For as long as Esmerine can remember, she has longed to join her older sister, Dosinia, as a siren–the highest calling a mermaid can have. When Dosinia runs away to the mainland, Esmerine is sent to retrieve her. Using magic to transform her tail into legs, she makes her way unsteadily to the capital city. There she comes upon a friend she hasn’t seen since childhood–a dashing young man named Alander, who belongs to a winged race of people. As Esmerine and Alander band together to search for Dosinia, they rekindle a friendship . . . and ignite the emotions for a love so great, it cannot be bound by sea, land, or air.
Mermaids, omg mermaids! When I was young, I watch my Little Mermaid VHS tape so much it wore it out and broke. Mermaids are not something I’ve seen often in paranormal YA, so I so psyched when I got this from NetGalley. The story follows Esmerine as she searches for her silly sister, Dosia. Before disappearing, Dosia tells Esmerine that she has been visiting with human men, something sirens are forbidden to do. I love the mythology that any merperson can split their fins into legs if they wish, but it causes them pain to walk. Esmerine decides she has to brave the pain to find her sister, who Esmerine believes has been kidnapped by humans. The merpeople and the humans both have their prejudices and stereotypes for each other, with human men being shown as abusive and brutish, and mermaids as seductive and destructive. Esmerine has to face harsh looks from human women at every turn, but she’s good at standing up for herself.
Esmerine finds Alandare, now called Alan Dare, in a bookshop in the city, but he isn’t what she remembers. He seems almost annoyed by her presence even though he does agree to help find Dosia. Dosia, they learn, has been whisked away to the mountains by a Lord Carlo, who intends to make Dosia his wife. Alan, however, still acts like a jerk. I spent a lot of time wondering what his problem was. Esmerine is very naive and sheltered next to Alan, and he sometimes treats her like a student or a child. Alan is annoying, I won’t lie, but Esmerine can be annoying too, so they work. Neither one seems to be able to express their feelings in any meaningful way. When no real news of Dosia can be found, Alan offers to take Esmerine to her sister.
What follows is simple, the love story pure, and while some thought this novel should be labeled middle-grade, I just thought it had an ethereal quality, a story of the earth told from the eyes of a mermaid. When Alan finally gives Esmerine a little insight into his motives, it was a reason I hadn’t considered, and it explained the bulk of Alan’s previous actions. When Esmerine finds Dosia, and she does eventually, she learns a lesson from Dosia that she hadn’t expected.
This book weaves in realistic environments and societies–things like prejudice rearing its ugly head at every available moment–with the magic of sirens and winged messengers who love books. The ending was a little silly, the ends tied up maybe a bit too well, but I love it the whole way through. A simple love story with hardly any teenage angst despite how hard it seems, mixed with a quest to find a missing sister, and you have a near-perfect YA fantasy romance. Check it out for the mermaids if nothing else!