Saturday, March 3, 2012

Water Bound by Christine Feehan

The last thing Lev Prakenskii remembered was being lost in the swirling currents of the ocean and getting sucked deeper into the nothingness of a freezing black eddy off the coastal town of Sea Haven. Just as quickly, just a miraculously, he was saved—pulled ashore by a beautiful stranger. But Lev has no memory of who he is—or why he seems to possess the violent instincts of a trained killer. All he knows is that he fears for his life, and for the life of his unexpected savior.

Her name is Rikki, a sea~urchin diver in Sea Haven. She has always felt an affinity for the ocean, and for the seductive pull of the tides. And now she feels drawn in the same way to the enigmatic man she rescued. But soon they will be bound by something even stronger, and their tantalizing secrets will engulf them both in a whirlpool of dizzying passion and inescapable danger.

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I'm not really sure what to say about this book, for I find myself somewhat conflicted regarding how I feel about it. On the one hand, I loved it, hence my 5 star rating, on the other, there were several things that annoyed me to a greater or lesser extent in it. Overall my reaction is definitely positive, though that might have changed had the book been very much longer. One thing I will note is that I think you'll get a lot more out of this book, or at least some things will make a lot more sense, if you've read the Drake Sisters series first, as this one picks up pretty much right where Hidden Currents, the last book in that series, leaves off, actually overlapping the end of that book a bit to show some of what happened "elsewhere" during the climactic scene at the end. Certainly this book can be understood on its own, since enough is explained of prior happenings and people, but the reading experience will definitely be a lot richer I think if you have the full background of the other books going into this one.

Starting on the plus side, I loved the watery world that Rikki lives in that Ms. Feehan starts building for us pretty much from page one. The vivid descriptions of the ocean, and the way that Rikki feels when she's in the water bring the diving experience alive and make you feel like you're there with her. I personally find the whole concept of certain people being so highly attuned to an element such as water to be an intriguing one, and look forward to seeing which elements each of the other "sisters" represent and how they will all interact with one another once those affinities are more out in the open. Some of them are somewhat easy to guess, though not all (and there are six women, but only five elements if you include spirit, so it will be interesting to see how the sixth one fits in with the rest). Rikki herself is an interesting and multi-faceted character, and not the typical sort of romance novel heroine which makes for a bit of a nice change of pace. She is "damaged", both by traumatic experiences in her past that have left her living in fear, as well as by a "disability" that considerably limits the extent to which she is able to function in and relate to the real world. To call her "disabled" would be a misnomer, however, as she has apparently done an outstanding job of finding a niche that she can fill and excel at to make a living and an environment to live in that allows her to work with or around her limitations and lead a fairly normal life.

In contrast to Rikki's well-developed character, Lev remains rather two-dimensional throughout the book in my opinion. Those who have read Hidden Currents will remember him from there, as he was a notable character in that book, however secondary his role in it was. Personally I was more than a little disappointed that his character wasn't fleshed out more, for his brother Ilya was one of the men who most intrigued me in the Drake Sisters books, and I was looking forward to discovering his brothers, or at least one of them, in this series. Instead, while we're told repeatedly about his extensive training in everything from fighting, to weapons, to sexual techniques that turned him into a lethal weapon, and how doing that job turned him into a cold and calculating assassin/bodyguard, we never really get to see inside of him to learn what makes him tick the way we do with Rikki. We do see the lethal assassin in him in action a few times during the book, but mostly we see the "real" Lev, the good man/person he innately was underneath all the training and self-protective demeanors/attitudes, and he definitely seems like a man worth getting to know. But while we get to see some of his mental struggles to overcome the lethal sorts of instincts that were drilled into him so that he can give himself over fully to the new life that he wants to build for himself, his character development overall just seems rather flat, at least compared to others. Maybe we'll get to know him better in future books once he's had more time to get to know himself, who he really is, and who he wants to be.

As to other things that bothered me about the book, primary among them would be the amount of repetition in it. We are told numerous times about how Lev can't remember much of his past at first, but of what he can remember "none of it is good". He tells Rikki that many times until it got to the point where I just wanted to tell him, "ok, I think she's got it, give it a rest". The many reminders of his training and abilities/reputation get a bit tiresome as well, especially since it's all an echo of things we heard many times about some of the men in the Drake Sisters books, especially as regards Ilya, Lev's brother, who had a similar background, as well as Aleksandr, Ilya's boyhood classmate and friend. Not that the descriptions aren't accurate, but again, it's just that it's repeated so many times that you just want to grumble, "I got it already, can we move on now?" Besides the repetition issues, I wasn't all that thrilled to see some of the espionage storylines from the Drake Sisters book revisited here, especially since there's more than a few hints that those stories are far from over. I did expect to see them brought up, at least to some extent, but I can't say I'll be wholly thrilled to see them continued, though that's mostly just a personal preference issue since espionage/crime thrillers aren't really my thing. They were mostly just a side note in this book, mentioned largely because it's an important part of Lev's immediate past, so I can't really complain too much about it here. Those who like such storylines likely won't mind their inclusion as much.

To conclude, while there are many minor points I had issues with in this book (including some I won't go into as it would be a bit too spoilery to do so), I still greatly enjoyed it and found it a fascinating read in many respects. It's worth reading for the vivid area and ocean descriptions, as well as for the almost magical attraction that Lev and Rikki feel for one another that Ms. Feehan brings to life wonderfully as always. It's a strong start to what will hopefully be a fascinating series and definitely one I'd recommend to fans of paranormal romances.

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