Kara Dalkey,
The Ascension (Water Trilogy, Book 1)
(Avon, 2002)

The Ascension is the first book in an intriguing trilogy by Kara Dalkey geared for young adults.

Nia is a mermyd, living undersea in the splendid city of Atlantis. The mermyds, divided into a hierarchy of clans named after sea creatures, live together peacefully, governed by Avatars, mermyds who are selected through a series of trials and linked to a Farworlder (an alien from another planet). The Farworlders now reside in Atlantis as well and use their magic to maintain the city.

An Avatar is ready to retire, and Nia is certain she will be chosen to represent the Bluefin clan, but she is deeply disappointed when another is chosen. As the date of the trials approaches, Nia learns that the beautiful city hides secrets which could threaten the very existence of Atlantis. With Cephan, a mermyd from the lower ranked Stingray clan with whom she is falling in love, she hopes to find a way to save her city from disaster.

Dalkey is well known for her skillful writing and for the most part, it is demonstrated amply here. On occasion, the writing has a self-consciousness of being for young adults about it and lapses into vapidity, but the suspenseful elements quickly take control. In general, Dalkey doesn't pull her punches and is uncompromising in how the story plays out.

The characters are realistic and shaded enough that one isn't sure what to expect -- and there are plenty of surprises here. Overall, The Ascension is a promising start to the trilogy, so if you know someone who has outgrown her Little Mermaid video, introduce her to Kara Dalkey and Nia.

[ by Donna Scanlon ]
Rambles: 10 August 2002

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