7 Rated Books

Book Review: Goddess of the Sea

Title: Goddess of the Sea

Author: P.C. Cast

Genre: Romantic Fantasy

Stand alone or series: Book 1 in the Goddess Summoning series

Summary: (from amazon.com)
After her plane crashes into the sea, an Air Force Sergeant finds herself occupying the body of the mythic mermaid Undine-and falling for a sexy merman.

Why did I read this book: We received an early copy of the trade paperback reprinting (originally this book was published in 2003), and having heard wonderful things about P.C. Cast’s young adult novels, I decided to give this one a try.


Air Force Sergeant Christine “CC” Canady returns to her small apartment, KFC and two bottles of champagne in tow, to celebrate her twenty-fifth birthday. Alone. Drowning her sorrows in champagne, CC decides to watch an upbeat, empowering movie–The Witches of Eastwick. And, a little tipsy, a little lonely, and inspired by the women in the film, she decides to have a magic ritual of her own. Flipping through a book from her university days, she re-enacts an old pagan ritual, dancing in the moonlight on her balcony. CC wants empowerment, and above all, she wants magic in her life–and she makes her heartfelt wish under the starry night.

The next morning she awakens late, and she should have a bitch of a headache–but CC has never felt better in her life. Heck, she even sees a physical change, a glow, in her appearance. Dismissing her drunken escapades as silliness, CC gets on with her life and runs some errands before deploying on her six month tour of duty in the middle east. When she finally heads on the last leg of her journey–an uncomfortable C 130 from Italy to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia–CC is jittery, tired and anxious, and she’s terrified of flying in the large cargo plane. As fate would have it, the plane has a massive malfunction during the flight and they crash land in the Mediterranean. CC, wounded and not much of a swimmer struggles to get free of the plane, but is sucked down into the sea, drowning. Near death, CC feels a tug on her leg, and comes face to face with a beautiful mermaid who frantically asks if CC wants to live with magic in her life at any cost. CC agrees, and the extraordinary happens.

When CC comes to, she finds herself in the body of the beautiful, blonde mermaid, Undine. And, while she is alive and has certainly undergone some magic in her life, she finds not everything is blissful. Undine’s half brother, Sarpedon, finds CC and violently tries to force himself on her, telling her that she cannot evade him forever–she will be his mate, and he will control the oceans as is their birthright as children of Poseidon. CC, terrified, manages to frantically escape Sarpedon by swimming to a quiet grotto under the protection of Undine’s birth mother, the goddess Gaea. Gaea welcomes CC with an open heart, explaining that she knows that it she is CC (daughter of Gaea’s soul) in Undine’s (daughter of Gaea’s flesh) body. Gaea had heard CC’s ritual and witnessed her dance under the moonlight, and was moved by her devotion–so when she learned that CC’s life was soon to end, she had to intervene. Knowing Undine always wanted to be of the land, Gaea found the perfect opportunity to help both of her daughters by switching their souls. Unfortunately, Gaea never knew that a main reason for Undine’s unhappiness and fear was because of Sarpedon’s relentless pursuit–and now CC must live with the consequences. As a full goddess, Gaea manages to keep Sarpedon out of her grotto waters, but knows CC cannot stay so confined forever. Instead, Gaea proposes a new solution–to keep CC safe Gaea will grant her legs, but CC must return to the water every third night to resume her true form as a mermaid or else she will die. In order to keep her human form permanently, and to forever escape Sarpedon, CC must find a man who will love her completely for who–and what–she is. Gaea warns that the transformation is hard, and could be very painful physically. She also warns CC that the year is 1014, and that they are not in the Mediterranean, but rather in the cold waters off the coast of Wales–and as such, CC must tread carefully as there is great mistrust and violence against magic of any kind. Faced with her tough situation, CC accepts Gaea’s gift, and becomes a shipwrecked, traumatized princess, washed ashore. Gaea grants CC her legs and fine clothes of riches and jewels, then summons a storm to give the shipwrecked princess story credence. The storm hits before CC manages to get to land, and she nearly drowns again. CC is rescued once more, but this time by a merman named Dylan–one that she knows from a dream, and one who she cannot help but feel attracted to.

Finally ashore, a human knight named Sir Andras comes to CC’s human rescue. He takes her to Caldei Monastary nearby to offer her sanctuary while she tries to “remember” exactly who she is and where she comes from. Andras is immediately taken in by CC’s beauty (she still is in Undine’s undeniably beautiful form)–but others, especially Abbot William, mistrust her beauty and her strange loss of memory. CC soon finds herself in a desperate situation, subject of a medieval witch hunt and embroiled in the politics of the Gods, the inescapable threat of Sarpedon, and her own tangled, doomed love for the merman Dylan and the sea.

I have to admit, Goddess of the Sea took me completely by surprise. The book begins with a lot of cheese, as CC repeatedly narrates about her longing for “magic”. After the silly first chapter, I wasn’t feeling very compelled to continue with the story. As soon as the story took a more serious turn, however, I found that I could not put this book down. With Goddess of the Sea, Ms. Cast has created a retelling of the Little Mermaid fable that is undeniably beautiful and wholly original. Furthermore, Ms. Cast understands what so many paranormal/fantasy romance authors do not–that there needs to be a REAL sense of peril for the story to believably work. The danger of Sarpedon, and later with the Abbot William and Sir Andras ups the stakes and creates a palpable danger–I cannot stress enough how much I appreciated there being a true threat to the lovers CC and Dylan. Ms. Cast’s plotting is wonderful, moving fluidly from future to past and capturing the “magic”, romantic fairy tale atmosphere for this story.

Character-wise, Goddess of the Sea also shines. The clever twist of having a modern heroine in a less understanding time keeps the story fresh and accessible, and makes CC/Undine a sympathetic and relatable character as she is just a normal girl in borrowed, beautiful skin. With Dylan, I felt a real understanding of him as a distinct character–not just the usual brawny alpha male, capable of unselfishly pleasuring heroines for hours at a time. Dylan’s humble parentage prevents him from ever being able to best Sarpedon physically, but the quiet, introverted merman’s dedication to Christine is heartbreaking in its honesty. Theirs is a romance worth reading–the interactions between both CC and Dylan are beautifully crafted. This is one romantic tale that is thankfully light on most of the usual fluff, and completely won me over.

The more villainous characters and other secondary character also were well-wrought. Neither Sarpedon as the greedy villain, nor Abbot William & Sir Andras come off as one-note or stupidly evil for evil’s sake. Each character has their own personality and history; from Abbot William most likely repressed homosexuality and stunted ability to love, to Sir Andras as a man’s man, completely a product of his time period. Even Sarpedon, who easily could have been written as Eeeevilly two-dimensional, comes across as a petulant, spoiled child (strangely reminding me of that Star Trek episode, “The Squire of Gothos”…I digress). The female characters, especially Gaea, are more predictable in the sort of awakened female empowerment way, but still are well-written.

My only problems with this story lie in some of the inherent cheese, such as CC’s one true wish the have magic of her own. The biggest quibble, for me, was some of CC’s “future filter” of the past and the at times heavy-handed Girl Power sort of message. I’m all for female empowerment, and for this message in literature. What bugs, however, is when the message is given with a total lack of finesse in the writing. For example, CC constantly says to her friend at the monastary things like, “Back where I come from, women are allowed to speak their minds!” or “Back where I come from, women can walk alone after dark without ever needing a man!” sort of sentiments. While the message is one I fully agree with, the delivery can be somewhat annoying. I also am not a fan of characters calling out things like “This is like the Little Mermaid!” point blank. It’s a nitpick, but there you have it.

These minor gripes aside, I found myself loving Goddess of the Sea. I especially give props to Ms. Cast for her choice in ending the fable–CC’s ultimate choice near the ending is far more empowering than any of the verbal girl power soliloquies written throughout the book. In a romance world filled with simple happy endings, Ms. Cast takes a chance with Goddess of the Sea–and it pays off. This is a bittersweet fairy tale, and one I thoroughly enjoyed. I will certainly be looking into reading more of Ms. Cast’s work.

Notable Quotes/Parts: In the monastery chapel, CC sees a statue of the Virgin Mary hidden in a dark, dusty corner, and when she examines it more closely she finds that it bears Gaea’s face. It’s kind of a cool, Mists of Avalon type of interpretation, and CC decides to devote her time in the monastery to restoring the statue–earning scorn from the Abbot William, but winning over the cleaning and cooking women of the monastery.

Additional Thoughts: Fairy tale retellings are a popular choice for authors, especially of the romantic persuasion. Some of my favorites are Beauty by Robin McKinley, the recent A Curse Dark as Gold from Elizabeth Bunce, and in a less traditional spin, the Fables comics from Bill Wellington. So, friendly reader, I pose the question to you–what retellings are your favorites?

Verdict: I found Goddess of the Sea to be completely entertaining, and a wonderful fairy tale romance retelling. I will definitely be reading more from P.C. Cast!

Rating: 7 Very Good

Reading Next: Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

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  • Karen Mahoney
    October 6, 2008 at 3:36 am

    Wow, great review. This is a book I probably wouldn’t have looked at twice, as I kinda suspected there would be a heavy helping of cheese involved… But! You have convinced me that this is worth a try. Sounds pretty damn good. 🙂

    I love fairy tales – I did my university dissertation (MANY years ago) on them – and retellings are fabulous. I’d recommend Jonathan Carroll’s SLEEPING IN FLAME. I think it was first published in 1989, and I read it around that time when I was 16. It had a real effect on me, and I’ve loved JC’s work ever since. It’s a very dark retelling of Rumpelstiltskin.

  • Kristie (J)
    October 6, 2008 at 4:35 am

    I’ve heard such wonderful things about PC Cast and yet I’ve never read her before. If this is being reissued I will certainly fix THAT oversight!
    And *laughing* The Littlest Mermaid is the fairytale we acted out most when we were children, my two sisters and I. As the oldest, I was writer, producer, director and star. The sisters just kind of filled in the secondary roles. And unlike the DISNEY ending – the REAL Littlest Mermaid had a Very Tragic Ending. I must say I excelled in my ‘death’ scene.

  • Thea
    October 6, 2008 at 7:26 am

    Karen–definitely be prepared for cheese overload, especially at the beginning of this book…but the story is so charming, and once CC is transported to the past/parallel world it really does suck you in 🙂 There are some things I disliked about the writing, but at the end of the day it’s an entertaining, very different retelling!

    I’ll have to look for Sleeping In Flame! Have you read A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth Bunce? It’s a (YA but very mature) retelling of Rumpelstiltskin as well, and easily one of my favorite books of 2008!

    Kristie–this was my first PC Cast too, and I will definitely be giving her other books a try. I’ve had an eye on her YA Vampire series for a bit 🙂

    And LOL! I totally did the bossy older sister productions too! My little sis always had to be the old woman or fisherman, etc while i got to be the golden fish or evil witch :p We had these wonderful hardbound collection of fables and fairy tales from around the world, and we’d act out different stories!

    The original little mermaid tale is dark indeed! I would have loved to see your death scene :p

  • AnimeJune
    October 6, 2008 at 8:27 am

    Aha! A PC Cast post! Excellent!

    I would recommend her Divine By Mistake/Choice/Blood series – ver’ ver’ good, also with a sexy hero who’s not normally human below the waist – ClanFintain, a smokin’ CENTAUR. Yes, a STALLION, hahaha.


    But but but – I would AVOID, at all costs, the second book in Cast’s Goddess series, Goddess of Spring. I really disliked it, and based on your review, I think you might as well. You mentioned how in this novel, there is VERY real conflict and danger for CC as well as romantic conflict and that helped make the book enjoyable for you.

    Well, when I recently reviewed Goddess of Spring (which re-enacts the Hades/Persephone myth), I felt one of the main flaws was that it had no real conflict, just unrequited luuurv on both sides. Plus, the heroine suffered from severe Mary Sue syndrome. I was quite disappointed with it. I haven’t read the other books in the Goddess series (Goddess of Light/Love/the Rose/ etc. etc.) so I don’t know what to say about them.

    But dear god READ the Divine books! They’re excellent!

  • Christine
    October 6, 2008 at 8:44 am

    Hey Thea! Thanks for the review. I’ve always wanted to read something by P.C. Cast, too. I have the first three books in her YA vampire series written with her daughter Kristin, but I’m such a sucker for fairy tale romances, so I may have to try this one out, too!

  • Bridget Locke
    October 6, 2008 at 12:20 pm

    Hiya! I’m in love with PC, especially her young-adult novels she writes with her daughter. 🙂

    I first came across her when I won a copy of Goddess of Love. My favorite of the Goddess Summoning series is Goddess of the Rose, with Goddess of Spring being a close second.

    I’m a total geek for Greek mythology and I like how she tweaks them. They get better! 🙂

  • Bridget Locke
    October 6, 2008 at 12:23 pm

    And I agree with animejune, the books with ClanFintan are phenomenal! Divine by Mistake is book 1. Book 2 is heartbreaking, but wonderful all the same. 🙂

    And as for what she says about Goddess of Spring, I do agree that there isn’t much conflict per se, but I’m a sucker for Hades. Maybe that’s why I love it so much. 🙂

  • Karen Mahoney
    October 7, 2008 at 1:25 am

    Thea, I haven’t read A Curse Dark As Gold yet, but I’ve heard great things. It’s definitely one on my wish-list. 🙂

  • Haley
    January 4, 2009 at 3:24 pm

    wow. I did not really enjoy this book very much.
    I had to read this book for a project at school and I thought it looked pretty interesting, because I love romance books. BUT, when I started it i discovered that it was really really slow! CC learns everything from people telling her and not actully doing.

    So, I do not recommend The Goddess of the Sea to anyone that is not completely im love with mythology.

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