Score: 94/100 (9.4 out of 10)
Changing Tide by Robert Joncas is truly a breath of fresh air! We've read so many books about deep, dark, and depressing things. A sci-fi romance like this was exactly what we needed.
Similar to something like Sacred Vengeance, despite dealing with things like loss, coping, and mourning, this book is surprisingly fun and lighthearted. Tonally, it's actually quite uplifting and positive, reading like a Disney script. Even when a character has lost an eye, it's more absurd and sad rather than gory and graphic. It's all a matter of how things are written and described.
The book follows a young woman from California named Skye who discovers a mysterious conch shell that sometimes “talks” to her, especially in her sleep. The voices and visions that she experiences from the shell are surreal, taking the form and voice of Skye's late father. This is something that we'll explore later.
Meanwhile, Skye encounters a familiar face: Paul, her childhood bully who is now grown and a handsome hulk. Paul is apologetic about how he treated her when they were children, and the two begin a rather sweet, touching, and exciting relationship. This is arguably the aspect of the book that we liked the most: the romance.
It's actually a pretty interesting dynamic to have someone you hated as a kid become a friend as an adult. This is actually something we've experienced; yes, even with bullies.
For better or for worse, though, the romance between Skye and Real-Paul is relatively short-lived. Skye loses her mother and Paul in quick succession, and relatively early on in the story. This, however, doesn't destroy the story, it actually allows layers to be added to it. We soon discover that the conch shell that Skye found is some sort of gateway or vessel of an alien's essence or soul. This alien essence takes the form of someone close to or loved by the wielder, losing its former shape and memories of its former self.
So, this is when the book both goes off the rails and hits the next gear. Real-Paul becomes “Alien Paul,” the alien taking the shape of Skye's love interest. Surprisingly, this works and is actually quite sweet.
The alien, despite having Paul's likeness, has little to no knowledge of humans, their cultures, and their habits. This leads to some humorous and hilarious moments such as when Skye and Alien Paul are having dinner together and the waiter begins leering at Alien Paul. Alien Paul comments awkwardly, “Does she want to mate with me?” and, later, “Do you want to mate with me?”
This book hits yet another gear full of an interstellar/interdimensional conflict involving a violent, conquering alien race known as the Bahlari.
There is even some pseudo-historical mythos in here about the Anunnaki associating with humanity in ancient times to develop weapons, eventually leading to the technological advancements involved in our various wars.
For better or for worse, these things pale in comparison to the real appeal of this book: the unlikely love story between a girl coming-of-age and experiencing loss and an alien who has taken the form of her childhood bully/best friend/lover.
It's a fascinating dynamic!
Check it out on Amazon!