Friday, May 8, 2015

Book Review: The Mermaid's Sister

Back in February Amazon offered me a free Prime trial membership (I had a free trial when I was a student but since that one was about five years ago I guess they decided to give me another chance at free shipping) which was great and I found out that Prime members can get a free, Amazon-first, ebook each month, curated from a special list by the editors. My membership was spread out over February and March and, in honor of National Reading Month, I actually got two free books in February so I have three, Amazon-first ebooks in total that I'll be talking about soon. It's a rather nice perk!

The Mermaid's Sister by Carrie Anne Noble

Auntie may be a talented herb-woman but there is no cure for what has happened to one of her girls, 16 year old Maren has become a woman and as such is turning into what she really is: a mermaid and one who is shrinking by the day. Her also-adopted sister Clara watches this and dreams of a way she could save her sister but it seems like nothing, not even what their friend O'Neill finds in his travels can help her. As such there is only one option left, to take her to the sea and beg the Sea King for a way to keep her human forevermore.

This book felt a little short for a full novel so perhaps it's more accurate to call it a novella instead. Whatever the terminology, not only was this book a little shorter than what I'm used to but it also had a very quick pace which felt more like amateur writing than a deliberate stylistic choice but ultimately it worked. There were a number of places where the story could have been more fully fleshed out and it would have helped the book (it's historical fiction with a few, big fantastical elements that aren't fully explored, plenty of room for companion or sequel novels) but it tells the story fully enough that it all works out.

Just about everything in this story is straightforward which I suppose is part of the reason it's so short, there are fewer complications to clear up and those that it does have are resolved suspiciously quickly. I wasn't very fond with how the romance was resolved (with a "oh you've been misreading my feelings for years, I care about X instead of Y after all!"), it seemed as if Noble wanted a strong romantic subplot in the story but didn't have the guts to go for a fully, semi-incestuous, love triangle. The story also has a villain in the second half of the story but that revelation and resolution were also a bit muddy. I think Noble was trying to create a character who seemed nice but turned out crazy, which is a hard thing for anyone to convincingly write, but the eventual "defeat" of the villain felt too small for what had been built up. In the end what I guess I'm saying is that Noble can write a plot, a setting, and characters to a solid degree but hasn't quite mastered tone or theme in stories yet and that's what takes a book from a good book to one that will be remembered as great.

All in all I didn't mind this book, it's my favorite of the three Amazon first books I tried out and I wouldn't mind seeing what Noble writes further down the line, I just won't be actively seeking it out.