Two things attracted me to The Storm Bottle (Goodreads) when I got the email about the upcoming blog tour from Kathy at I Am A Reader, Not A Writer.
Firstly, the cover - gorgeous, isn't it? - and, secondly, I was intrigued to read a paranormal fantasy about dolphins. I mean, everything else has been done, right? I think all that's left are fleas, sea cucumbers and . . . okay, okay, you get my meaning. Dolphins are fresh and new.
I was not disappointed by Nick Green's efforts. If I were to sum up this book in a few words, I'd say: Spellbinding. Imaginative. Different. Unexpected delight. Huge fun to read.
According to Nick Green, his inspiration came the day he was walking along an English beach where he spotted a group of swimmers playing in the waves with a pod of completely wild dolphins. Without stopping to think, he threw himself into the water to join the fun. What resulted is a middle grade - don't agree with that, I think this book has great cross-over appeal - fantasy capitalizing on the mystique of the Bermuda Triangle where just about anything can happen. (It's time someone did something with that Bermuda Triangle myth!)
As it turns out, for Bibi and her stepbrother Michael anything was about the worst thing imaginable.
Not to give away spoilers . . . After an accident at sea, Michael and a dolphin named Rodrigo end up changing places. Michael, now a dolphin, is thrust into the pod know as the Privateers who - amongst other things - chase dolphin girls around the Bermuda seas. Rodrigo finds himself locked in Michael's body, trying to make sense of life in a human family on land. It's left to twelve-year-old Bibi to sort out the mess. This makes for a great adventure, with a lethal - and wholly unexpected - twist in the tail.
The book is narrated by both Bibi and Michael and each bring their own charm to the story. Bibi is wonderful, so dry and astute - wise beyond her years - and I loved being in her head. She gave me lots of chuckles. Michael, AKA Rodrigo, has a tougher time of it in the story. Being a human trapped in a dolphin's body, he has a totally unique view of the world. I think he played his role perfectly. I felt for him with every tail flick that brought him closer to home. And the real Rodrigo? His pain and confusion is brilliantly portrayed. This is Bibi narrating before she learns that Rodrigo is now occupying Michael's body:
"Shall I make you comfy on the sofa? I'll put the telly on."
Michael looked horrified. Bermuda TV can have that effect. I screwed up my courage. "No, come to my room," I said. "Tell me about those freaky tests they made you take."
I patted my bed. His eyes went circular. Quickly I checked (I had a huge centipede get in once) but there was nothing on my duvet except its printed map of Bermuda.
"You can sit on it," I told him.
But he lowered himself towards the carpet. I slipped a bean-bag under him and he sat like a ragdoll, looking over my room as if everything was new to him, my books, the stereo, the gleaming bottles. He could hardly take his eyes off my deep blue curtains.
Gripping my hand seemed to calm him.
"I thought-" He snatched that strange gulping breath. His words came slowly, yet urgently, like Morse code. "At first I thought this was all a bad dream. A horrible dream I couldn't su-su-surface from. But it's not, is it?"
"No, Michael. It's not a nightmare. You're awake. You're safe."
He leaned close and I heard his terror.
"I am not Michael."
And then I had to turn the page to find out more . . .
Now, what about the world building?
Nick Green's under-sea world was one of the great strengths of his book. His dolphins were so consistent and so . . . fishy. Unlike many other paranormal/ shifter books I've read, these dolphins were not just human voices and opinions wrapped in fins and blowholes. They are 'real/' and their concerns exactly what I'd imagine dolphins worrying about.
And talking about concerns, like the ocean, this book has many layers. I really enjoyed the way Nick Green explored the relationships. Step siblings, Bibi and Michael had never really clicked until the accident. Then it's too late. Bibi and her father have an interesting, if remote relationship, which undergoes a massive change. Bibi's dad and her stepmother's new marriage is also put to a grave test. And those are just the human perspectives. The interactions below the water are even more intriguing. Definitely a strength of this book.
All told, I thought The Storm Bottle was amazing, and I would recommend it to anyone who loves an exciting paranormal fantasy. Obviously, given the age of the characters, there's no romance, but the book really didn't need it to be enchanting.
So how many stars? The Storm Bottle is definitely a Five Dolphin Pod read.
Now for the giveaway. Follow this link to find out more about Nick Green and to enter a Rafflecopter to win $25 Amazon Gift Card or the equivalent in PayPal cash. Good luck. And if you do win, do yourself a favour and use the cash to buy the book. You won't regret it.