Goddess By Mistake

Goddess of the Sea by P.C. Cast
(Berkley, $5.99, PG) ISBN 0-425-19279-2
P.C. Cast has gained a mainstream publisher for her sophomore release, Goddess of the Sea, but lost a bit of the high-spiritedness that made her debut novel, Goddess by Mistake, such a delightful find. Starting with the promising premise of a 21st century woman who encounters a magical race of mermaids and mermen, Cast makes the puzzling choice to set most of the story on land, robbing it of much of its magic. Still, patches of the authorís irreverent personality poke through here and there, making the book a fun read. †

Itís the old ďbe careful what you wish for; you may get itĒ scenario when Air Force Sergeant Christine ďCCĒ Canady casts an impulsive, drunken spell on her 25th birthday, declaring her desire for magic to enter her life. The next day, en route to a 3-month deployment in Saudi Arabia, CCís plane crashes into the ocean. She is rescued by a beautiful, blonde and busty mermaid who offers to trade places with her. CC readily agrees, but she barely has a chance to enjoy her new bodacious self before she is confronted with an angry merman who declares that she must submit to his desires. CC escapes and find her way to the cove of the Earth goddess Gaea, where she discovers that she now has the body of mermaid princess Undine, daughter of Gaea and Sea God Lir. Gaea offers to turn CC back into a human temporarily to avoid Sarpedon, the evil merman who wonít take no for an answer, and subsequently CC finds herself on two legs again, alone in a strange medieval land. She takes sanctuary in a nearby monastery and is courted by a handsome knight, but she finds herself unable to forget the gentle merman Dylan whom she encountered briefly. †

At Caldei monastery, CC tries to figure out who is friend and who is foe, but she desperately misses the ocean and Dylan. She hasnít heard the last from that nasty Sarpedon either. Can she use the goddess within her, along with some good old U.S. Air Force aptitude, to survive in this strange land? †

Despite the switch from independent publisher to publishing conglomerate, Cast puts her unique stamp on Goddess of the Sea, which means itís just a shade different from most mainstream fantasy romances. Instead of all hearts and flowers, Cast incorporates a bit of kinkiness, and she refuses to take her story too seriously. Iím still chuckling over CCís honest and startled reaction the first time she beholds her new body. While CC doesnít have the opportunity to demonstrate leadership in the heat of battle like Shannon Parker, heroine of Goddess by Mistake, she is resourceful and quick-witted. Cast is an obvious advocate of Girl Power, or as she calls it, the Divine Feminine, and she has no time and patience for a weak heroine. †

The main problem with Goddess of the Sea is that too much of it takes place in the dreary confines of the Caldei monastery instead of under the sea. The Little Mermaidís Sebastian the Crab had it right Ė darling, itís better down where itís wetter. The story includes way too much drab, gray land and not enough colorful, magical ocean. Cast has shown that she is capable of creating a viable fantasy world, so why limit its potential to occasional glimpses? Why call the book Goddess of the Sea and then dry-dock the heroine? As a realistic medieval historical, the book falters; it only comes to life in the water. †

Another result of the focus on the land is that the relationship between CC and Dylan is woefully under-developed. They basically fall in love at first sight, but the external conflict keeping them apart prevents us from getting to know Dylan as more than a one-dimensional hunky hero. Nice guy, but nothing makes him compelling. †

Goddess of the Sea is goofy, sweet fun that should have been even better. Cast is returning to Partholon, the setting for Goddess by Mistake, in an upcoming Harlequin Luna release Ė perhaps she can fully recapture her debut novelís magic as well. †

--Susan Scribner

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