[Sarah Porter was nice enough to do an interview with me in April for Fairy Tale Fortnight and a guest post for her book's launch. Feel free to check[Sarah Porter was nice enough to do an interview with me in April for Fairy Tale Fortnight and a guest post for her book's launch. Feel free to check them out at http://abackwardsstory.blogspot.com/s....]
Everyone who knows me knows that I love a good mermaid story. There’s something about the mystical beings that just fascinates me. Then again, maybe it’s just that I watched Disney’s THE LITTLE MERMAID movie and animated TV series and SABAN’S ADVENTURES OF THE LITTLE MERMAID series too many times as a kid. Or maybe I was a mermaid in a previous life. Who knows?
I’ve been looking forward to reading Sarah Porter’s debut novel, LOST VOICES, since I first heard about it. When an opportunity to read an early copy came my way, I didn’t hesitate. Sometimes, hype only leaves you disappointed. Not this time. Porter’s underwater world was so real, I couldn’t help but be drawn into it. Additionally, she creates her own universe and folklore. This story isn’t the sweet and happy world of mermaids you might be used to. The novel is heavy and gritty. Ariel would never survive among such mermaids. She’s too carefree. In Porter’s world, Ariel would never be a mermaid to begin with. Mermaids are girls who were once human, but died young with nothing in life to lose—girls who were beaten, raped, abandoned, etc. Luce, the novel’s main character, lost both her parents at an early age and must live with her uncle, a heavy drinker who does abysmal things while under the influence. After one such incident, Luce tries to escape his abuse, falls over a cliff, and the next thing she knows, she’s a mermaid.
In Porter’s world, however, being a mermaid isn’t all fun and games. These mermaids are females with chips on their shoulders and harbor no love for humankind. They have siren-like tendencies with beautiful, enthralling voices that lead sailors to their doom. They delight in shipwrecks, in bringing down one more man in the world who would harm an innocent girl. These are mermaids that travel in packs like wolves, their queen whoever has the most persuasive voice of all.
Luce finds herself in a world of mermaids smiling to her face, but talking about her behind her back, a situation reminiscent of school cliques everyone can identify with. She’s taken under Queen Catarina’s wing due to her extraordinarily beautiful voice, but even this liaison proves to be dangerous. Luce, still in touch with her humanity, hates bringing down ships and killing sailors. She believes humans aren’t all inherently evil, but is alone in her beliefs. Even as a mermaid, she finds herself alone on the outskirts, with no place she truly belongs.
I love how different Porter’s mermaid lore was, the way she merged old mythology with new. LOST VOICES is the type of book where I found myself re-reading various parts again and again. I can’t wait to re-read the book now that it’s been officially published and finalized. Even more, I’m eager to read the next part of Porter’s trilogy and see what obstacles and wonders she’ll introduce to us next. The summary for Book Two, WAKING STORMS, is already online and sounds even better than LOST VOICES. And, as you can see, LOST VOICES is pretty darn good, one of my favorite books of 2011. The final book in the series, THE TWICE LOST, is being written now. I want it already!...more
One of my favorite fairy tales has always been The Little Mermaid. Mermaids fascinate me; I’ve been writing stories about them since elementary schoolOne of my favorite fairy tales has always been The Little Mermaid. Mermaids fascinate me; I’ve been writing stories about them since elementary school. With this tale, while I’m obsessed with the sugary Disney version I grew up with, I also love the original story. It’s so sad and tears my heart apart. The mermaid goes through absolute hell in order to be with the man she loves and in the end, it still isn’t enough. Mermaid by Carolyn Turgeon deals with the Hans Christian Anderson version of TLM, but with her own twist. For the first time (that I’ve seen), the tale is told through the eyes of the princess in addition to the mermaid we all know and love. As soon as I realized we were going to get her perspective on everything, I knew I had to buy Mermaid and bring it home.
The novel doesn’t disappoint, either. I was swept away by Turgeon’s lush descriptions. I wanted to live beneath the sea with Lenia (The Little Mermaid) and her kin. I loved her description of mermaids, the way their skin was hard and diamond-like, able to withstand the cold. Turgeon introduces her own mermaid lore as well. When a human is touched by a mermaid, a trail of shimmer and diamond is left on his or her skin in that spot. Additionally, she describes the way mermaids and humans used to be one race until the king and queen had a major falling out. The king tore up the sea and created land and gave his followers legs instead of tails. There was so much to envision and explore that I never saw coming.
Whenever I read a re-telling of The Little Mermaid, it always tends to follow the Disney route, complete with a happily ever after. I was enamored with the way Turgeon takes Lenia down the sadder path. It was interesting to see why she made the decisions she did, why she fell in love, her obsession with souls, etc. After making her deal with the sea witch, her tongue is torn out and I can feel her pain, but even more so when she tries to walk. I agonized with the mermaid every step of the way. Turgeon really brought her plight to life. Same with the princess. Hidden at a convent so her father’s enemies won’t find her, Princess Margrethe stumbles upon the mermaid and a washed-up sailor. She never realizes he’s the prince of the enemy kingdom, takes him in, and saves his life. Seeing the way her life pans out really fleshes out the original version of the tale. The princess was nothing more than an afterthought then, with no motivations of her own. I loved seeing the way Turgeon brought everyone together and carried out the story I love so much.
Even knowing the original tale, there are still new twists and turns that will come as a surprise to readers. Because of this, the novel never got old or boring. My only complaint was that at times, the lack of using contractions in sentences stood out, but this was forgivable due to the fact that people spoke in such a fashion back then. Turgeon tried very hard to keep to her time period without any modern influences. For example, the focus on religion and a joining of souls worked well. It wasn’t preachy, but rather laid things out in a “this is how the world is” fashion. Mermaid very much read like a proper periodical and I was completely drawn into the world in which everything took place.
THE VICIOUS DEEP is different enough from other mermaid novels that it stands out. For one thing, it features a male protagonist. Male voices are seldTHE VICIOUS DEEP is different enough from other mermaid novels that it stands out. For one thing, it features a male protagonist. Male voices are seldom-heard in YA to begin with, but a book from the POV of a guy who doesn't know he's a merman is even rarer. Plus, the author is female, and while I often find that male POVs written by females tend to have a false ring to them, Zoraida Córdova is spot-on in her narration. Sometimes we're meant to love him, while other times, we want to slap him upside the head for being so cocky. Tristan feels like an everyday guy, albeit one with a deeper destiny, and his journey is one that pulls readers in.
Tristan is living an ordinary life when a storm hits and creates a tragedy with few survivors. While Tristan makes it out intact, he has horrible nightmares and begins changing. One day, he sprouts a tail and realizes that a major secret has been kept from him. Now, brethren from down under have come to inform Tristan of his destiny. The mer-king is aging and needs an heir. While Tristan's bloodlines qualify him for the rule, he must partake in a challenge against other qualified candidates in order to win the crown. To do so means giving up his life as a human, and not everyone beneath the sea is as friendly and accepting as one might think...
While THE VICIOUS DEEP gets off to a shaky start, it solidifies further in and becomes tighter. Córdova anticipates the questions a reader might have and answers them, from the motivations to "why" Tristan should care so much (Which I did wonder at for a while) to the wonders of down under. The underwater world is spectacular, yet there are threads of darkness that make this mer-world more sinister than the ones portrayed in other mer-novels. She also manages to create a creepy villain that's sure to be featured more heavily in the second book. By the time the last page has turned, it may seem as though not a lot has been resolved, but all of the development is in place for THE SAVAGE BLUE and the world has been soundly built. I look forward to seeing Córdova flesh out more of her underwater tale and seeing just where she takes us next....more
Anna Banks has a smooth, easy way of writing that's easy to fall into. Her voice is strong and makes it easy to become absorbed in the story. Take theAnna Banks has a smooth, easy way of writing that's easy to fall into. Her voice is strong and makes it easy to become absorbed in the story. Take the above opening hook, for example. Doesn't that already want to make you keep reading? Main character Emma immediately goes through an embarrassing situation that everyone can relate to, and her description of the way others are perceiving the incident will surely resonate well with readers. The novel continues on in this personable tone, which was an aspect that really shone for me throughout OF POSEIDON.
While the hook continues on and blooms into a vacation that takes a horrifying turn, it also opens up the world of the Syrena (do not call them mermaids). Galen, the "him" that Emma bumps into in the above hook, and his sister Rayna become integral parts of Emma's life as they begin investigating what happened in her vacation gone wrong, trying to determine if she's a Syrena, if she's broken Syrena laws, what she does--or doesn't--know. Who is Emma, where does she come from? Emma's journey takes a predicable turn, but will leave readers hanging on, and in some cases, even surprise them. Her story also isn't predictable, because while she's suspected of being a Syrena, there's a lot that goes against this notion as well. Too many signs can't be ignored, however, which brings characters back to the question: Who is Emma, where does she come from? Be forewarned: If, like me, you aren't aware that OF POSEIDON is the first in a series, you may be taken off guard by the cliffhanger at the end. I actually saw it coming and anticipated it, but I'm eager to see how Banks will unfurl the situation her characters wind up in when OF TRITON launches next year.
The mermaid mythology in OF POSEIDON is unique enough to keep me engaged, with new rules and ways of life I haven't seen done before. While some elements of the novel are predictable, especially when it comes to romance in today's YA, that's not necessarily a complaint. I loved seeing the way Galen and Emma interacted, and Banks throws some interesting hurdles their way that can only exist in the mythology of the world of the Syrena. I cannot wait to dive back beneath the sea and see more of the Syrena's inner-workings, as well as return to these characters (Even secondary ones, for once!) and Banks' fresh writing style....more
WRECKED revolves around an intriguing concept. There is a sea witch who controls the waters. She collects human souls, and in this way, reminds me ofWRECKED revolves around an intriguing concept. There is a sea witch who controls the waters. She collects human souls, and in this way, reminds me of Disney's Ursula. She's more devious about gathering her souls, however, and doesn't wait for them to come to her. She brings down ships, drowns humans out for a swim, etc. As the novel begins, the sea witch, Sephie, causes a boating accident that kills almost every teenager on board. Since the boat belonged to to Miranda and she was driving, her surviving friends, classmates, and community all turn against her and whisper despite the fact that it was an accident. Ostracized with no one to confide in, Miranda meets a boy on the beach named Christian. She discovers that Christian was the one who saved Miranda and pulled her to shore during the accident. She doesn't realize, however, that Christian isn't human, but a betwixtman, not quite mer, but not human, either. Because Christian saved Miranda and three other humans also survived the shipwreck, Sephie is infuriated at the loss of souls rightfully hers. She tells Christian that he has one week to bring her Miranda's soul and right his wrong, but Christian finds himself falling in love and isn't sure he can take the life he worked so hard to save.
The inclusion of betwixtmen was intriguing, especially when the race is first described:
After all, he was a betwixtman, an ancient race from before the separation between Up Above and Down Below, when creatures were free to love and live as they chose. Betwixtmen had human blood in their veins, and legs instead of fins...
...At one point, according to legend, there'd been talk of banning betwixtmen from Surfacing, ever. It wasn't only because they could pass as humans, with two legs instead of fish-like tails, but because Sephie was afraid that even a drop of human blood would make them somehow susceptible to falling in love with humans. The legend was, if that happened, the entire world of Down Below would be compromised. That was why the penalties for breaking the rules were severe--ranging from banishment--which, in a place like Down Below, surrounded on all sides by sharks and fearsome creatures of the deep, was akin to immediate death--to death by Sephie's hand. Christian knew that. And yet, he couldn't let go of the girl. He'd already interfered. He might as well follow through...
(Page 36, US Hardcover Edition)
Davies goes on to describe the ritual of Surfacing, when a mer comes of age and is given the ability to break free to Up Above by his/her ruler Sephie. While it would have been lovely to spend time Down Below and see the world Christian came from, most of the book takes place on land in a more contemporary setting. It was odd seeing human names on Christian and his brother Valentine with no explanation, especially since the sea witch was more uniquely named Sephie, but the reasoning behind this never went into too much detail. My thought is that since betwixtmen have human blood in them, the classical, more religious names are passed down, but that's just a wild guess on my part.
Miranda is going through a horrible situation throughout the book and has so little support. Her brother is the only one who cares; even her grandmother cares more about keeping up appearances than she does her ward. No one stops to consider Miranda's feelings or to realize that she's hurting, too. They just want a scapegoat to blame for the tragic accident. Because Miranda shuts down so completely, it's hard to emotionally attach to her as a reader because she doesn't reveal her depth the way other characters do. The relationship between Miranda and Christian develops fast. While Miranda is suspicious of Christian and his intentions at first, Christian immediately feels a pull to Miranda. It starts out as curiosity because he's never seen a human before, but he quickly realizes he has actual feelings for her and wants to get out of his impossible situation.
While WRECKED has a few writing flaws that prevents it from being one of my favorite mermaid novels, the tale is still engaging enough to continue on to the conclusion. I wish it had more show to it than all the tell we got, especially in the world of Down Below, and would like to see Davies write a mermaid novel that takes place predominantly under the sea because she's set up an intriguing concept of a dastardly sea witch who minutely controls everything. While the ending was unexpected, it could either work as a stand-alone novel or leave room for Davies to return to her world and take a closer, more in-depth look at Down Below....more
The world of Jackson Pearce's fairy tale "retellings" is always eerie, and never quite what one might expect. They all pull inspiration from traditionThe world of Jackson Pearce's fairy tale "retellings" is always eerie, and never quite what one might expect. They all pull inspiration from traditional fairy tales while remaining their own original novels at the same time. None of the books need to be read in order, yet some elements create a refrain that weave the novels together. In SISTERS RED, we are introduced to the deadly Fenris, creatures that exist in all three books. In FATHOMLESS, we get to see a bit of their origins. SWEETLY gives off waves of foreshadowing that intertwine in FATHOMLESS, though again, you don't need to read it first. I will say, however, that immediately after finishing FATHOMLESS, I went back and re-read one chapter towards the end of SWEETLY, which is actually so much deeper and more meaningful now. Then I turned around and finally read SISTERS RED to see how the three stories tied together. I'm hoping Pearce sets more novels in this fairy tale world!
FATHOMLESS is a loose retelling of THE LITTLE MERMAID, one of my favorite fairy tales. She gets brownie points for anchoring the tale to the Hans Christian Andersen version over the Disney version, too. So far, I've only seen Carolyn Turgeon's MERMAID do this. The book alternates between the POV of the mermaid who actually saves a drowning boy and the human girl who pretends to have done so. Only, there's so much more at stake this time around. Plus, Lo isn't a natural mermaid. She died and became a being (albeit with legs and not a tail) who lives in the sea with her sisters (and in this sense, the book reminds me of Sarah Porter's LOST VOICES). If you've read SISTERS RED and SWEETLY, you know how an undercurrent of danger is woven throughout all of Pearce's novels. FATHOMLESS is no exception. It grows more horrifying as the novel progresses and is truly un-put-down-able.
So far, I'd have to say FATHOMLESS is my favorite novel by Pearce. The world is so creepy, yet so beautiful, too.
"How eerily creepy can mermaids possibly be," you ask. If this line isn't enough to send shivers coursing up your spine, nothing can:
MAKE HIM LOVE YOU, KISS HIM, DROWN HIM. Earn his soul, and you get your humanity back... (Page 5, US ARC Edition, out Sept. 4, 2012; Changes may occur before final printing)
Then again, I also find myself fiercely in love with the kick-butt attitude of SISTERS RED and the gorgeous imagery from SWEETLY. Each of Pearce's books has something to love, and I'm excited that she has two non-related books (AS YOU WISH and PURITY) for me to read, though I don't know that I can love them as much as I do this fairy tale series. Pearce is spot-on in character descriptions, in bringing a scene's visuals to life, in sending shivers down one's spine, in forcing readers to care. There is so much to love and I look forward to more novels from Pearce in the future! ...more
WAKE is the first novel by self-publishing millionaire Amanda Hocking to be traditionally published and released in hardcover. St. Martin's Griffin alWAKE is the first novel by self-publishing millionaire Amanda Hocking to be traditionally published and released in hardcover. St. Martin's Griffin also re-packaged her self-published bestselling TRYLLE TRILOGY earlier this year in paperback. I'm glad to see Hocking with a traditional publisher because the ARC is full of errors that will surely be cleaned up and polished before the final book hits shelves next month.
Hocking goes back to an older definition of sirens than what many visualize today, causing surprise revelations I didn't see coming right away. She also creates a creepy group of girls who are model-beautiful, yet "off." They arrive in town as a string of murders begin occurring, and a lot of people think they're strange, but they're so beautiful that no one suspects them of any wrong-doing. One of the girls disappears, leaving the quartet a trio, and the girls begin expressing interest in a local named Gemma. They lure her to them one night and Gemma awakes remembering nothing, but knowing that something in her life has fundamentally changed.
While Hocking's characters aren't multi-faceted in WAKE, they weren't when I reviewed the TRYLLE TRILOGY either. The characters wound up growing and evolving as fleshed out beings as the story progressed, so I'm hoping to see that happen this time around as well. I did love the strong familial relationship between Gemma and her older sister Harper, who has acted more as a mother than a sister ever since a tragic accident. A lot of readers who have been in this situation (either as the older sibling acting as a parent or the younger one being parented) will emphasize with this situation. Harper was actually my favorite sister to read about, though the story is mostly Gemma's due to her unfortunate evolution due to her involvement with the sirens. The book is told in third person and alternates between the lives of both girls. There are love interests for both girls as well. Gemma's revolves around Alex, the older boy next door, her sister's best friend, which was really sweet, but also had an "expected" air to it. I was more drawn to the budding relationship between Harper and Daniel, a guy she doesn't necessarily trust, despite the fact that he so obviously likes her and has been nothing but kind to her. Harper likes to be in control and knows where she wants to go in life. She's so busy being responsible that she doesn't open herself up when opportunity knocks. The scenes between Harper and Daniel were some of my favorites and it will be interesting to see their story arc progress. ...more
Today, Elizabeth Fama also stopped by A Backwards Story for a splashtastic interview! Check it out!
MONSTROUS BEAUTY is much darker than most mermaid nToday, Elizabeth Fama also stopped by A Backwards Story for a splashtastic interview! Check it out!
MONSTROUS BEAUTY is much darker than most mermaid novels and in this sense, feels more "real" to me than many other books in the genre. When you take the siren aspect of the lore into account, it's easy to recognize that mermaids aren't all the light, human-loving beings that tend to be at the forefront of our imaginations. Instead, they're wicked and deadly, with animalistic instincts that show that they're more beast than they are human. Their minds and emotions don't work the way a human's does, and Elizabeth Fama portrays their nature beautifully in her new novel.
The novel is chilling and hard to read at times, but never in a scary way. The procedure a mermaid must go through in order to become human or save one's life is horrific. There's also a short scene that involves rape, so between these two elements and the fact that the book is more...sensual, for lack of a better word, I would not recommend this book to a younger teen even though it's shelved in YA. The book really lives up to its name, and the mermaids are monstrous in a way I never felt when reading Zoraida Córdova's THE VICIOUS DEEP (Which I enjoyed, but didn't feel to be "vicious").
There's also a refreshing historical aspect to MONSTROUS BEAUTY that bridges two worlds, alternating between the past and events that occurred in 1872 with repercussions still existing in a more modern world. Fama never dates "modern day," so while it could be today, it could also be a couple of decades earlier--or later. She seamlessly weaves together a tragedy and creates a compelling mystery that's hard to put down.
Fama is so good at layers and bringing readers into her world that it was easy to feel invested in Syrenka's plight and all that she gave up, all that she goes through. I found myself wanting to dip back into the past every time I stepped once more into the present, though the present-day began to intrigue me more as the storyline progressed. The world-building is also stellar, full of Fama's own mermaid lore that is refreshingly unique.
I'm eager to read more books by Fama in the future and feel that it's one of the more well-written and compelling mermaid novels....more