In By The Sea by J. Steven Lamperti, we meet Annabelle. Still haunted by her older brother's death, Annabelle Fisher still dreams of his angry face in her mind. Part of one of the oldest families of Chelle by the Sea, Annabelle wishes to leave behind the familiar faces of the town, free to live her life free from her deep sadness.
But when that opportunity arises in the form of Llyr, a mysterious nobleman truly in love with Annabelle and her connection to the sea, she will have to take the chance of the lifetime, one that might ruin her life or make it. But Llyr and his family have dark, magical secrets of their own, one that will challenge everything Annabelle knows. Will she be able to accept who Llyr really is in order to reach her seemingly impossible goals, or will she have to give up what life she already has?
(I would like everyone to note is practically impossible to talk about By The Sea without mentioning the unpredictable twist about mid-way through the book, so if you don't want spoilers, than please skip to the last paragraph.)
By The Sea is a short book. Only clocking in at about 200 pages, the chapters are only about 2-3 pages long, making it an easy read. But God, the things By The Sea does in that short amount of time will make your head spin. Just when you think you're familiar with the characters, just when you think you know where the story is going, a twist so large and completely unpredictable appears, changing everything. And that thing is Greek gods.
When I started reading By The Sea, after I had got about halfway though, I thought I knew what was happening. A Cinderella type situation, where a nobody girl from the village goes to the royal ball and gets the prince that everyone wants. And in a lot of ways, I was right. Annabelle, a daughter of a fisherman, catches the interest of a nobleman and gets invited to the royal ball. There she is mocked by the other princesses and noblewomen, and so she proceeds to run away, but is chased by Llyr, further strengthening their love. But that's where the similarities end.
I wonder why the author even included the ball part, maybe just to make the big reveal even more unprecedented, because the next day Llyr reveals he is in fact Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea. What?? I was thrown for a loop when I read that, because there was no way in Hades I could've predicted that.
I suppose it was kind of foreshadowed earlier in the story, with Chelle by the Sea being a Poseidon-worshipping village and all, but even then I shocked me. It shocked me even more now having the knowledge that Llyr/Poseidion, a thousand-year-old immortal being, was still very much in love with Annabelle and still wanted to marry her. And good thing Annabelle was smart! That dude, no matter how charming, has several wives, hundreds of kids, and will most likely outlive you if you marry him, unless he cheats or kills you first. But the good thing is that a god is in love with you, and will do anything for you to get you to marry him.
Annabelle cleverly takes advantage of this, persuading Llyr to take her to the underworld to bring back her dead brother. And that's when the story, a bit more than halfway through, really begins. Which is a shame. Like I said before, By The Sea is a short book, and it tries to hard to fit so much into so little space. Unnecessary parts like the ball could've been removed, focusing more on the journey to the underworld and more interesting parts. If the book had been longer, with some scenes being shorter, I think it could've been improved exponentially.
That's really my only complaint, but everything else that By The Sea does is very interesting and unique for the Greek god genre. I especially like how By The Sea takes place during the medieval age, where worshipping Greek gods was slowly fading out of practice and Christianity was on the rise. This allows for some interesting thinking, as most Greek god books take place either during Ancient Greece or modern day.
Hello to everyone who skipped to the last paragraph! (if there are any.) My final thoughts about By The Sea are mostly positive, with it being unique in its storytelling, making it stand out in the genre. The twist had me shook, but I feel like it came too late in the book, making the first part drag out too long and making the change in plot too sudden. Besides that, By The Sea is a short but sweet book for those looking for a book about Greek mythology that isn't Percy Jackson!