Published: January 1st 2014 by HarlequinTeen
Format: ARC, 304 pages
Genres: Science Fiction
Goodreads ● Booktopia ● Bookworld
In a glittering underwater world, nothing is as it seems...
For the past twelve months since her parents’ death, seventeen-year-old Miranda Sun has harboured a dark secret — a secret that has strained the close relationship she once shared with her older sister, Lauren. In an effort to repair this broken bond, Miranda’s grandparents whisk the siblings away on a secluded beach holiday. Except before Miranda gets a chance to confess her life-changing secret, she’s dragged underwater by a mysterious stranger while taking a midnight swim.
Awakening days later, Miranda discovers that she’s being held captive in a glittering underwater city by an arrogant young man named Marko...the King of this underwater civilisation.
Nineteen-year-old Marko intends to marry Miranda in order to keep his crown from falling into the sinister clutches of his half-brother, Damir. There’s only one problem. Miranda is desperate to return home to right things with her sister and she wants nothing to do with Marko. Trying to secure her freedom, Miranda quickly forms an alliance with Robbie — Marko’s personal guard. However, she soon discovers that even underwater, people are hiding dangerous secrets...
Captivate is an ambitious novel, and although I saw a lot of potential in the blurb, I have to confess I’m mostly disappointed by it.
Here is the premise of Captivate: Marko is the king of an under-water settlement of humans, and he’s usurped his psychotic elder brother Damir’s throne. His people can no longer reproduce, a side effect of living underground with no sunlight and other things that humans generally need to survive. His elder sister, and Damir’s twin, suggests kidnapping a girl from the surface to be Marko’s queen, bringing in fresh blood and allowing him to produce an heir, which will secure his claim to the throne.
All my problems with this novel stem from that basic premise. The Marin to have surprisingly archaic laws given that the first settlers of this underground city were some of the brightest and most progressive minds of their time. It doesn’t make sense to me that they would reproduce the kinds of laws that made living underwater so attractive to in the first place. The postulation that Marko needs to produce an heir to keep his throne is ridiculous – although he has deposed his elder brother, it’s been well established that basically no one wants the psycho who likes to experiment on his citizens to turn them into merpeople as the King. It also implies that if Drake could find a human and reproduce with her, his claim to the throne would become stronger. It seems like the lawmakers of the Marin really stuffed up on this one.
The second thing that baffles me about this book is the apparent need to kidnap a non-Marin girl and force her to become Queen so that she can produce an heir. Just having Miranda there, and maybe having a baby, doesn’t solve the issue: all the other Marin couples will still not be able to reproduce. But even before this inconsistency, there’s the very idea that kidnapping a human girl is the best way to go about solving the issue of Marko’s heirs. It’s mentioned that Marko goes to the surface every month to trade pearls for supplies that his people need (very ill-considered, given that his brother apparently poses a threat) and I can’t see why he couldn’t also go to the surface to seduce a girl Edward-Cullen-style into living with him as his Queen. I also can’t see why they couldn’t just steal genetic material from a fertility clinic or similar. Yes it’s barbaric and morally wrong, but a community who sees nothing wrong with regularly tossing people to sharks and kidnapping a 16 year old girl can hardly cling to that reasoning. The only explanation given in the book is the requirement of marriage before producing a baby, which is ludicrous anyway considering the baby will be created in a test tube.
So the world-building could be significantly improved on. What about the rest of the book? The characters are predictable and bland, the romances are flat, and there is barely anything that kept my interest.
Miranda is this naive, blundering, self-pitying character that I couldn’t like at all, but I did grudgingly admire her determination to escape her imprisonment. She examines her room for weaknesses and hidden exits, puts all her strength into breaking the one vent she sees in her room, and makes many attempts at escaping, which I applauded. However, her motivations for escape seem to hinge on her need to reveal some dark secret to her sister concerning the night of their parents’ death. When she does make it back and tell her sister the secret (which wasn’t even a secret, it was absolutely anti-climactic), Miranda immediately starts thinking “well that’s done, now I want to return to the weird underwater people who kidnapped me and kept me against my will for six weeks and tried to force me to become their Queen so they could harvest my reproductive material”. Yeah. She doesn’t even think of trying to reconnect and bond with her sister, doesn’t resolve to spend more time with her family to appreciate them, in the light of her absence and how close she was to never see them again. Nope. Miranda’s raring to go back and spend time with the two boys she’s met while she’d been kidnapped.
The romance in the novel is uncomfortably reminiscent of Stockholm Syndrome and I had a hard time believing any of it. Robbie is my favourite character from the book, and when his feelings for Miranda blurred between friendship and something more I was a little excited, but predictably Miranda finds herself falling for Marko as well. Marko is quick to anger and violence, and really quite scary, but yes, let’s all fall for him because he’s incredibly handsome, and forget the part where he puts his best friend in a shark tank.
So, I didn’t much like Captivate: it could have been a lot better. In particular, the world needs a lot more thought behind it, the characters could have been more developed, and the plot more refined. But a lot of other people have liked it, and if you pick it up, I hope you do too 🙂