‘She is losing her voice. Her loudest words come out as a whisper. And the fishlike scales no longer hide beneath her skin’s surface. Cool to the touch, they adorn her sides in silvery-green layers. She hobbles on feet that are closer to fins. When the pain of her body’s transformation causes her to weep, tiny pearls fall from her eyes. She catches them in a bowl and buries them in the garden when she thinks Auntie and I are not looking.’
The Mermaid’s Sister is a lovely little fantasy book that falls into the YA (Young Adult) category. The story is told from Clara’s perspective, a teenager who lives with her sister, Maren and Auntie, the woman who raised them. Clara and Maren are not blood related sisters and Auntie tells them stories about how they came to be with her, Clara, was brought by a stork; Maren, in a seashell. But one day Maren begins to change, and Clara realises that Maren is becoming a mermaid. Desperate to save her, to keep Maren with her forever, Clara teams up with O’Neill (another child who came to Auntie after he was found beneath an apple tree) and they plan to take Maren in their gypsy wagon to the ocean and make a deal with the King of the Mermaids. But life is rarely so simple and straightforward, the group soon run into trouble and the race begins to save Maren before she withers away and dies.
I’ve given this four stars because I love the premise. Fairy tales and folklore are something I love. My first post on this blog was about the Brothers Grimm and my first piece of published work was based on a Welsh myth. Plus the cover is gorgeous. I also love the uniqueness and the way in which the magical is presented. There are references to magic, fairies, Auntie has a pet Wyvern (a mythical dragon like creature), provides lotions, potions and healing to local townspeople and Maren is turning into a mermaid. This is all juxtaposed with the normal and everyday, they try to keep to themselves and this for me is brilliant. It places the extraordinary alongside the ordinary, feeding my hope that magic is real and the supernatural exists, part of ordinary life.
There was also a twist that I didn’t quite see coming, and if you’ve read any of my other reviews, you’ll know this automatically gives the book brownie points. There was also a lot of action in terms of what happens to them and their plans to escape. The development of Clara as a character was both good and bad for me. Clara obviously develops as the novel goes on, she finds her inner strength and begins to take charge more – going to lengths to save her sister. I loved this about her. It was a very brilliant way of looking at the way in which most teenageers question their identity, where they fit in and where they belong, because without Maren, Clara doesn’t know what she’ll become.
However, she almost refuses to see how she’s grown as an individual and that was a little frustrating. O’Neill calls her brave but she still can’t see it, and throughout the novel she constantly places herself in an inferior position to the beautiful Maren. For example, they both like O’Neill romantically, yet Clara always steps back for Maren or will go out of her way to reassure her sister’s jealousy. This is despite Maren flirting with other boys and knowing she can’t stay on land with the humans. Maren doesn’t seem to show the same consideration for Clara and even when she’s shrunk to the length of Clara’s arm and living in a jar, she still guilts her sister. But then again, I guess this plays into their dynamic and Clara’s growth as a person as she learns to accept Maren’s fate – it just still annoyed me a little.
Overall I really enjoyed and would recommend this to anyone who likes fantasy books with a magical quality.