Genre: YA Paranormal Romance
Release Date: October 22, 2013
Beneath the Surface (The Malions #1) by Miranda Rae Carter
Adolescence hasn’t been fun for Liss Lawrence. And after a year in Vancouver, when she’s finally adjusted to her new situation, a freak car accident sends her life spinning out of control and crashing into the world of the malions, a hidden race silently helping humanity from secret enclaves underground.
Liss’s knowledge of the malions endangers her family when Jaredsons Securities takes an interest in her accident. Few know the men of Jaredsons Securities, an international intelligence company specializing in missing persons cases, are actually the Vykhars, ancient malion enemies whose true purpose is the eradication of the malion race. The Vykhars will stop at nothing to discover if Liss is connected with the malions, and if they do, they will exploit her.
Perhaps more dangerous still are Liss’s growing feelings for Rion, a strong-willed malion scarred by his encounters with Vykhars and carrying a secret that could destroy their relationship. But Liss has a secret and scars of her own, and Rion’s fiercely protective nature threatens to tear them back open.
Can this pair of unlikely lovers survive the dangers of the Vykhars? And can their love survive their own misconceptions?
Carter has written a young adult fantasy that I’m sure will appeal to many teenage readers because of the storytelling, the action and adventure, and book’s romantic angle. Teens are the primary targeted audience as the author takes her readers “beneath the surface” into the world of the Malions, a species of paranormal beings who are known for their miraculous healing abilities. Hunted for years by the Vykhars, who seek to destroy their race, the Malions live in secret, underground, and away from humans. When the protagonist Melissa inadvertently gets brought into their world after being rescued by the young Malion, Rion, she becomes enmeshed in the ongoing battle between the Malions and the Vykhars and discovers that her life has become irrevocably changed.
Carter incorporates many of the conventions often found in young adult literature into her novel. The story is narrated in first person by Melissa so readers can connect and relate to her struggles, insecurities, and the trauma she has experienced. Although the story starts off slowly at the beginning, the pace picks up after Melissa’s life-threatening car accident and doesn’t lose momentum as the action and danger escalate. Like many other YA novels, Melissa’s parents do not play a prominent role in the book. While their concern for Melissa’s well-being is evident, they aren’t heavily involved in her life, and their influence is limited. Melissa is often left on her own to make critical decisions that affect her safety, the security of those around her, and the future direction of her life. Furthermore, the story is filled with plenty of emotional angst as Melissa and Rion struggle with their growing feelings for each other, knowing their relationship puts those they care about in harm’s way.
What I most enjoyed and appreciated about the Beneath the Surface are its themes. At the heart of this book is Melissa and Rion’s struggle to be together despite their racial and cultural differences. For much of the book Melissa and Rion have a volatile relationship which in part stems from miscommunication and misunderstandings because of their different backgrounds. From the beginning, the obstacles they face seem insurmountable, but Carter shows that love can, indeed, transcend differences.
Another reason I liked the book is because Carter delves into the dark subjects of sexual assault and physical abuse. By doing so, she creates an opening for a conversation about these sensitive topics and the reality that teens aren’t immune to this kind of violence. Both Melissa and Rion have undergone horrific, degrading experiences in their past which are summed up rather than graphically described in flashbacks, and the plot focuses more on the aftermath and how both characters have chosen to deal with their trauma. While Melissa chooses to keep this a secret and suffer silently, Rion withdraws from his family and friends. I think their common struggle to reclaim their lives plays a significant role in the bond that forms between them because they each know what is needed to help the other emotionally heal.
On the other hand, there are some aspects of the novel I didn’t enjoy, and this may very well be because I brought an adult perspective into the reading experience. I acknowledge that I am not the intended audience and this may be why some parts of the book weren’t as appealing as they may be to teen readers. Although I enjoyed the book’s plot and themes, I did not connect very well with the main characters. Both Melissa and Rion are quick-tempered, stubborn, and easily offended, all of which contribute to the volatile nature of their relationship. At times their behavior is immature, impulsive, and causes unnecessary complications. I didn’t really feel the attraction between them early on. Melissa does everything she can to get away from Rion after he saves her, but once she returns home, she misses him and feels empty that he is no longer a part of her life. I was surprised that she felt this strongly since I didn’t pick up on any real chemistry between them. She’s more focused on her anger, pain, and frustration to escape back to her family. As the story, progresses, I do begin to understand why Melissa develops strong feelings for Rion. He is kind, gentle, and patient with her, which is exactly what she needs at this point. In Rion’s culture, females are revered, and I can see how Melissa would be drawn to this young Malion. However, I never fully understood why Rion falls in love with Melissa so quickly and is willing to jeopardize the safety of his people for a girl he claims to love but barely knows.
Although I didn’t connect to Melissa, I definitely appreciated the character arc she undergoes. Through her involvement with the Malions and their Vykhar enemies, she becomes less egocentric and self-involved, learning to take responsibility for the choices she makes and realizing that her actions have repercussions beyond herself. Melissa becomes softer, more understanding, and more forgiving of others, especially her sister, Katherine who antagonizes her in the first half of the book. Katherine’s behavior toward Melissa doesn’t change until after her own break-up, which I thought would become significant to the plot, but doesn’t. I was so sure that the ex-boyfriend was somehow connected to this supernatural world and was using Katherine for some sinister purpose to further complicate the plot, so I’m not sure why Katherine’s boyfriend troubles were significant to the overall story.
Readers who dislike cliff-hanger endings will be pleased to know that Beneath the Surface has a resolution that wraps up the book nicely without leaving them in angsty suspense waiting for the next installment. If you like YA urban fantasy, you should check out this new series.
Source: I received an ARC of this book from the author to provide an honest review.
As my door closed, I rolled onto my side and looked at the bag on the floor again. Rion had put himself, his entire family, and Abby, at risk for me, a complete stranger, and instead of feeling glad to be home, I felt horrible.
I took a deep breath and pushed myself up to sitting. It took every bristle of strength I had to get up to walk over to that bag of clothes; not just because of my sore muscles, but because they reminded me of him, and the problems I’d created when I insisted that he let me go.
I poured them onto the carpet, sat down beside them, and hugged them as tight as I could. I hadn’t even taken a second to think about what I was doing, it was automatic. I think I was craving some sort of comfort after everything that had happened this weekend, and holding those clothes was like holding onto the part of me I’d left behind. I pulled the clothes closer to my face, and took a deep breath in—they still smelled of him.
My heart began to pound.
Pine, leather, and that musty underground smell of his world had me roiling inside. It was so strong. I inhaled again, recalling the moment Rion had smiled at me. It wasn’t forced, we had actually connected, and when he carried me in his arms, I felt awkward, but safe…and so warm. I desperately wanted to feel that way again; I wanted to know everything was going to be all right again. And then I heard something crinkle.
I ripped open the pile of clothes and found the paper in the pocket of my jeans, and though the letters were difficult to decipher at first, I managed to read his messy, all-capitals chicken-scratch.
YOU WILL BE WATCHED CLOSELY. IF I SENSE ANY DANGER, I AM COMING FOR YOU.
I sat there staring at the words, confused, because he said that we couldn’t have any further contact. I read the note again and realized it was the vykhars he was warning me about.
I shoved everything back into the plastic bag and opened my closet door. Rion’s scent was all over the clothes, and I needed to find a safe place to store them. In a few months, when everything settled down, I’d put them into a donation bin.
I took out an old backpack, shoved the bag in and threw it to the back of my closet. When they were securely covered by three layers of last summer’s wardrobe, and I felt satisfied that they were hidden well enough, I slumped down on my bed. Even though I was completely exhausted, I couldn’t shut my mind off.
When I thought about Mom, I had no doubt that coming home was the right decision, but I had no idea how messed up my life would become. Everyone’s life had been put on hold this weekend because of me: my parents missed work and I’d worried them sick, Katherine cut all ties with me, I had driven the best doctor in B.C. into hiding, I still hadn’t faced police questioning, I was apparently going to be watched closely by these vykhars, and, oh yes, I still had to go back to school and face my peers.
Purchase Beneath the Surface from Amazon: Beneath the Surface: A Malion Novel
Miranda Rae Carter has lived in British Columbia, Canada, her whole life, and is a self-proclaimed home-bug. She spends most of her time doing what she loves, and that is being a mom and wife–and trying to master the art of cooking. The rest of her time is divided between looking in mouths and writing. For more information on Miranda and her malion novels, visit her on her website, Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.