Thursday, September 27, 2012

Book Review: Tempest Rising, by Tracy Deebs (14th review for The 2012 TBR Pile Reading Challenge)

Here's my fourteenth review for this
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Title: Tempest Rising
Author: Tracy Deebs
Format: Hardcover, 352 pages
Publisher: Walker Books for Young Readers
Published: May 10, 2011
Genre: Paranormal Romance, YA

I have always been fascinated by mermaid stories, although I haven't read that many of them.  However, I did read Hans Christian Andersen's "The Little Mermaid" as a child. 

This has been a wonderfully exhilarating experience!  The main character, Tempest Maguire, is a very likable heroine -- gutsy, yet vulnerable -- whose inner life is as interesting as her outer one.  Deebs has crafted a modern plot,  one in which Tempest is torn between her ocean heritage, which she has received from her mother, a mermaid herself, and her land heritage, which she gets from her father, who is human.  This makes for a psychologically riveting tale, as Tempest struggles to find a balance between her two worlds throughout the novel.  

As her seventeenth birthday approaches, Tempest must deal with the bitter memories of being abandoned by her mother, six years before, as well as with the changes she will soon undergo.  Her mother has left her a letter in which she promises to be there for Tempest as she travels through what will be a difficult period in her young life.  However, the time has come, and her mother is nowhere in sight...
Her father, who has a successful surfing company and is a champion surfer himself, tries very hard to understand his oldest child.  He is wonderfully gentle and tender with her, always ready to listen, and they therefore share an ideal father-daughter relationship.  It's sad that, in spite of this, he can't quite fill the void left by the mother's abandonment...
Adding to the uncomfortable feelings Tempest is already dealing with is the rising tension of her sometimes on-again, off-again relationship with Mark, her human boyfriend.  He doesn't know that she's half-mermaid, and Tempest is afraid to tell him.   One of the things they do have in common is their love of surfing, which they share with their friends every morning, before school.
Enter a mysterious new surfer, Kona, and now Tempest's problems have compounded as a love triangle begins to emerge...
I realize that love triangles are by now a bit too common in young adult fiction, but I didn't mind it here, although I must say that I don't think Deebs resolved it very satisfactorily.  Still, it did serve to reinforce the duality of Tempest's existence, since Kona, another sea creature, is juxtaposed with the human Mark.
One of the things I loved about this novel is the constant presence of the ocean throughout the entire story.  Interestingly, the ocean mirrors Tempest's moods, becoming at times terrifying, at other times wildly exciting, while at others, placid and welcoming.  The author's descriptions of it bring it vividly to life, adding to the story's appeal.
The mythological background is very effectively integrated into the story.  The villain of the novel is Tiamat, an evil sea witch bent on destroying not only Tempest, but her mother, as well.  Since this name sounded familiar to me, I did a Google search, confirming my suspicion that there was a Babylonian goddess by the same name.  In Babylonian mythology, she appears as "...a chaos monster, a primordial goddess of the ocean, mating with Abzu (the god of fresh water) to produce younger gods." (Wikipedia article)  In this novel, Tiamat is simply a very powerful sea creature who wants to control the entire Pacific, and is relentless in removing all obstacles to her rule.  She attempts to recruit Tempest to her dubious cause, as well, for she craves the young woman's own powers. 
I find it completely fascinating that Tempest must deal with such a formidable foe just as she's struggling to accept her identity as a mermaid.  She therefore has an inner and an outer conflict in her life, and, of course, the outer one symbolizes the inner one. 
This novel is much like the ocean.  On the surface, it's an entertaining, seemingly light read, but underneath that surface lie archetypal and psychological currents that belie the simplicity.  It's a coming-of-age story, of course, also framed as the traditional "hero's journey", although, in this case, the hero is a young woman.  Like traditional heroes, she, too, is tested.  As male heroes must often deal with the loss of their fathers, Tempest must deal with the loss of her mother.  Indeed, her quest is just as much about searching for her mother as about trying to find her own identity.  In finding her mother, Tempest also hopes to find herself.  Deebs brilliantly succeeds in portraying this highly emotional journey into adulthood through her captivating, vivid writing style. 
Characterization and plot go hand-in-hand throughout Tempest Rising.  The action and outer conflicts serve to bring out the personalities of the main characters. 
Mark is an utterly engaging character.  Although he's frustrated by Tempest's constant refusal to take him entirely into her confidence, he remains patient and loving to her.  He's always sweet and understanding, perhaps more than Tempest would seem to deserve, under the circumstances. 
Kona is also delightfully engaging.  Although he mystifies Tempest at first, he eventually succeeds in totally enchanting her just as much as she enchants him.  Their initial, immediate attraction gradually turns to love.  As their relationship develops, he does behave in controlling ways toward her at times, and she must counteract this.  However, he's always devoted to her, and finally ends up realizing that Tempest, true to her name, simply cannot be controlled.  Like the sea, she must be totally free.   He has to release her, paradoxically enough, in order to see if she will return to him.   
Beautifully-written, Tempest Rising is a novel unique to itself, although it uses the motif of the mermaid.  It presents a beautiful love story, along with a tale of courage, resilience, and psychological depth.  I find this entirely appropriate, too, since emotions are, after all, symbolized by water.  Although easy to read, and irresistibly addictive, it is also a novel that gives the reader much food for thought, as all great hero's quests do. 
I am so enthralled with this novel, that I have just ordered the sequel, Tempest Unleashed.  As young adult novels go, I would have to say that this is one of the most satisfying ones I have so far read, in spite of the one point I mentioned above. 
If you love the young adult genre as much as I do, be sure to pick up this novel, as well as the subsequent installments.  You will definitely not regret it!


Tracy Deebs
Purchase Links


  1. This does sound appealing and a little offbeat. The entire surfing connection sounds creative and witty.

    I have not written or seen many mermaid stories, but I think that the idea os a mermaid torn between the world of the sea and the world of the land is a very common theme.

  2. Love this review! The book look like something I'd like to read too ^^ "The little mermaid" was my favorite Disney Movie, just because I thought their world had something truly magical :)
    Gonna follow your blog :) looks great!

  3. Hi, Brian!

    Oh, this novel is definitely appealing! And I totally agree with you -- the use of surfing in the plot is quite creative, as well as witty. It's completely appropriate that a mermaid would be a great surfer!

    The theme of a mermaid being torn between land and sea is indeed a common one, but I think the way Deebs handles it makes her story pretty original. The whole abandoment thing is, I think, very poignant, and certainly adds to the inner conflict felt by Tempest.

    I have placed TEMPEST RISING on my favorites bookshelf, both on Goodreads and Shelfari. That's how much I LOVE it!!

    Thanks for commenting!! : )

  4. Hi, Eline!

    Oh, thank you so much for complimenting my review!! I guess it's very obvious that I LOVE this novel! And I know you'll love it, too, so I recommend it to you.

    Thank you as well for complimenting my blog, and beooming a follower!! It's greatly appreciated!! : )


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