Tempest Rising, by Nicole Peeler. Orbit, 2009. 368 pp. 978-0316056588.
... in which a half-human, half-selkie woman helps a vampire solve some grisly murders.
The plot of this book revolves around a young woman named Jane True. Jane lives in a tiny tourist town in coastal Maine, and because she is different than the other townspeople and has a troubled past, she is something of a social pariah. Her secret joy in life is to go swimming in the dead of night in the very turbulent, very cold ocean waters near her house. Over the course of the book, she discovers that her oddities are due to her mother actually being a selkie. If you've ever seen the movie The Secret of Roan Inish (a favorite of mine from childhood!), you'll recognize a little of the mythology here. She eventually discovers that there is an entire community of magical folk (vampires, gnomes, shape-shifters, etc) living side-by-side with humans. Eventually Jane gets caught up in an investigation into a series of murders, and teams up with a vampire to help him solve the crimes.
As far as urban fantasies go, this one is not especially unique (socially ostracized girl with mysterious past, handsome vampire, etc), but it's a fun (and fast!) read nonetheless. As far as vampire-craze books go, this one is more on the Sookie Stackhouse side, instead of the Twilight side. The characters aren't quite as clean as the characters in Twilight are, and the various mythological creatures have the potential to have more complicated histories than the creatures in Twilight.
The author is a professor of English and has an interest in ancient mythology, and that certainly comes through in the book. I enjoyed how the author made an effort to tie her characters in with ancient mythology, but to also add her own creative spin. I also liked that vampires didn't dominate the storyline, as I have long since grown tired of the Edward/Robert Pattinson craze sweeping the nation. Yes, the second most important character in the book is a vampire, but the main character is half-selkie, a somewhat lesser-known creature.
The plot of this book moved along fairly quickly, and it was very straightforward. It was an extremely predictable novel, but that is a common failing for the majority of books in this genre. The predictability of the book didn't interfere with my enjoyment of it, though, because the prose was well-written.
My major complaint with the book would be the characterization of some of the key players in the story. The main character, Jane, spends a little too much time agonizing over a traumatic event in her past (an event that is not fully explained until about 2/3 of the way through the book). The author beats us over the head with the fact that Jane is hated in town, but it seems like she has at least four or five allies in the town's tiny population. The vampire Ryu is a pretty thin character, so in the future I hope that Peeler plans on expanding on him a little bit more. The character that I found the most compelling was also one who remained in the background for the majority of the novel. The character, a talking dog who occasionally turns into a human, seems to have known Jane longer than the others, and he has been with her through her darkest moments, yet he gets little-to-no development in the characterization department. Again, I hope that this is because the author intends for him to be a major player in the future, and perhaps she is keeping his backstory in reserve.
In the end, I would recommend this book as a beach read, if you're looking for something that can be read on vacation or in a single sitting (it took me only a few hours to read). If you're looking for something long, intricate, or with a good twist, you might look elsewhere.