Author: Mary Lindsey
Genre: YA, Gothic, Retellings, PNR
Publication Date: June 27, 2013 (Penguin – North America)
Source: Publisher-provided ARC
Summary: Liam MacGregor is cursed. Haunted by the wails of fantastical Bean Sidhes and labeled a demon by the villagers of Dòchas, Liam has accepted that things will never get better for him—until a wealthy heiress named Annabel Leighton arrives on the island and Liam’s fate is changed forever.
With Anna, Liam finally finds the happiness he has always been denied; but, the violent, mythical Otherworlders, who inhabit the island and the sea around it, have other plans. They make a wager on the couple’s love, testing its strength through a series of cruel obstacles. But the tragedies draw Liam and Anna even closer. Frustrated, the creatures put the couple through one last trial—and this time it’s not only their love that’s in danger of being destroyed.
Based on Edgar Allan Poe’s chilling poem Annabel Lee, Mary Lindsey creates a frighteningly beautiful gothic novel that glorifies the power of true love.
☆: 4.5/5 stars – an awesome retelling of “Annabel Lee”!
Review: How much do I love this book? It was everything I was hoping for and more. Poe’s “Annabel Lee” is one of my favorite of his works, and you can imagine I was super excited to see a YA book based on that extremely sad, grim poem. And Mary Lindsey did him proud with “Ashes on the Waves”, a book full of ghosts, monsters, mobs, and the question: what makes us human? I absolutely adored “Ashes on the Waves”, and I hope you do too.
The first thing that really struck me about “Ashes on the Waves” was the immediate sense of the world. From the jump, we have this immediate sense of what the island of Dochas feels like – a place thrown back in time compared to our current society, complete with the creepy mob-like villagers that think that because our MC has partial paralysis, that he’s a “demon” waiting to happen. Everyone but his employer, Francine, is cruel to him, and because of it, Liam is the ultimate sympathetic protagonist. I really liked that he was made that much “the other” for others to target, as the island itself is pretty “other” with all of its strange happenings, as we see later on in the book. I found it interesting that Lindsey decided to make Liam the Other, and not Anna, the rich New Yorker, whose family has owned property on Dochas for the last 150+ years. It was a good choice, and it set up everything that happened next really well.
Then there are the characters (aside from Liam and Anna) – they also really contribute to this very thrown-back world where the Otherworlders are revered with the utmost respect to the point of absurdity, as Anna sees it. And then there are the Otherworlders themselves – the Bean Sidhes, the Selkies (I LOVE THAT THESE GUYS WERE INCLUDED YES!), and the Na Fir Ghorm – which make this tale totally larger than life. Though they don’t get heavily involved until the second third of the book onward, just the impression of their existence constantly pressing in on the island and its inhabitants creates a delicious tension between this human world, forever stopped in time, and the next world, where monsters and gods all try to coexist yet try to tempt the humans (or save them), reminding them of humanity’s up-until-recent eternal coexistence with them. Reminding of what’s been lost with technology and advancement, and also reminding them of what could happen to them if they don’t listen to the Otherworlders.
I do feel like Anna’s character could have been a bit better built and voiced, but since this is mostly Liam’s story, what we did get was more than sufficient to go on. I also love how the myth of the Selkie was woven so completely into Liam and Anna’s story. It’s honestly one of my favorite myths, period, and I love how all around the world, there are varying bits of the myth but its heart (if the creature’s pelt/cloak/feathers/etc gets taken, she becomes earthbound) is the same. I feel like Lindsey really used the Selkie myth to its utmost to contribute to the trials that the Otherworlders force Anna and Liam to go through. Out of all of the Otherworlders mentioned, the Selkies get explored the most, and I just loved that.
Now, for something really important considering that this is narrated by a guy – cross-gender narration. Lindsey absolutely does a convincing job with Liam as a real boy – he sounds like a real boy, even though he’s a bit antiquified with how he’s had to grow up, where he’s grown up, and the education (or lack there of, compared to our current system). Nonetheless, it feels like a boy talking – even if he sounds like an early 20th century boy. Liam feels 100% authentic to his gender, and I’ve talked before on how hard it is to get cross-gender narration correct, but Lindsey knocked it out of the park here. I can’t tell you how happy that, as a reader, makes me.
Finally, the ending – and what an ending. True to Poe’s poem, this is not a HEA, but Lindsey puts her own spin on it. I can honestly say that some of the Big Reveals that led up to the end, I really didn’t see those coming at all. I love it when an author can do that, and Lindsey does that here so very well. So while this definitely isn’t a HEA in the traditional sense, there is a sense of closure by the end that won’t leave you feeling too down.
The rest? Flawless, more or less, in the technical departments, and absolutely gorgeous.
Final verdict? If you’re a fan of the Gothic genre and you love retellings, you simply MUST read this book. And even if you’re not, I urge you to give it a try anyway. “Ashes on the Waves” is out June 27, 2013 from Penguin in North America, so be sure to check it out then! Definitely one of my favorites of 2013 so far.