Thursday, June 18, 2020

Book Review: The Mermaid's Sister

Some of my favorite things to read about are mermaids, princesses, fairies, and fairy tales. Who said I had to grow up? Because of that, the mere title of this book drew me to it. A friend of mine recommended this book to me a while ago, since she knows how much I love mermaids, and I finally got around to reading it. I was not disappointed. 

The Book

The Mermaid's Sister 
by Carrie Anne Noble

Description from Goodreads:

There is no cure for being who you truly are…

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: Maren is becoming a mermaid and must be taken to the sea or she will die. So Clara, O’Neill, and the mermaid-girl set out for the shore. But the trio encounters trouble around every bend. Ensnared by an evil troupe of traveling performers, Clara and O’Neill must find a way to save themselves and the ever-weakening Maren.

And always in the back of her mind, Clara wonders, if my sister is a mermaid, then what am I?

My Thoughts

When Auntie Verity found a baby inside a giant seashell that had been left on her doorstep, she knew the girl, Maren, must grow up to be a mermaid. Still, Auntie raised Maren as her own, alongside the other little girl, Clara, delivered to her by a stork. Now the sisters are nearly seventeen, and Maren’s slow, painful transformation into a mermaid is nearly complete. Joined by O’Neill, the sisters’ best friend, an orphan boy found under an apple tree, Clara begins the sorrowful journey of taking Maren to the ocean. But there are many people who would do anything to get their hands on a real, living mermaid, even if it means the mermaid will die from being separated from the sea.

The Mermaid’s Sister is a story of adventure and undying love – of sisters, friends, and lovers. There is danger and magic, and an adorable pet wyvern named Osbert. One of the things I most loved, because it is different from most other books and reminiscent of a movie I enjoy, was the villains: traveling showmen akin to Dr. Terminus from Pete’s Dragon [1977] with collections of oddities and magic potions to “heal every ailment.” It was an enchanting and unique read that I really enjoyed.

Perhaps more than anything else, The Mermaid’s Sister is an allegory of death. While it is natural in the story for Maren to become what she actually is, the transformation is slow and painful like a chronic illness or someone dying from cancer. When the transformation is complete, Maren must go to the sea, a better life for her like heaven would be. But for her family, her leaving for the ocean might as well be death because she is permanently leaving their lives. It is really hard for Clara, the main character, and her family to watch. Each of them grieves for Maren in different ways. Maren herself accepts her fate, though she too grieves her old life and must endure the ongoing pain. The way that the author used this was very effective as an allegory of death and the grief of losing a loved one.

Note on the content (in which I tell you all of the bad things and few of the good): For the most part this story is clean and is appropriate for older teens. There is some violence, with deceit and enslavement. The few mentions of someone swearing do not include swear words written down. There are a number of insinuations about sexual things, including scantily dressed women and men pressuring women to sleep with them; however, those things are condemned by the main characters, even if they do fall to temptation in some ways. There is some magic, in the form of potions, spells, curses, and magical creatures. Also, although the author appears to be a Christian, there is nothing in the book that mentions God. Wishing for something is a theme, but it isn’t equated to prayer.

I really enjoyed this story and am looking forward to reading more of Carrie Ann Noble’s books. Thank you to everyone who recommended it to me.

Let’s Chat

What was one book you read that was very unique in setting? Do you still enjoy mermaids or to other fantasy creatures? Have you read any of Carrie Anne Noble’s books?

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