This first title in an anticipated trilogy is long on romance-novel contrivances and gore, but also hints at more profound territory. A cliff-hanger ending precedes a glossary and information on sources, literary transmission, and world building.
[Where] the whole love at first sight thing falls apart is that it’s usually based on physical attraction, and the relationship part where they get to know each other on a deeper level never really happens ... [which] makes it hard for me to buy into [the prtagonsits'] romance in the first place and therefore makes the inevitable obstacles less devastating. None of this is Pérez’s fault, of course. The original story offers only so much leeway ... Sweet Black Waves is a beautiful if overstuffed novel. Kristina Pérez’s writing is evocative and immersive. She pulls you into the medieval British Isles with lush, florid prose and surrounds you in a sweeping romance. Pérez deftly tightens the screws until it’s almost too much, forcing her characters into heartbreaking circumstances with no good options. It’s not a perfect novel, and not everything she attempts is successful, but on the whole it’s inventive and intriguing.
Pérez’s characters are complex, and the bond between Branwen and Essy comes across as authentic, although the tale’s romance doesn’t feel genuinely earned. The story’s mystical elements are confusing and awkwardly incorporated, which slows the pace and muddies the plot, but Pérez closes with a devastating cliff-hanger that will leave readers eager for a sequel.
[An] extremely well-written and imaginative story ... Sweet Black Waves was enjoyable, magical and unbearably romantic (with an occasional emphasis on the unbearable). I would recommend this book to fantasy and romance lovers, especially those with a special appreciation for myths and legends.
If you’re looking for a YA romance, then I wouldn’t recommend Sweet Black Waves. But if the time period or the story of Tristan and Isolde intrigues you, then you might want to pick it up. Overall Sweet Black Waves transported me to an ancient Ireland and I loved its heroine. I just wished its other characters were better developed and more nuanced.
A tempestuous fantasy debut ... The prose wavers between poetic and purple, clogged with metaphor and symbolism. The unrelenting barrage of violence, tenderness, horror, and wonder becomes so exhausting that the heartbreak of the climactic cliffhanger is almost a relief ... A thrilling roller coaster for readers craving 'the feels'; a melodramatic slog for the rest.