From Publishers Weekly
Set in 1870 on and around Llanfair Mountain, Pennsylvania, this delightful fantasy novel introduces the reader to Clara and Maren, sisters adopted around the same time by a woman (“Auntie”) known throughout the village for her cures. Maren came to Auntie in a conch shell, while Clara arrived via stork. Now, at sixteen, Maren is slowly turning into a mermaid, her fingers webbing and scales appearing on her sides. Clara wants Auntie to cure Maren, but that is not an option. Auntie responds, “There is no cure for being who you truly are.” As time passes, Maren’s body transforms more rapidly; it becomes obvious that it is time for Maren to be taken to the sea or she will die. Clara and a very close family friend, O’Neill, who also happens to be the object of desire of both sisters, decide to take Maren themselves. The story follows their adventure to the sea and the unexpected perils they face on the journey as their caravan burns down and they are “rescued” and then held captive by a group of traveling performers. This novel is widely appealing: there are elements of fantasy, romance, and adventure throughout. The book is a page-turner; the story pulls the reader in and the dynamic characters and plot twists keep interest levels high. The author’s writing style is very descriptive, helping the reader truly visualize the sights, sounds, tastes, and adventures of the characters. A must read.
From School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—This lovely, lyrical fantasy takes place in a mythical Pennsylvania mountain setting and tells the story of three foundlings—Clara, Maren, and O'Neill. Clara was delivered to Auntie by a stork, Maren was found in a seashell, and O'Neill was placed beneath an apple tree. Clara and Maren have grown up as sisters with wise woman Auntie as their guardian, while the young man O'Neill is raised by Scarff the traveling peddler. When Clara notices that Maren is developing scales and needs to spend more and more time in water, she realizes that her friend is turning into a mermaid and that no potion or magic will halt the change. Because the only way to save Maren is to return her to her father, the Sea King, Clara and O'Neill place Maren in a tub of salt water in the peddler's wagon and journey toward the ocean. However, they are waylaid by members of a traveling show who enslave them and put Maren on display in a freak show. Clara must overcome her inner doubts about who she really is in order to save Maren, O'Neill, and herself from the wicked traveling players. Like all good fairy tales, this one touches on deeper themes of sibling rivalry, jealousy, insecurity, and questions of identity. Osbert the rambunctious wyvern is a particularly well-done character. VERDICT Noble's treatment of the mermaid theme is fresh and original, and even her minor characters are beautifully depicted.—Kathleen E. Gruver, Burlington County Library, Westampton, NJ