Penni Russon’s Undine

Undine by Penni Russon.

Undine has many features one would expect to find in a coming-of-age story: a confused heroine who battles with authority figures as she journeys toward self-understanding. Undine, for instance, finds herself at odds with Lou, her mother, who tries to shield Undine from the strange man who claims to be her father. Undine’s life is a lot more confusing, however, than an ordinary teenager’s. Not only must Undine deal with dreary Tuesdays, messy love triangles, and an overprotective mother, Undine must also deal the growing sense the she has powers—powers to control the weather and, quite possibly, alter the past and future.

Undine’s sleepy existence in Hobbart, Tasmania, comes to a halt when she hears a voice calling her “home.” Soon afterwards, a strange fish appears at her doorstep along with a note from a shadowy figure calling himself Prospero. Not having read The Tempest, Undine turns to her confidant, Trout. The two of them try to decipher the mystery until Undine begins dating Trout’s older brother, Richard. Trout, who has always loved Undine, becomes painfully estranged from both Undine and Richard when he learns of their involvement.

Because of their rift, Undine answers the call to meet Prospero alone at his house at Tasmania’s Bay of Angels where her magic is strongest. When Prospero reveals how he plans to misuse Undine’s magic, however, Undine creates a destructive tempest that nearly destroys the world. In a climactic scene, Undine and her father each make a life-altering sacrifice—one that Russon explores further in the next two novels, Breathe and Drift.

Should Undine have answered Prospero’s call? Should she have accepted the gift of magic which leads to her discovery of other, alternate worlds? The magic is a gift but it results in ethical conundrums. In the final novel, Drift, for instance, Undine must decide if she should save a four-year-old if it would obliterate a young man’s existence in another parallel world. Undine also has a showdown with a street performer named Phoenix and an enigmatic creature that insists on calling her a “sister.” Russon’s thrilling and thought-provoking trilogy, about friendship, longing, transience, choices and sacrifice, is not to be missed.


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