(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)
Seventeen-year-old Serena is the youngest member of a dying race. The increasing acidity of the ocean is destroying her home, slowly eating away at the once thriving underwater landscape. But since the night of Serena’s birth, it is an outside force that most threatens their dwindling population. Werewolves, who once served as protectors for mermaids in the Kingdom of the Undine, now seek to eliminate all who dwell in the ocean — and Serena is about to find herself right in the middle of the deadly conflict.
Given the title of Werewolf Liaison, Serena is determined to make things right for her people. When she ventures to The Dry, she meets Liam, the werewolf with hazel eyes, and her whole world gets turned upside down. As Serena discovers the real history between werewolves and mermaids, she is left wondering who her true enemies are.
[Full disclosure: I requested and received an ebook copy of the whole trilogy on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]
I had read one of Terra Harmony’s books previously and thought it good, if a little preachy. I was a little iffy about trying another book by her not because of the preachy factor but simply because I was still not quite sure how I felt about some of the scenes in the book I read, Water. They were a little graphic, although justified within the narrative, but I was still a little wary. But I still decided to try requesting the full Painted Maidens trilogy because it sounded good.
The world Terra Harmony has created in the trilogy is just amazing. The main character Serena is a mermaid, although they call themselves the Undine. She’s the youngest member of her dying race, which has been unable to reproduce because their land guardians the werewolves rose up in revolt against them and massacred dozens of mating couples and labouring mothers on the beach 17 years ago, including Serena’s mother and the King’s wife and children. You see, the Undine do swim like mermaids but for normal functions like going to court, sleeping and learning they remain on land in the various cave systems near the island where they live. It’s actually kind of fascinating to read the little details of Undine transformation because it’s not as straightforward as cartoons and other books would have you think. (Which does actually make a lot of sense.)
Anyway, Serena is a fascinating character. She was orphaned by the Full Moon Massacre 17 years ago and lives in a sort of communal nursery with other Undine around her age, although most of them are 18 at this point. They’re indulged by society simply because they’re the last hope of the species but even among the last class there are hierarchies and old family rivalries. Serena is most definitely at the bottom of the ladder until the day jobs are chosen for the young Undine and she’s appointed the King’s own Werewolf Liaison, tasked with bringing peace between two species that have been warring for almost two decades. She was given the job in part because she’s always sneaking up to The Dry but also because of the hidden motivations of those in power. I don’t want to give too much away but let’s just say there’s a very special reason for her appointment.
Serena is a fascinating character. She’s more scientifically oriented and intellectually curious than many of her classmates but at the same time she really does lack some basic social skills. Really, she’s the epitome of the awkward teenager and instead of being cutesy-awkward she’s often genuinely awkward as she tries to navigate the pitfalls of friendships and relationships with Undine males. The fact that Undine society still has some ridiculous gender stereotyping and gender roles doesn’t exactly help the whole situation. But when she’s named Werewolf Liaison Serena really comes into her own. She matures and improves on her natural resourcefulness in an attempt to bring an end to the conflict that killed her parents. And she discovers some terrifying secrets that society has kept from her and her classmates.
Some of the plot twists were predictable but I really do give Terra Harmony credit for keeping the story interesting and fast-paced despite that. There isn’t a lot of action in the beginning but there’s a lot of interpersonal drama and tension. It’s also a good thing that the action is put off until later because getting used to Undine society isn’t something that happens in just a few pages. It’s so alien and different from our own that it really does take getting used to. Undine society is far from perfect but you really do gain a certain appreciation for it and for its people who are just trying to ensure their species survives.
Basically, if the blurb or my review has got you interested, I’d say go for it! The Rising is a great start to the Painted Maidens trilogy. Plus, this first book is free on both Kindle and Nook!
I give this book 4/5 stars.