Lies Beneath: review

April 5, 2012 2012, 3.5 star books, anne greenwood brown, mermaids, Wendy 56

Lies Beneath by Anne Greenwood Brown YA mermaids

Lies Beneath
by Anne Greenwood Brown

I hadn’t killed anyone all winter, and I have to say I felt pretty good about that.

So begins the very first good YA mermaid novel I’ve ever read–and hooray, they’re eeeevil, too! After trudging through so many books with insipid mermaids or one that barely qualified as mermaids, it’s so great to read a story in which sea creatures have purpose. And deadly intent. And tails. These merpeople aren’t drawn to kill people just for sport, but also because they crave the energy they harvested from positive human emotions.

One of the things I find most appealing about the idea of mermaids in literature is that I would love to know what it feels like to swim swiftly and endlessly through deep oceans. What’s it like to live under the sea? And if you’re part-fish, where does your aquatic side end and your human side begin? That’s an aspect I thought was touched on in a very nice way in this book. Migration patterns, animal instinct, the pure physicality of painful transformation, all of these provided an immersive and believable mermaidy experience in a way that I hadn’t come across before.

mermaids sea shells beach sand dollarsThe urge to migrate was irresistible. Far more powerful than the urge to kill. With each rise and fall of the moon, with each turn of the tide, it grew more impossible to ignore.

I also liked the male POV, the push and pull of attraction/repulsion you feel for Calder and his sisters, their need to be near water, and the author’s descriptive writing style. I was less engrossed in the human and emotional side of the story, however, including the relationship with perfectly-fine but fairly ordinary Lily, the somewhat flat secondary characters, and the romance. The central mystery/driving plot lines involving a murder in Calder’s family and his need to take revenge could have been more streamlined as well–and perhaps the twists and turns hidden a bit better.

I wasn’t bothered, however, by a few aspects that will probably drive some readers crazy, including Calder’s hunting of his prey, driven by both instinct and human emotion, or something a bit squickier– (see my GoodReads review for the spoiler)–primarily because I don’t think it was handled in an tasteless way, and there is some validity in its origin. Between their cruel, mocking games, careless values, and animal nature, it’s not entirely unexpected. I think the author also deserves big credit for the gutsiness in her decision to keep her mercreatures true to themselves, even if it meant that the reader is shocked or turned off by their actions.

It seems that those who have had more scornful reactions to this book are readers who don’t seem to read very many mermaid books, so I’d recommend this one specifically for those who love them or those who read a lot of YA paranormal romance. I love the idea of beauty and danger combined in a creature that humans can’t seem to resist, so I happened to like this one a lot! And I’m looking forward to seeing where the story goes next.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 stars
Release Date: June 2012

This review also appears GoodReads. An advance copy was provided by the publisher.

She Reads By the Seashore

These photos were snapped at the beach in January, by the way! We found all kinds of sand dollars and pretty shells that afternoon, so it felt like a pretty perfect day to be reading this book.

56 Responses to “Lies Beneath: review”

  1. ZaraAlexis

    I’ve always loved the idea of mermaids as a child and often wished I was one! But, your review has certainly made me want to go out and read this book! Like you, I’m also interested in what it feels like to live underwater and where the boundaries lie between being part human, part aquatic! Great review! Thanks for sharing it.

  2. Taneika

    I’m about to start this (when I get over this dreadful headcold), and this review is fantastic! I love it when authors bring creatures that are now often portrayed as ‘soft’, bring the story back to the roots and make them dangerous. Also, excellent point about the human-mer people emotions, I NEVER thought of that!
    Once again, Wendy, this review is brilliant!
    Thankyou, as this will be my first mermaid YA title as well, I’m definitely looking forward to this now :)

  3. Sarah (saz101)

    Oh my wow… Wendy… I’m reading this at the moment, and your review is… WOW.

    I love how the merpeople are… well… how you described. The seductive, dangerous and kind of amoral if not outright evil. They’re definitely NOT human, and it could have been so easy for the author to fall into that trap… I kind of like how she plays her cards close to her chest at the beginning. I totally have no idea what’s going on. WHY do they want to kill ____? LOVE IT.

    Honestly, your review is, like always, perfection xx

    • Wendy Darling

      Awww, Sarah! You’re so sweet. :)

      I looove the depiction of mermaids as they used to be portrayed–they haven’t always been the happy happy Disney version we’ve become accustomed to. I’m so glad you’re enjoying it! Cannot wait to read your review. xo

  4. Vegan YA Nerds

    I love that you enjoyed this book, I’ve had issues with the two mermaidy books I’ve read but this sounds very different and I want to give it a go!

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh, do give it a try sometime if you can. I love mermaids and I searched high and low for one I liked before I found this one, so maybe it’ll be the same way for you! I’d recommend a library read first if at all possible, though…

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh thanks Stephanie! This is definitely the best mermaid book I’d read to date, although I’ve since read MONSTROUS BEAUTY, which I absolutely loved. :)

  5. A. Knight @ Paranormal Indulgence

    Small and I dig the same sort of mermaids. I like the fluffier, happy-go-lucky sort as opposed to the I’M GOING TO KILL YOU NOW sort. I just like mermaids to be the less intense paranormal and sporting lighter plot drama. Still, even so, I couldn’t resist the killer mermaid side of things. It’s that darker voice calling out to this creepier version of creatures I so adore for their lightness. We’ll see how this goes, I guess.


    • Wendy Darling

      Ah, to each her own! I don’t the nice mermaids as long as they do something interesting, though, and so far I haven’t managed to find that yet. Thanks Asher!

      I still have such problems commenting on your blog, btw. :( I keep trying, though.

  6. Book Sake

    Reading at the beach was both a great idea and kinda creepy if these guys are evil! I haven’t gotten to read the ARC yet, but I’m looking forward to a male mermaid, merman, merperson…whatever…tale.

    – Jessica @ Book Sake

    • Wendy Darling

      Heh, I suppose so. It’s not really a scary book though, especially with the sun and soothing waves.

      I actually really dislike the word “merman,” hah, so I was trying not to use it as much as possible. “Merguy” I could get on board with. ;)

  7. Heidi

    I’m so glad that you liked this one, Wendy! I’ve been very anti on the whole mermaid trend in general; I’ve been super hesitant to even try any of them for various reasons. I have both Lies Beneath and Monstrous Beauty ARCs though, and I’m SO glad that you’ve liked both of them. Lies Beneath appeals to me because it’s a male pov, and I’m really interested in the animalistic nature parts you’ve talked about. Excited to check it out!

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh, you’ve been wary with good reason, Heidi. Most of the ones I’ve read have been pretty forgettable, and some of them were downright maddening. I don’t know that you’ll love this one necessarily, but I do think it’s an entertaining read. MONSTROUS BEAUTY, now–I adore that book. Though I expect it to be very polarizing. ;)

  8. Betsy

    I’ve never ventured into the merworld with teen paranormal, but I think I might start here. thanks Wendy!

    • Wendy Darling

      Hi Betsy! I think most readers who enjoy YA paranormal romance will like this one. A few reviews have criticized Calder’s stalkerish tendencies, but I didn’t see it that way here–he’s hunting her because he’s seeking revenge! So I expected him to do that, hah.

  9. Jasprit

    Nice review Wendy, I haven’t been having much luck with paranormal romance books lately, but this one definitely sounds intriguing, come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve read a mermaid book before! Btw those pictures are adorable, I can’t wait until we finally start getting decent weather around here and I can read outside! :D

    • Wendy Darling

      Thanks Jasprit! You just never know until you try it, I think. :) And I’m so glad the weather is warming up here, too–it was definitely cold the day I took the photos above, hah! Reading outside is one of life’s many simple pleasures.

  10. A Canadian Girl

    Wendy, your review is actually the first one I’ve read for Lies Beneath and you’ve convinced me to give it a try (or at least add it to my wishlist if NetGalley rejects me). I think I’ve read one mermaid book but I usually see middling reviews for them so I tend to avoid them (even though I love Disney’s The Little Mermaid movie). I really like that their experience sounds believable even if the secondary characters and romance are sort of flat.

    • Wendy Darling

      Yes, the mermaid behavior is really what makes me like the book so much, although a lot of my friends actually do like the romance as well! I’m glad my review convinced you to give this a try. :) Hopefully you’ll enjoy it, too!

  11. Shirley

    Hmm…I haven’t read many mermaid books,(I don’t think I can even think of one-apart from this- off the top of my head) but i sure love YA paranormal romance! I’m so glad this is the first good YA mermaid novel you’ve read! I’m looking forward to reading this<3 Fantastic review, Wendy!

    • Wendy Darling

      There is a romance at the center of this, Shirley, and I think it’s one a lot of PNR readers enjoy. I like Calder a lot too, it’s always interesting to read YA from a male POV.

      And thank you! :)

    • Wendy Darling

      I hope you enjoy it, Faye! I’ve seen both positive and negative reviews, so it’s always interesting to see where people fall. :) Fingers crossed it’s a good read for you.

  12. Sashana

    In my home country there are a lot of folklores about mermaids being evil so this books sounds interesting. I’ve never read a mermaid book so I’m a little hesitant.

    • Wendy Darling

      I kind of like evil mermaids better than nice ones, Sashana. :) Mermaid books do seem to be an acquired taste, so maybe a library read if you’re curious?

  13. Amy

    I have this one, but I won’t read it until a bit closer to the release date. I love the pics btw. I really like the idea of mermaids. I love reading mermaid books and I have enjoyed most I have read, but some just don’t do it for me. I am hoping I will really like this one. Wonderful review!!

    • Wendy Darling

      I hope you enjoy it too, Amy. :) Thank you! And it’s always fun to be able to include photos that go with the book in some way, I’m going to try to do more of that.

  14. starryeyedjen

    Evil mermaids! I really want to read this one. I’ve got two other mermaid books on the horizon, and I hope they’re half as good as you make this one sound. Also, I’m very curious about the squickiness, but I don’t want to spoil it. Grrr to your enticing spoilers. :P

  15. Lexie

    Fabulous review. I’ve seen fairly mixed opinions on this one, but based off of what you and others have said, I suspect I’ll be on the more positive side of the spectrum. Anne Greenwood Brown mentioned that a big theme is Calder’s evolution from animal to something resembling human if not quite reaching it, and I think that’s really fascinating. I’ve always loved books that aren’t afraid to go dark and stay true to that theme. I have this one on NetGalley, so I intend to read it within the next month or two.

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh, that’s interesting to hear re: the author’s comments, I can totally see that! Thanks for sharing, I haven’t read any interviews with her yet.

      Hope you enjoy it when you get to it, Lexie!

  16. Rachel

    We really do have the best weather in California!

    Of course I couldn’t help clicking on the spoilers! I’ll take your word it was tastefully done.

  17. Bookworm1858

    I really like the idea of a male POV perspective for a mermaid story; the few mermaid stories I’ve read have all had female narrators. And they haven’t been that good IMO. Not sure if I’m willing to try this one when there are so many other books I’m already excited about but it’s definitely one I want to keep my eye on. Maybe one day I will be in the mood to read about evil mermaids :)

    • Wendy Darling

      There’s another merman book coming out next month called VICIOUS DEEP, Bookworm–stay tuned, we’re going to be doing a couple of fun things with that one. :)

      I agree, none of the other mermaid books I’ve tried have been great. I hope you like this one if you decide to read it.

  18. Melliane

    I agree it was a nice book. I think it was my first about mermaids, so I was very intrigued about it. I didn’t execpt some points of the book so it was nice to be surprised. And I think you’re right, it’s nice to have both elements : cute and dangerous in the same persons.

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh, I’m glad you liked it, Melliane! I was surprised by how much I liked it, too. I hope people will give it a chance.

  19. Celine

    I’ve got this one off NetGalley too, Wendy! I was actually intrigued by the mermaids concept and it’s been a while since I read any books with mermaids theme in it. I should read it soon before the e-galley expires :P

    Love the picture with the sand dollars! Perhaps I should read this book when going to the beach! :D

    Awesome review, Wendy! So glad you enjoyed it! ♥

    • Wendy Darling

      Hooray! I hope you enjoy this one as much as I did, Celine. :) And yes, reading it with waves crashing on the shore and your toes in the and is a really good way to enjoy it!

  20. Savannah Valdez

    Thanks so much for the review Wendy. I love that stories are coming back to their true essence. Vampires being vampires. Werewolves being werewolves and now evil mermaids! I must read it!

    • Wendy Darling

      Yes, you must read it! And yes, creatures are always better when they are true to themselves. Enough already with the civilize behavior. :D

  21. elena

    I’ve been looking for a good mermaid book and bemoaning the lack of them! Love that you say they are eeevil and that the author actually stuck to this. I’m quite curious about this now and will definitely be adding it to my TBR! Also, what a perfect location for reading the book! Magnificent review as always, Wendy. :D

    • Wendy Darling

      I’ve been complaining about the lack of good mermaid YA for a year now, Elena! But now I can’t complain any longer, hah. Thanks so much, my lovely. :)

  22. Small Review

    Bahhahha! I love your opening line! *HUGS* to you because that was awesome. :)

    I’m not really sure if this is the right book for me. I like less serious mermaids (like, um, The Little Mermaid). It does sound interesting though. Have you read Lost Voices? I think that’s the name…it’s another evil mermaid book.

    • Wendy Darling

      Hee, thank you. :) I like fluffy mermaids too, but eeeevil ones really float my boat, I must say! I did read LOST VOICES, and those mermaids were just mean and juvenile. These ones will kill you. :D

      You might enjoy MONSTROUS BEAUTY though, Small. That’s coming up in September, and it’s really closer to adult/literary fiction than YA, and also features evil mermaids. I loved it, although I don’t think everyone will.

    • Small Review

      hehe well, I don’t think they’ll float your boat. Maybe smash it into smithereens and then drag you to their eeeevil underwater lair. :P

      That was the impression I got for Lost Voices. I scratched it off my list. Glad that was a good call!

      I saw your comment on Goodreads about Monstrous Beauty! I was so hoping it would be good. The blurb has a Gothic vibe that I really liked. Adult/literary sounds gooood. :) I have a galley and now you’ve made me even more excited to read it! :D

    • Wendy Darling

      My husband’s grandmother made us that quilt a long time ago, Juju! We use it everywhere for picnics and reading in the sun. :) And thank you, I was just telling some friends I want to read all my mermaid books at the beach from now on if I can.

  23. Andrea @The Bookish Babes

    I am not a huge lover of mermaid stories. I think that’s only b/c I haven’t found the right one. I like that these are evil mermaids, and are predatory. At first glance, I wouldn’t choose this book. But after your lovely review, I will definitely consider reading What Lies Beneath.

    • Wendy Darling

      I never found the right one until this book either, Andrea! This is the first one I actually liked, although I’ve since read one more that I enjoyed as well. Hope you enjoy if you decide to read it. :)

  24. Sam

    Wonderful review! Although I don’t particularly love many mermaid books, this one does sound like it could be something different and interesting. Maybe I have a thing for dark themes but I am completely all for the idea of evil mermaids! :D I’m looking forward to reading this myself.

    • Wendy Darling

      I think you might like this one, Sam! Don’t let the merman thing turn you off. I would love to hear what you think of it.

  25. Aneeqah

    Very interesting review! I’ve heard lots of buzz about this book, and I’ve also heard many mixed reviews. The new twist on mermaids- being killer creatures- sounds really intriguing, at the least. I’m not a huge mermaid fan, but I do read YA PNR, so I’m thinking that I might give it a shot, since the concept sounds so interesting.

    -Aneeqah @ My Not So Real Life

    • Wendy Darling

      Since most mermaids in folklore and fairy tales actually were sort of evil–I mean, they did lure humans to their deaths!–I thought this was actually a great way to revert back to the classic idea of mermaids, Aneeqah. I hope you will check it out sometime, I thought it was a really interesting way of redoing PNR.