s point of view. She sees him, and she is shocked at the fish tail, as she should be. All too often in the modern paranormal, the ‘normal’ human accepts the paranormal element too well. In this case, Jenny accepts it after a shock, and the humanity in the boy appeals to her. He is in trouble, but at the time she doesn’t know why or how. But she reaches out to him and creates a bond that lasts during the eight years of their separation.
When she meets him again, the story has described how Perrin, the hero, has lived eight years in exile, punished for a sin we don’t know about until much later in the story. He has a hollow place at the base of his skull where something has been removed. He’s working menial jobs and he’s been in prison, but he’s learned human ways. Jenny has used her money to buy a ship and she’s in search of mermen, haunted by her early experience, but she does it scientifically. She’s trained as a marine biologist, and she can dive and works methodically and well.
The story unfolds slowly. Anyone used to other authors’ approaches of slamming the reader straight into the story might be impatient, waiting for Perrin and Jenny to meet up again. Actually, I felt that way at first, and it took a chapter or two to accustom myself to Liu’s more expansive way of telling the story. We meet people who, I presume, are from previous books, but they don’t feel too intrusive.
Nobody in this book is stupid. When Jenny doesn’t tell Perrin about the parasite that has attached itself to the base of her skull, it’s because she can’t, because the parasite is preventing her from doing so. A clever way to avoid what, in a less skilful author’s hands, would have been a TSTL moment.
The development of their relationship is rewarding and you are with them all the way. There is no sudden “telling,” that they are suddenly in love. The reader sees it, traces it. It’s completely satisfactory and Liu does a wonderful job of showing how two people fall in love. Although there is a connection between Perrin and Jenny, and a link from childhood, there’s no ‘imprinting’ or mating for life. They have disagreements, they don’t always work together, but they can’t stay apart, and we watch as they come to the realisation that they have to be together.
The story concerns the Kraken, also an underused monster, I feel, but one of the most terrifying in all mythology. Liu does it justice here, and like Sauron in Lord of the Rings, it’s more terrifying because we never see the whole of it, never experience its full horror. Liu isn’t afraid to let the reader draw her own conclusions sometimes, she never overdoes the situation, and so makes the prospect of what would happen should their mission fail even more tense.
I shall now go and glom the backlist. As I recall, I didn’t particularly like the first in the Dirk Steele series (what happened to the ampersand?) but I loved this one. Enough to get the rest.
She could never forget the boy with the ice blue eyes . . .
She was only twelve when she saw the silver boy on the beach, but Jenny has never stopped dreaming about him. Now she is grown, a marine biologist charting her own course in the family business – a corporation that covertly crosses the boundaries of science into realms of the unknown . . . and the incredible.
And now he has found her again, her boy grown into a man: Perrin, powerful and masculine, and so much more than human, leaving Jenny weak with desire and aching for his touch.
But with their reunion comes danger. For Perrin and Jenny – and all living creatures – their only hope for preventing the unthinkable lies in a mysterious empire far beneath the sea . . . and in the power of their dreams.