In a cottage high atop Llanfair Mountain, sixteen-year-old Clara lives with her sister, Maren, and guardian Auntie. By day, they gather herbs for Auntie’s healing potions. By night, Auntie spins tales of faraway lands and wicked fairies. Clara’s favorite story tells of three orphan infants Clara, who was brought to Auntie by a stork; Maren, who arrived in a seashell; and their best friend, O Neill, who was found beneath an apple tree. One day, Clara discovers shimmering scales just beneath her sister’s skin. She realizes that Maren is becoming a mermaid and knows that no mermaid can survive on land. Desperate to save her, Clara and O Neill place the mermaid-girl in their gypsy wagon and set out for the sea.
I picked this book out from the Kindle Unlimited library. I loved that I could read this book on my phone during downtown with family this holiday season and then seamlessly switch to audio during our long car rides to and from our family’s homes. If you don’t already have a Kindle Unlimited membership, keep an eye out for their annual post-Christmas sale.
This book, despite it’s magic and fantasy, is actually set in Pennsylvania in the 1870’s. However, magic is known by everyone in this world, so this setting creates a number of obstacles for Clara and her friends. I really enjoyed the unique location of the story, as well as getting to know some of the roles the character play in this world because of the setting. Issues like a woman’s expected role in her family came up many times as unconventional girls Maren and Clara weren’t always willing to do what was expected of them. I don’t get the sense that the author did a lot of research on this time period before writing, but I was very enveloped in the story and didn’t pay much attention to inaccuracies, if there were any.
The plot of this book follows many fairy tale tropes, which the author pulls off well. The writing is fairly simple, and the pacing can be slower than a traditional YA Fantasy novel in certain sections, but it works well for this particular sub-genre and I enjoyed the writing very much for that reason. The pacing really picks up about halfway through and at that point, it was impossible for me to put the book down. The author slips in many lessons and morals throughout the book without making me feel like she was being preachy or attempting to force her views on the reader.
Clara, as the narrator and main character, is the most detailed and rounded character in the book. She grows a lot from chapter to chapter as she begins to accept her sister’s fate instead of trying to fight it. She also grows as she learns to put herself before others sometimes, rather than always feeling like she has to make other people happy while she stays miserable. The other characters, though, seemed flat to me. While they were enjoyable to read and get to know, they were fairly predictable and easy to see through (although Clara didn’t always have that insight). I would of liked to see a bit more dept to the secondary and tertiary players.
The Mermaid’s Sister is a fun and lighthearted read for anyone who loves fairy tales. While it is a Young Adult Fantasy book, fans of this genre may find the pacing a bit slower than their favorite books, but the pacing is perfect for a fairy-tale retelling or romance novel. The world of this novel was an absolute delight and something I won’t be able to forget about for a long time, but I wish the characters had been a bit more developed.