Ocean So Wide, by Nichole Giles

Almost two years ago, I came across Nichole Giles’s book Water So Deep, the first book in this series. As a fan of mermaids, I was drawn to the premise of the book, which told of Emma Harris, a girl who was slowly becoming a mermaid. I gave the book three stars because it dragged at times and Emma’s transformation didn’t live up to my expectations. I also wasn’t entirely sold on the cliffhanger ending. I’m not opposed to cliffhangers, and I’ve read many series where a book ends with an event meant to entice the reader to get the next book, but there’s usually some resolution of a character or story arc before moving into the next part. Water So Deep, though mostly well-conceived, didn’t have a resolution that satisfied me.

Normally when I give the first part of a series a low rating, the odds of me picking up the second book are small, but I chose to give this one a chance for the same reason I read the first one. The book description made it sound so interesting. Just think about how cool this premise sounds:

Emma is now in Atlantis, almost fully transitioned to a mermaid, and her grandfather the Sea King has arranged her marriage to the not-so-nice Merrick from the first book. Meanwhile on land, Emma’s human boyfriend James is a person-of-interest in the police investigation of her disappearance. He wants to do whatever it takes to find her and bring her back, while she wants to find some sort of cure to make her live on land again.

I found Ocean So Wide to be better structured than Water So Deep. One of my criticisms of the first book was how the development of James’s background detracted from Emma’s story. Here, they’re dual protagonists, and the chapters alternate between her time under the sea and his time on land. It’s a good choice for this type of story. And there are a few times that Giles cleverly uses this construction to juxtapose Emma and James dealing with similar events.

Unfortunately, the story suffers from a similar slow pace as the first part. James keeps reminding the reader how much he loves Emma, and Emma keeps reminding the reader that she doesn’t want to stay underwater. It’s repetitive, and it tells a lot rather than show. There are plot developments that make sense when they’re introduced, particularly a new extracurricular activity James takes up, but they don’t play a significant part in the story’s resolution.

Some of the plot holes of the first book are closed up. The book explains why Emma’s transition lacked a tail. It explains why Emma’s parents were missing in part one, and though the reason was believable, it’s one of many secrets the characters harbored from each other. A lot of Emma’s problems might not have progressed as far as they did if several of the characters spoke openly and honestly to each other. The variation of characters were most were once secretive (most of Emma’s family), others are immediately helpful (not a bad trait, but because it occurred in many, it created a sameness of character), or bland (it was hard to connect to either Emma or James).

There are some great ideas regarding the traditions of the merfolk, and I was interested in that part of the underwater world-building, but sometimes they said something that pulled me out of the story. I expect mermaids not to understand what fire is. They didn’t know the word party, even though they threw a kind of party for Emma. No problem—different cultures, different words. However, at one point when Emma had to take an underwater medical remedy, she was told by another mermaid that the enzymes inside it would help her. Maybe I’m nitpicky, but why would merfolk share such a scientifically specific term with humans, but not a really general word like party?

But my biggest issue with the book was that the resolution came across as far too coincidental. The characters are trying to solve the problem, and they know how to do it, but the solution practically fell into their laps, thus undermining any building of stakes. The first book suffered from a lack of urgency until really amping up its stakes in the final 25%, but I never felt any such build in this second book. The characters did things to try to solve the problems, but there wasn’t the same desperation to do so.

I am just one reader, and maybe other mermaid fans or YA-paranormal-romance fans will enjoy this book. Though I liked how the story was arranged more than I did the first part, the characters were flat, and some of the plot’s contrivances—especially at the ending—were far too wide for me to rate Ocean So Wide higher than TWO AND A HALF STARS.

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Ocean So Wide is available at Amazon.

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