Submerge, by Tobie Easton

After finishing Tobie Easton’s incredible debut Emerge, which I loved and placed at #5 in my favorite books read last year, I couldn’t wait for the sequel. The story was simply lots of fun, and the plot and conflict were wrapped up so nicely, that I wasn’t sure what a sequel could even look like. Would there be another story to tell with these characters? I was a little worried, because when I pick up a book about mermaids, I don’t want simple. I want magical.

And absolutely magical is what this book is.

Before I go deeper, please take heed: though I will be spoiler-free for this book, I cannot guarantee it for the previous book in the series.

It was so refreshing to dive right back into this series, and by Chapter Two, I was instantly hooked with where Lia and Clay are in their relationship. The descriptions of characters and places are so vibrant that it’s easy to immerse oneself into this world, and quite honestly, there’s a part of me that wishes I could for real.

With the resolution of Emerge being so nicely handled—Lia and Clay are together, siren Melusine and her nefarious father are taken away, and the curse on all mermaids is broken—I couldn’t imagine what would happen next. I had no idea that I’d read about Mel and her father on trial. Major kudos to Easton for creating an easily relatable but different enough judicial system down Below. In short, this tribunal was intense, and some of the verdicts and punishments made me audibly gasp.

Without going into details because, seriously, you’re best left to appreciate them on your own, Lia and Clay’s love story hits some rough waters. Now that Lia is an immortal (and royal) mermaid but Clay is a mortal human who knows about mermaids, things…get…complicated. No more said. Go read it. But that’s the motivating factor in everything Lia does; it’s the through-line that holds this complex (not simple), magical tale (and tail) together.

Lia’s narration is even stronger in this book than the first part. She’s worried about others finding out the not-so-legal thing she did in the first book, yet she clearly owns the action. She holds herself accountable, wants to be a better mer, and wants to do right by her family. It was a pleasure to see her mature not only since Emerge but through the course of Submerge.

Guiding her along the way is a new teacher—and a wonderful new addition to the characters in this world—the mysterious, magical Ondine. Beautifully crafted both in Easton’s physical description of her and her overall essence, sequences with her and Lia jumped off the page. It is in these private tutoring sessions that Lia—and the reader—is exposed to what I feel is the central theme of the book.

Through Ondine’s teaching, Lia learns that doing what’s right isn’t always simple—and sometimes the right thing to do is the less popular or even “wrong” thing to do. Lia had to make that choice in Emerge, but here, whether these actions are being done for love, politics, safety—something global or personal—sometimes wrong is the right choice. But then again, sometimes it isn’t. These are some deep issues for a YA fantasy book, and what I respect about this series so far is that Easton allows Lia to sometimes make the wrong wrong choice, sometimes make the wrong right choice, sometimes the right wrong choice, and sometimes the right right choice. Isn’t that how young adults learn to cope with their problems? Isn’t that how anyone does? We make mistakes, and we learn from them—and Lia is a wonderful role model for that.

Another detail I appreciate about this series so far is that each book has its own self-contained plot. Sure, Submerge references back to Emerge when needed, but there are new conflicts and resolutions. I’m not a fan of series that end a book in a place where you’re left hanging. Though Submerge ends with an awesome last line to show what the through-line of the next part will be, I was thoroughly satisfied that everything else in the book was wrapped up.

Reading this book was like watching the tides go in and out. High tide came in crashing at the start with an intense trial sequence, and then it went out as I experienced some of Lia’s lows, but it came back even higher with an awesome, gripping ending. There’s not much more I can say about how much I loved this magical and not simple book except that you should submerge yourself into Submerge, which deserves the FIVE STARS I’m giving it.

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Submerge is available at Amazon.

Read the spotlight of Tobie Easton from summer 2016.

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