Nicole Peeler,
Tempest Rising
(Orbit, 2009)

Unbeknownst to me, Nicole Peeler's 31st birthday was also the day I mistakenly dropped a wet swimsuit and towel in a bag already packed with sundries including my review copy of Peeler's first novel, Tempest Rising. While she was doubtlessly off somewhere, blowing out candles and licking sugary frosting from a cake knife, I was gently separating the moist pages, trying to salvage the book and soggy cover from oblivion.

Fortunately, I was able to save it. Although the pages were permanently puffed out by their soaking and the cover was stripped of some of its glossy color, the text remained legible and I was able to finish reading it without much interruption. And, believe me, I really wanted to finish this book.

Tempest Rising is the story of Jane True, a 26-year-old girl from a small town on the Maine coast who loves nothing more than her nightly swims in the ocean in the dead of winter. OK, so maybe she should have wondered more about that habit; most people, as she learned to her eternal regret several years prior, could never survive the bitterly cold water or the turbulent waters of Old Sow, a permanent whirlpool that is the bane of local fishermen.

So I guess she wasn't too surprised to learn that she's not entirely human. Jane's missing mother, it turns out, was a selkie, a supernatural beastie who is equally happy in her human and seal forms. And, while Jane is a halfbreed and lacks shapeshifting abilities, she does have a strong, untapped affinity for water.

This all comes to a head when another halfbreed in her area is brutally murdered, as are a pair of goblins who come to investigate the death. Soon, Jane True is up to her ears in mythology as she meets a gnome, a barghest (picture a sort of friendly weredog), a kelpie and, yes, even a vampire, and pays a visit to the Alfar (don't call them fairies) Court.

Tempest Rising drew its share of pre-release attention because of the cover illustration by Sharon Tancredi. Seemingly drawing inspiration from both manga art styles and those over-sexed Bratz dolls, the image shows Jane rising naked from the ocean, her breasts barely covered by her long hair. Some folks took exception to the art, complaining that the huge eyes and manga influence made Jane look too young for such a provocative pose. The publisher must have agreed, or at least was cowed by the threat of a controversy; by the time the book was released, Jane's hair was adjusted to cover a bit more of her naughty bits. Well, as they say, any publicity is good publicity.

Age-appropriateness is, perhaps, my only real complaint about this book. It looks and reads in many ways like a young-adult novel, but much of the content is decidedly adult. In fact, Peeler takes obvious delight in Jane's sexual reawakening in these pages, so be prepared for some pretty hot and heavy fey action.

Otherwise, Tempest Rising is a highly recommended read for fans of dark urban fantasy. It's spooky, sexy, suspenseful and fun. It's also a fine first effort from Peeler, from whom the second volume in the Jane True series is already on its way. (If she sends me a copy, I promise not to drop it in the water.)

[ visit the author's website ]

review by
Tom Knapp

5 September 2009

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