4 out of 5 stars
I love this series! It’s very masculine for a YA series with a female heroine, and that makes the gritty conflict more intense and the few moments of romance even sweeter.
Raging Sea, the second book in the “Undertow” trilogy, picks up with Lyric Walker as a fugitive terrorist on the run. She fled her native Coney Island after it was destroyed twice: first by the Alpha, a race of bellicose mermen and women who think like Vikings, then by the Rusalka, the lowest caste of Alpha, who learned to turn water into weapons and pursued their former masters to the surface. Lyric, who is half-human and half-Alpha, did her best to stop the attack and save both the humans and Alpha. She did not succeed. Instead, the media made her a villain, a terrorist, wanted around the world.
She is heading for Texas, in search of the military camp where her captured parents and the other Alpha and half-Alpha offspring and are being held. With her are her human best friend Bex and the Alpha warrior Arcade, who’s intended husband Lyric may or may not have stolen.
Like Undertow, this story if full of themes that resonate in reality now. The entire eastern seaboard is falling to the Alpha, causes millions of humans to flee the coast and run inland. Some folks don’t want these “coasters” – refugees – coming in to their safe, sheltered places. As if the world won’t eventually come for them too. It’s a sad tale of displaced people, especially kids, hunted and jailed, or worse.
By the time Lyric reaches the camp, she’s solo and has little to no plan for freeing her people. As such, she ends up a prisoner. But even the bad guys need her, need her power and experience to train the next generation of human-Alpha hybrids to fight the way Lyric did at Coney Island. With no choice, but definitely ulterior motives, she helps.
These books take a harsh look at humanity. Faced with something it cannot understand or, more importantly, defeat, these humans waffle between terror and aggression. They fight back and fail miserably. The reader sees Lyric’s challenge more clearly than Lyric herself does – what’s the point in saving her family now if everyone is going to die anyway? Eventually, that works its way into Lyric’s head and actions. She’s noble, but imperfect: she never agrees to help because it will eventually save everyone. She’d take her people and flee if she could. Then figure out what to do when the next threat appears. But she can’t take the short-term approach, not when the enemy gives her more people to save by staying.
Buckley’s writing is straightforward and casual, just like Lyric. The book moves very quickly, which I usually love, except for a key moment with Fathom, the Alpha prince, and his father, the Prime. Their confrontation is over too quickly, as if now the story has more important plots to track. I could have done with more there. And more Fathom overall in this book. But there’s a third installment, Heart of the Storm, which I’ll have my hands on any day!