Ella Whiddett's Reviews > Between the Sea and Sky

Between the Sea and Sky by Jaclyn Dolamore
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's review
Dec 03, 2011

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Read in December, 2011

The Outline

Esmerine is a mermaid who's just been promoted to siren position like her older sister. She's grown up an outsider in her underwater town for playing with one of the winged folk, Fandarsee, on the island nearby. It's been years sinse Esmerine last saw Alan, the winged boy, her best friend, but when her sister, Dosia, goes missing, supposedly kidnapped by a human on land, she calls on Alan's help as Esmerine takes to the land to find and return her sister.

This book is sweetly old-fashioned, and softly, softly explores three very different worlds throughout; the sea, the sky and the place inbetween - earth. It flows well and has scenes that make you smile and ones that make you crave more about the world, the characters and the mythological beings.

The World-Building

The majority of the book is spent on land, but in the first few chapters we really get a feel for life under the sea. Reading about banquets held on the seabed, houses where fish would swim through the windows, and where seaweed was top cuisine was entertaining. The witty presentation of such ideas was compelling and definitely painted a picture in the reader's mind that's unlikely to be forgotten any time soon. There are also brief glimpses of life soaring through the sky on Alan's back. I would liked to have seen this explored more because I think, like the sea, it's a whole other world that's so very mysterious to humans and so much can be created from it by an author.

I assume that this book is set in medieval times...but I'm not really sure; it was never made clear. I came to this conclusion from the clothes worn, the lack of technology and transport and also the general hierarchy that existed in the different communities - Lords, servants, maids. Whilst the descriptions of the bookshop and the grand home of Dosia's new husband were enjoyable to read and then imagine in my head, I do think that Esmerine's struggle with adapting to life on land should mean that the actual land was developed on and we'd seen a bit more insight into what she thought of it. Alas, this would have been hard because of the third person narrative, which was too impersonal for my liking. It felt like Esmerine was just sitting back and watching her life events unfold with me, not like she was the actual lead in her life.

The Characters

Yes, Esmerine was somewhat a vacant character. She was peaceful in attitude and demeanor but this perhaps almost made her very boring. It was attempted by the author to make her seem smart and strong because she is described as being the clever one in her family and also because she took the pain of walking on land, but really she was vague and timid. Much of the dialogue between her and other characters was stilted and slow, but this could have been because of the time the novel was set in, when this was just the dialect of such people.

Like many YA books nowadays, there really were only two characters. Esmerine and Alan. They made up most of the book, with only short appearances from other characters who I would hav thought quite important, but didn't seem to be. Even Dosia, who seemed interesting and cool in the beginning, was just a secondary, flat character by the end who was a very different person from the start and it was never explained why this change came about. Both leads' families could also have been more deeply explored so we could know more about the main characters themselves. However, Alan is a complex character which perhaps made up for the lack of other serious ones. He has all these sides that make him hard to figure out, but the past connections and history between him and Esmerine made a romantic sub-plot inevitable.

The Romance

It was delicately drawn-out and nicely woven into the story but the predictability of it made it much less authentic. I also felt like, despite the vast majority of the book being dialogue, Esmerine and Alan never really said much of great importance to each other.

The Writing

Dolamore writes well with flow and grace, but there is little that catches the attention - no grand scenes or events that made me think wow. The volumes of dialogue also put me off a bit because I believe it's a bit of cheat for authors to have quite so much speaking, when really they should be delving into feelings and settings. But, as mentioned before, this was impossible because of the third person narrative.


An enjoyable read, if somewhat slow at times and containing too much speech, but the fantastical and mythological elements behind it were sweet and innolaced with innocence.


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