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11 / 30 books. 37% done!

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58 / 104 books. 56% done!

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59 / 165 books. 36% done!
Saturday, February 19, 2011

Mermaid Tale (Tail?) Atmospheric, Absorbing

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Everyone on Windwaithe Island knows the story of Lady Lauretta Durran, the young woman who vanished into the sea one hundred years ago. Lured by the song of a mermaid, they say, she climbed out on the rocks at the edge of the ocean and slipped into the water, never to be seen again. Everyone knows it's just a story, like all the other superstitious tales that circulate on the island. Everyone knows there's no such thing as mermaids. Until one stormy night when the creature reappears, intent on stealing another island girl. That's when some finally begin to believe.

Fourteen-year-old Adrianne Keynnman doesn't have time for such nonsense, not when there's a cow to milk, eggs to gather, and stalls to muck. With her father dead, she's in charge of her family's survival. She gets little help from her mother, who's still weakened with grief, or her surly aunt, who holds Adrianne accountable for the family's abrupt reversal of fortune. So, it's her who toils, day after day, to provide for the two older women and her younger sister, Cecily. Adrianne knows she's too plain to attract a wealthy husband, but she's determined to help pretty Cecily rise above their poverty-stricken island life.

When Cecily runs off in a rainstorm one night, Adrianne races to the rocky shore, desperate to find her sister. What she discovers there shocks her: a beautiful, shimmery mermaid watches over Cecily's limp body. Though Adrianne's sure she must be dreaming, she fights the creature, who scratches Adrianne's arm in outrage. When she wakes up three days later to find Cecily perfectly safe, Adrianne puts thoughts of mermaids firmly out of her head. Obviously, the mermaid was some strange vision brought on by her feverish mind. But if the creature isn't real, then why do the marks on Adrianne's arm burn every time she thinks of it? And why does she hear a whisper on the wind beckoning her to the water? Can Adrianne break the mermaid's hold over her? Or will she be dragged under the sea just like Lady Laurette was a century ago?

Forbidden Sea, a debut novel by Utah librarian Sheila A. Nielson, is a wonderfully atmospheric story aimed at tween fantasy lovers. With the voice and pacing of an old-fashioned fairy tale, its prose echoes the poetry of the sea - gentle at times, turbulent at others. The first 3/4 of the book enchanted me thoroughly; the last quarter not so much. Nielson rushes the final bits, especially Adrianne's underwater experience, so that the finale seems too different, almost unanchored, from the rest of the story. Also, although the main storyline comes to a satisfying conclusion, Nielson leaves all the subplots dangling, making the book feel unfinished. A sequel is in the works, which will no doubt tie up loose ends, but still, I think all the plotlines could have been weaved together better. All in all, though, Forbidden Sea kept me entertained. When it came to a choice between going to bed and staying up until midnight to finish it, let's just say I was a little tired the next morning.

(Readalikes: A tiny bit like Forgive My Fins by Tera Lynn Childs)

Grade: B+

If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG for scenes of peril

To the FTC, with love: I received an ARC of Forbidden Sea from the generous folks at Scholastic. Thank you!


  1. I have never read a mermaid story. This one sounds lovely. It'll be good for the debut author challenge as well :)

  2. I just want to give you the 7 facts award, if you want to know more about it visit my blog:

  3. This sounds interesting about mermaids,thanks! for sharing.

  4. Interesting review. I might have to check this book out at some point.


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