Review: Heartifact by Aisling Mancy

HeartifactRating: 4.25 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Novella


The sea calls to Harper Kidd—so much so that he’s earned double degrees in oceanography and marine archaeology. While he’d rather be plunging into the depths of the sea to preserve fragile eco-systems and put to practice all that he’s learned, a bad economy has trapped Harper in a job with an oil company. Instead of saving the underwater world he loves, he’s part of the industry destroying it.

Hope comes in the form of his best friend, Maggie, aka “Stick.” She’s an ROV operator with connections galore. Not long after Harper completes a grueling job that has him sorely tempted to tender his resignation, Stick comes to the rescue offering a chance for Harper—and all his skills—to accompany her on a venture funded by some obscenely rich Mediterraneans. What’s more, around the same time Harper finally gets to start working a job that truly matches his passion for the sea, he starts having strangely orgasmic dreams starring an mythical, oceanic lover.

Harper’s nocturnal visions quickly escalate into something startlingly more. Each dream is more realistic, more heart-felt, more electrifying than the last. Yet all Harper knows about his mystery lover is that he goes by the name Pelora and that the man is trapped. In fact, the closer the exploration team Harper has joined comes to uncovering the treasures of a long sunken ship, the more intense the dreams become.

The connection between underwater exploring and sea-bound lover come to a head when the team discovers the sunken ship is hiding an underwater cavern. Inside that cavern is a statue…of Pelora. Harper’s emotions are swirling higher and higher, trying to draw lines between fact, fiction, and fantasy. He has to put it all on the line when a dive goes wrong…but the choice he must make—between his fantastical lover and his best friend—is not an easy one.

Here is a story where the construction of the plot and the pacing of the action really kept me on tinter hooks throughout. There are two major themes in the story: (1) Harper, Stick, and the financial backers exploring an ancient sunken ship in the Mediterranean, and (2) Harper and Pelora’s love story. While I’d say a bulk of the on-page action focuses on the former, I still found it quite exciting. The characters themselves are palpably overjoyed at finding their sunken ship richly appointed with valuables plus discovering a previously unknown underwater cave with still more treasure. Even with all the oceanographic exposition, I never felt like the prose was weighted down by the subject matter. And even if someone less keen on ocean themes were reading this, there is plenty of hot man-on-mythical-man action to break it up. It’s not quite formulaic, but several chapters start or end with Pelora and Harper in bed.

As I read, I certainly felt the characters were distinctly different people, but not necessarily very three dimensional. The blurb on Amazon makes it sound like Harper’s got a lot going on and that might color his actions/attitudes…but I didn’t get the sense that he was trying to escape a bad relationship despite the appearance of a crappy old boyfriend in one brief scene. There was a more appreciable set up for framing Harper’s oil-company job as a villain, but this, too soon becomes moot. Oddly, I thought that Stick felt the most well developed with Pelora himself as a close second. Overall, I felt the characters were enjoyable as tropes whose purpose is to serve as a vehicle to promote the plot. Not necessarily disappointing, but not the kind of individuals I spend much time wondering about once the story has ended.

My one major gripe I have is over the manner in which the story came to an end. Throughout the book, each time the exploration team peaks, so does the love story. Conversely, when the love story hits a snag, so does the exploration team. Given how these two separate themes are independent but intertwined, I was quite excited to get to the point where these two threads inevitably converge. By the time actually do collide, however, we are near the very, very end of the story. Although I could reasonably figure out what became of the exploration end of things (being ground in reality and all), I had a harder time making the leap with what happens with Pelora (being based on myth). The overall effect of how events played out at the end ultimately left me feeling like I was being set up for a sequel rather than having questions around Pelora’s existence resolved (like how/why he picked Harper and what exactly happened after Harper made his choice).

If you’re into ocean stories and mythology, this would be a good choice for you. The side characters are mostly functional, but Stick helps round out the action and helps the story avoid being all about Harper and Pelora, which I think adds a nice bit of grounding. The Pelora character offers a bit of a paranormal-esqe feeling to the prose early on that shifts into the mythological later on. Overall, I found this a rather satisfying read that ends with the kind of twist that begs for a sequel.

camille sig

Comments

  1. Thank you for the awesome review, Camille!

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