Danny stole a glance at Helen. All he had ever wanted to do was to get Blake back. Now he and Helen were involved in an island squabble and a military operation to kill a known terrorist. He feared that the councilman’s daring plan was too risky. The chance of stray bullets hitting Helen, Blake or himself was too great. He took a step forward wanting to reason with the councilman not to follow such a dangerous strategy. But as he got closer to the councilman, themen’s chanting grew louder. The die is cast.
–Somewhere in the Shallow Sea by Dennis Macaraeg
Somewhere in the Shallow Sea by Dennis Macaraeg
Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for an honest review. In no way did this affect my review or my rating of the novel.
Somewhere in the Shallow Sea is an action adventure novel about a young marine biologist named Danny whose best friend Blake is kidnapped in an attempt to extract a large sum as well as an experimental compound, meant to draw engangered fish to legally protected waters. Danny does not initially understand why the compound, nicknamed the Cube, is part of the ransom, but he is desperate to rescue his best friend, so he flies to the Phillipines with the compound in an attempt to make the ransom and ensure Blake’s safety. To Danny’s surprise, the ransom money is being delivered by Blake’s cousin and Danny’s ex-fiance, Helen. The first attempted exchange with the kidnappers goes poorly, and Danny and Helen find themselves racing against time to make the exchange before Blake is harmed.
As an action adventure novel, it was incredibly important that Somewhere in the Shallow Sea have effective pacing and a tight plot, and this novel did a great job at that. The story was split between Blake’s rescue mission and the rekindled romance between Danny and Helen, and at no point did I feel the novel strayed off of either the primary plot or the subplot. I feel that it made great use of its limited space, and every scene was on topic and necessary for the development of the story.
That being said, Somewhere in the Shallow Sea did sometimes fall into the trap that many action adventure novels do: I wished for more character development across the board. Danny, at least, was well-rounded, but I feel that the story could have benefited from fleshing out the other characters. I did not have a good grasp of Helen, the love interest. I knew the basics on who she was and how she related to the action, but I wish I had a better feel for her – her motivations, her personal interests, and a little more on her personality. During the primary action of the novel, I felt that we got first and foremost Danny’s reaction and then Helen went along. It took away from the romance, because I didn’t really grasp the connection between Danny and Helen, other than the fact that it was there. Similarly, I would have liked to see a lot more on Dr. Klein, the primary villian. I didn’t quite understand the motivation behind his actions, and would have liked more of a back story behind, and perhaps some more development of his personality. I think it would have added a lot to his betrayal if I had understood the relationship between him and Danny, and the reasons why he broke that trust.
I wanted to save the best for last on this one: I was surprised by the incredible details that went into the setting for this novel. Most of the story takes place in the Phillipines, an area of the world that I did not know a lot about, and I felt like I learned a lot about the culture and history of the Phillipines, and highly enjoyed learning about this aspect. The author must have done a lot of research, but this research was worked rather seamlessly into the plot. Rather than just taking place in some generic island culture, this plot was set firmly in an area with a lot of rich history and culture, and I really appreciated how the colonial history of the Phillipines was worked into the plot, addressing race and language in a way that few novels of this genre do. I definitely think this added to my appreciation of the book.
In all, I would rate this novel a 6 out of 10. I do feel that the audience is rather specific – this book is a great read for fans of action adventure, especially given the great pacing and detailed setting, but is not the book to read for detailed character development or large literature themes.
My sister The Effervescent Bookworm reviewed this as well today. You should go check out her review!