Book Reviews

[review] Waking Storms – Sarah Porter

Release Date: July 3, 2012
Publisher: Harcourt Children’s Books
Age Group: Young Adult
Pages: 400
Format: Hardcover
Source: ARC received from publisher

After parting ways with her troubled mermaid tribe, Luce just wants to live peacefully on her own. But her tranquility doesn’t last long: she receives news that the tribe is on the verge of collapse and desperately needs her leadership. The tribe’s cruel queen wants Luce dead. Dorian, the boy Luce broke mermaid law to save, is determined to make her pay for her part in the murder of his family. And while the mermaids cling to the idea that humans never suspect their existence, there are suddenly ominous signs to the contrary.

But when Luce and Dorian meet, they start to wonder if love can overpower the hatred they know they should feel for each other. Can Luce fulfill her rightful role as queen of the mermaids without sacrificing her forbidden romance with Dorian?

Tell Me More: In the year or so since I’ve been blogging, I’ve read and reviewed more novels about mermaids than I’ve read in my entire life. They’ve always fascinated me, but I’ve only been able to really savour the richness of their mythology in the last few months. Ethereal and mysterious as they are, it can be difficult to push through the haze and find a story worth telling. Sarah Porter did it once with Lost Voices, and she succeeds again, brilliantly, with Waking Storms.

For quite a while, I caught myself referring to this book as Waking Voices, which was a great connection that my brain drew on its own. Luce is certainly waking up to the loneliness of her existence, and she begins to own her voice and her actions. Despite losing the chance to grow up physically, she learns to grow emotionally–she takes the risk of loving someone besides herself, and she learns to deal with the consequences of her actions in the previous book.

Curiously enough, many readers are bothered by how quickly the relationship between Luce and Dorian develops, but I believe this is one instance where the “insta-love” can be pardoned, at least for this book. It’s important to remember that Luce is 14 years old, and will never have the chance to grow up. She certainly makes leaps and strides in emotional growth, but at heart, she is still a child. She encounters emotions and situations that even adults would be hesitant to experience, and she does her best with what she knows. Those of us past adolescence know how heightened everything becomes, from the slightest insult to the greatest joys. I never excused Luce for her actions, but I can very much understand where they come from, and I appreciated Sarah Porter’s dedication to letting Luce’s characterization expand even as it remains realistic.


I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.

I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

Likewise, the plot is one that unfolds slowly and steadily. Luce’s decision to split from her tribe of mermaids was a brave one, and her journey is just as compelling. Early in the story, a beautiful poem by T.S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” is mentioned, and unconscious or not, the story runs parallel to the poem. The last line is particularly chilling to consider in reference to Waking Storms: Luce is surrounded at all sides by human beings who are cruel, reckless and selfish. The very race with whom she wishes to co-exist wants to destroy her. Her tribe has morphed into something she cannot fathom. Sarah Porter’s prose is gut-wrenchingly beautiful,  even when it is heavy with sadness.

There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

Time and the loss of it is a theme that lies quite heavily on the story. The mermaids’ time seems to be ending, and Luce and Dorian’s relationship is slave to lost time as well. There are mistakes and risks in looking back at the past, and Luce and the mermaids are trapped by their instinct to seek revenge for those experiences. It’s a time for change for each and every character in this book, and that is a truly powerful and creative dynamic to add to the story.

Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?

Luce is the eye of the storm in this trilogy, despite her wish to live a quiet and peaceful life. Like J. Alfred Prufrock, Luce is searching for something she can’t quite name, because of fear and anger and loss. After reading Waking Storms, it’s very obvious that she will have to make some awful choices to get her wish, and she will have to face the things she can’t forgive herself for doing. The Luce that readers will find at the end of this installment is vastly different from the damaged young girl in Lost Voices. She grows into a girl who will be worthy of the battles she has to fight in the next book, whether it’s against her tribe, Dorian or herself. Her inner strength will carry her through, despite the temptation to take the easy road. I look forward to seeing her grow into a formidable and truly beautiful person.

The Final Say: While Lost Voices is captivating and enthralling, Waking Storms is powerful in the raw pain and uncertainty it displays. Sarah Porter raises the stakes, not only for Luce, but for every single character, with writing that is more melodic than a song.

About Sarah

Sarah Porter is a writer, artist, and a freelance public school teacher. Sarah and her husband live in Brooklyn.

Add Waking Storms on Goodreads | Visit Sarah’s website

Order Waking Storms from Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters

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