Tavia is already at odds with the world, forced to keep her siren identity under wraps in a society that wants to keep her kind under lock and key. Never mind she’s also stuck in Portland, Oregon, a city with only a handful of black folk and even fewer of those with magical powers. At least she has her bestie Effie by her side as they tackle high school drama, family secrets, and unrequited crushes.
But everything changes in the aftermath of a siren murder trial that rocks the nation; the girls’ favorite Internet fashion icon reveals she’s also a siren, and the news rips through their community. Tensions escalate when Effie starts being haunted by demons from her past, and Tavia accidentally lets out her magical voice during a police stop. No secret seems safe anymore—soon Portland won’t be either.
I was highly anticipating this book before I picked it up! A siren story with POC MCs & Black Lives Matter themes?! Sounded like the perfect mix of contemporary issues & fantasy elements. What could go wrong? Well, turns out a fair bit. I easily have more negative points than positive and while I did have a good time actually reading it and it dealt with some good topics the overall execution just wasn’t there.
So as I said I did enjoy the discussion on the Black Lives Matter topics. I enjoyed that the author blended the hate towards the black community in with the hate towards the siren community. I’ve also seen some own voice reviews that claim the book has good representation, so that’s a positive as well even if it’s not something I can directly comment on.
However, that and the general enjoyability of the audiobook experience is really the only reason why this book got the rating that it did. It isn’t necessarily bad but it could have been done SOO much better.
Firstly for the negative side of things, there is basically no world building or background given at all. You are just thrown in and are just meant to understand what is going on when really you have no idea. There were also a general lack of explanation for a lot of aspects and also a fair few references to things, events, etc. that just weren’t explained. As if you are magically meant to know the back story and understand the references.
The main thing that bugged me with A Song Below Water is that it was advertised as a Siren Story but kinda wasn’t. Yes it started out that way but after a certain point Tav (the siren) basically doesn’t matter anymore and it’s all about Effie. The story turns into Effie trying to find herself and figure out what she is. What about Tav? And the siren hate? And her accidentally exposing her voice? And basically everything siren related?
Also slight spoiler but when Effie’s species is revealed it’s one we basically hadn’t heard of and have no idea what it is but everyones just like yeah cool she is a ….. And that’s it. We are just supposed to be like ‘yeah, makes total sense’ and move on. Prime example of lack of explanation.
I did start reading this book physically but found myself pushing to get through it due to simply not feeling any connection towards Effie or Tav. I like Tav but there was not real connection there and the characters had no depth. They felt very flat and one dimensional which makes it hard to connect to them as they have basically no personality. So, I ended up swapping to the audiobook which definitely made it easier to read.
Overall I am not particularly impressed with A Song Below Water. This book had so much potential but it just didn’t quite hit the mark. I’m not sure if I will end up picking up book 2. I’m kinda curious but also not really that curious, so I don’t know. If the audiobook pops up on Scribd I may end up giving it a go but I don’t think I will go out of my way to buy it.
Have you read A Song Below Water? What were your thoughts?
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