Initial reaction: Better than the first book and a fine sequel considering the scheme of events, but the biggest drawback for this book? The love triangle. It's always the kicker. =/
Color me very surprised by "Tempest Unleashed." While the first book is easy to swallow down as a quick but cliched read in the scheme of paranormal romance with coming of age elements, this book upped the stakes by a good margin. I'll admit it had me more than the first book did for the level of conflict alone. But this is one of those stories where you honestly have to ask "Why did the love triangle have to be such a big part of the story? It's painful, and not in a good way." I think the LT undermined what was otherwise a strong story with its respective worldbuilding and conflict clashes as Tempest has to face up to her responsibilities.
This book begins where the first book ended. Tempest is adjusting to life under the sea away from her family at the surface. She pines for her family, but at the same time undertakes training for a potential clash with the evil Tiamat, and has her hands full with the jealous streaks of selkie prince Rona. I'll admit I had my concerns when one of the first scenes of the book show Tempest making her way back to the surface to check on her family, end up running across her old boyfriend/flame Mark, spontaneously kissing him and returning to the sea for no apparent reason. =/ I was already sketchy about the love interests in this series because I honestly think that was one of the weakest parts of the first book, and despite all things, they weren't as well developed as characters for me to care who she ended up with.
Thankfully, the story picks up the ball and starts running past that point with the primary conflict. Tiamat's forces start moving, and an attack on Tempest leaves quite a bit of the sea kingdom in an unsettled state about what the sea witch plans next. Tempest undertakes training with a rival, and there's some awkward anger/power struggles with Kona about "keeping Tempest safe." Thankfully, Tempest has none of that, and I'm glad to see her assert her own power and responsibilities with the grief Kona gives her in some details. I've always liked how Tempest stands up for herself and her attitude is one of the things that drew me to the first book. She stands more of her ground in this installment, though there are some clashes that I'll admit I rolled my eyes over for the nature of them.
The novel really picks up when a tragedy Tempest's family leaves her in a tailspin and returning home. Awkward times ensue with her family members, as does Tempest's relationship with Mark. In a sense, I'm a little glad that Tempest does return home for this event, because it allows for more charcter expansion from Mark than I saw in the first book, and I'll admit it endeared me to him a little more than Kona, who annoyed me for a good part of the book. I always thought that Kona was somewhat of a forced love interest, though the book attempts to develop him as well in "Tempest Unleashed", at least more than the first book did.
The story reveals that the tragedy within Tempest's family was more than just an isolated incident, and Tempest has to step up to the plate and decide what roles to take on both with her life on land and in the sea. There are a lot of heavy revelations made within the last half of the book, and I'll admit it kept me on my toes for the most part. I liked the tensions established and I liked the sense of loss and desparation that Tempest acts within - she really steps up in a big way for her respective role.
But again, I still think the love triangle is the part of the work that's still working against it. While I appreciated the fact that Mark and Kona seemed to have some role in the final conflict in the work, the note that the book ended on made me realize that the triangle really is the primary focus, and not so much the underwater politics or Tempest's fated role - of which the latter conflicts held my interest far more. They colored the best parts of the book and I was at least glad to the attention to detail on those and how those impacted Tempest, fo rsure.
I'm interested in seeing where the book goes in the last installment, especially given what's happened to the underwater tribes and the losses from that. For the love story, I could take or leave it, but I'm probably in the minority for saying I hope Mark/Tempest work things out, because I wanted to smack my harisen against Kona one too many times in this book.
Overall score: 3.5/5 stars
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher Walker Children's.