by Sarah Porter
This is the first book in a proposed trilogy.
Luce has been living with her uncle ever since her father disappeared at sea during a storm. The brothers weren't close, but he's the only family Luce has. Whenever he gets drunk, however, her uncle turns abusive. One night, after he attempts to rape the fourteen year old girl, she realizes she can't return home, and ends up falling off a cliff into the sea. Instead of dying, however, Luce is transformed into a mermaid, and rescued by the leader of a tribe (a pod? a school?) of mermaids. These aren't the flirty, fun-loving mermaids of Disney cartoons, though; a mermaid is born from the heart of a girl who has experienced the darkest moments humanity has to offer, and what she wants is revenge on the world that created her. Like the sirens of mythology, the mermaids drag sailors to their watery graves by enchanting them with beautiful songs. Luce doesn't want to kill, but she doesn't want to lose her new friends, either – and she just may be the greatest singer to join her tribe in generations. Will she use her gift to bring ever-greater numbers of ships to the bottom of the sea, or will she challenge the mermaid Queen Caterina for the right to lead the tribe?
This was a very dark story, and I loved it for that reason. Becoming a mermaid might “save” a girl from a horrible life on shore, but she sacrifices so much to gain it. As I said, the mermaids' goal is to kill as many men, women and children as they can without getting caught; and those who refuse to participate are cast out of the tribe. Solitary mermaids don't tend to last long; they make tasty snacks for orcas and sharks. Mermaids also don't grow older; if a child is 'turned' when she is eight, she will stay eight years old forever. Girls who join the mermaids are also sacrificing any future chance at love - for some reason, the change doesn't work on boys, so there are no mermen. Finally, there's no way back – while a mermaid will regain her legs if she leaves the water, the process causes extreme pain and she'll die before the transformation is complete. It's a terrible, agonizing death.
The one big problem – and it was huge - was the foundation of the mythology. Why do only abused girls become mermaids? What triggers the transformation? (In some cases, the mermaids can force a transformation when they sing, but at other times it happens rather randomly, miles from the ocean.) If an abused girl dies and her body is found buried in a psycho's backyard, or whatever, does that mean she wasn't worthy to be a mermaid? How does that work? I hope that this is addressed in future books; the way it was glazed over in the first volume felt very sketchy and incomplete.
3.5 out of 5 stars
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