A Writer's Journey

May 6, 2013

Book Analysis: Goddess of the Sea by P.C. Cast

Filed under: journey,writing — mackenziew @ 10:30 pm
Tags: , , ,

Every so often, I like to just go browsing book options on either Amazon or Barnes and Noble. That’s how I discovered the Goddess Summoning series by P.C. Cast. So, like I’ve done with other books, I’m going to analyze it.

WARNING: SPOILERS WILL ABOUND!

goddessofthesea

“Goddess of the Sea” tells the story of Christine “CC” Canady, a communications officer in the US Air Force. She feels like something is lacking in her life: that everything is just average. Average looks. Average job (despite it being in the Air Force). Just…average. Until she decides to prayer to the Greek goddess Gaea. Then she feels more confident and men start to notice her. As does a strange woman who gives her a necklace. CC leaves for her assignment but her plane goes down in the Mediterranean. Struggling to reach the surface, CC comes face to face with a mermaid. They switch places and CC is swept into the mermaid’s life.

Let’s pause here. Ms. Cast sets things up well. She paints a picture of CC’s average life, though CC doesn’t come off as someone in her mid-20s in some cases. Especially when she’s talking to the characters on her TV. It doesn’t come off as drunken rambling because CC seems pretty with it afterwards when she performs the ritual. No slurring. No tripping. Nothing else indicating inebriation.

But otherwise, CC is a relatable character. Women can understand her attitude. And how when she gets more confidence in herself, she starts to become more attractive to other people. Or perhaps finally realized people had been attracted to her the entire time.

Yet the plot device used to highlight this is a bit unrealistic. CC is tackled by a firefighter before she enters an empty elevator shaft. Yes, this a nightmare for anyone who has to use elevators regularly. But there is a slim chance of this actually happening in real life. Here’s how elevators generally work: You press the button to summon the elevator car. As it approaches the floor, it sends a signal to the doors to open. So if there’s no car approaching, chances are, the doors aren’t going to open. Also, there are settings activated when elevators go out of service to prevent this from happening.

As a writer, I would have chosen a more believable but just as dangerous situation. For example, an open manhole cover. It is a possibility—cones get knocked over and/or people aren’t paying attention.  One wrong step and injuries can abound. And construction workers can be just as hunky as firefighters. Especially in romances.

Onto the body switch…I didn’t really like it. Not after how empowering CC’s first transformation was. The message about beauty coming from within I thought the book was going to be about was clearly wrong. Because she spends most of the book in the body of Undine, the mermaid. Who is very buxom. It’s a bit odd how focused on the new female body Cast has CC be. Yes, you’re going to explore your new body should you get one. But this has erotic overtures which just seemed…intrusive. Especially as it’s CC in someone else’s body. Anyway, Undine also has long blonde hair which CC finds beautiful as well. So, now it appears the message will probably be “beauty has its own downfalls.”

Which is reinforced when the first thing CC-as-Undine has to deal with is the attempted rape by Undine’s half-brother Saepedon. He wants her and has their father’s permission to make her his wife. You know how screwy mythological relationships were. But Undine is able to escape his clutches as Gaea comes to her rescue. Gaea is reveled to be Undine’s mother and she grants CC a human body to avoid Saepedon. She will need to stay near the water and return to her mermaid’s body every three days. To stay a human forever, she has to find true love.

Now here’s where some of Ms. Cast’s decisions get really screwy. Gaea places CC on an island, which was supposed to be in Wales back in the 12th century. But there are gods and goddess all over, apparently. Clarification was definitely needed. Had she gone back in time? Or slipped into some sort of dimension where the gods existed? How? Why? And why Wales?

Well, actually, I know the answer to that.  Because Cast wanted CC to interact with a knight. Why? Because knights are romantic! There was some connection made between the island and the Arthurian legends but it was really a throwaway line rather than something important. In some ways, except for names, it never comes across as “Wales.”

As a writer, I might have chosen an unknown island in the Mediterranean. (And explained if CC went back in time or to a parallel dimension/plane). The Mediterranean is by three cultures whose mythology is well-known: Romans, Greeks and Egyptians. It might be obvious, but it would make more sense than Wales.

Anyway, the knight is Andras. He rescues CC and takes her to the nearby monastery, where his former tutor is the abbot. But Abbot William is suspicious of Undine, seemingly because of her beauty. CC feigns amnesia but the people at the monastery don’t take too kindly to her. There is a bit where the woman assigned to serve her is disapproving because she keeps her hair uncovered all the time. Except Ms. Cast has set it in a time where unmarried women were expected to keep their hair uncovered.

CC thinks Andras might be her “true love” but the reader already knows he’s not. She first meets merman Dylan, an old friend of Undine’s. And he apparently appeared to her in a dream before. So she’s drawn to him. CC and Andras never really have a connection. But he is painted to be a character of his time, which is nice. A man who thinks women should be seen not heard, subservient to their husbands. He is sweet but clearly not the one for CC given her modern ideas.

He is also very influenced by Abbot William. Who needs more to his role. The revelation that he is Gaea and Lir’s son is in a tense moment but I feel like it should’ve come earlier. Gaea was vague about him but she could’ve come out and said it. Because as it stands now, there are a lot of unanswered questions regarding William. Why did he become a Christian? Is he even a Christian? Or did he fake his sacramental records? Was he ever ordained? Anyway, why did he just have anger at his mother, as his hatred of beautiful women seems to indicate, but not his father? Because it’s clear both parents stripped him of his powers.

But back to why Christianity? Is it because it rejects all other gods? Because of the Church’s power in medieval times? I believe it’s what William wanted—power. At the same time, Cast hints that William is sexually attracted to Andras. Then why would he chose a religion which is not tolerant of homosexuality?

See, just too many questions. Of course, I’m not fond of her decision to include Christianity at all. And it’s not just because I’m a Christian. I will admit that for the most part, Cast treads carefully as to not insinuate that all of Christianity is bad. She tries to make it clear that William is a small minority. But there still seems to be something off about including it. Maybe it’s the implication that Christianity is just like the pagan religions? Or our interpretation of the pagan gods? There is a passage where Gaea says Mary is the Christian understanding of her.

I don’t want to spend too long on the religion aspect, mostly because I feel it will devolve from an analysis to a rant. I’ll just offer this: If you do include a religion that is different from yours—RESEARCH. Cast’s understanding of Catholicism covers the major things but there’s still smaller things that bug this Catholic. Like how everyone uses CC not taking Communion as a reason to believe she’s a pagan. While the Eucharist is important, there are actually a few reasons why one might refuse Communion. Asking her to pray the Pater Noster (Our Father) might be better. Another part that shows a lack of research is that CC notes Abbot William kept glaring at her from the altar. Prior to the Second Vatican Council held in the 1960s, the priest said Mass with his back to the congregation. So in conclusion: Research, even if you think you know it. The small details will be the ones that betray you.

Let’s move on from religion to romance. As I’ve noted before, there are two criteria for something to be considered a romance. 1) The romance is the driving force of the story. 2) There is a happily-ever-after or a happily-for-now. But I don’t think “Goddess of the Sea” is propelled by the romance. It’s more focused on CC’s relationships with the women around her and how she find her inner strength and confidence. I’m not sure why the romance angle was pushed so much though it does take over several chapters. Especially the love triangle.

And I have my issues with the romance. It seems Ms. Cast fell into a trap many romance authors have—mistaking sex for relationship building. There are some interactions between Dylan and CC that don’t have to do with sex, but they are fewer than the ones that do. And the romance COULD push the story if time was either taken away from either the sex scenes or the repetitive scenes where CC cleans a statue of Mary.

One of the problems I have is the fact that it is stated that Dylan had unrequited feelings for Undine. I feel the tension that could arise from this is glossed over too quickly. Dylan is the only one who calls her “CC” (even Gaea calls her Undine to keep up appearances). He says that he feels her soul is different from Undine’s and that’s pretty much it. CC believes him. I don’t. I was not convinced Dylan loved CC and wasn’t just happy to finally have Undine in some way. That could’ve been a good hurdle to get over rather than “mermaid sex” for the tenth time.

The ending is somewhat predictable as well. Dylan dies and CC returns to her old life. But the soldier who died in the plane crush miraculously comes back to life. And it’s because Dylan’s soul now inhabits his body. A bit trite, but it fits the happy-ever-after requirement. I don’t know if there was another way to do it except go for broke: Stop pretending it was a romance and introduce another guy who was attracted to CC with her new confidence. End it with a possibly-ever-after.

I wouldn’t mind companion pieces to the stories in the Goddess Summoning series. How did Undine manage in CC’s body? Did she enjoy her time away from Saepedon? Since CC remembered everything, did Undine? And did she regret having to go back to her mermaid body?

The writing is decent but “Goddess of the Seas” just needed some more questions answered to be great.

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