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The Mermaid's Sister Paperback – March 1, 2015
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"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Learn more
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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
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Top customer reviews
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I think the problem is not with this story, but that readers of YA fiction have been ruined by the likes of The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner. Not to knock those works -- I've read those, and more, and loved them. They are tough, gritty, edge-of-your seat rides, the rock stars of the YA world.
But it isn't all rock-and-roll out there. Sometimes there is a ballad, sung mournfully and sweet, that makes your heart ache and tears well. It makes you yearn to hear more, to lift your voice and sing along. This is that story, every graceful, bittersweet, beautiful word.
If you're the hardcore rocker, this might not be for you. But if you like to slow dance now and then, then this is a lovely choice.
Plot-wise, it is straightforward, simple, and (for me, at least) a bit predictable. Their mission is determined at the beginning, and their mission is accomplished at the end. There aren’t any twists. They do hit a few snags to slow them down (otherwise, this would be a pretty short book), but it still ends exactly how I expected. The romance is also very predictable. (But just in case you don’t predict it, I won’t spoil it.)
In places, the writing is beautiful, perfectly fitting for a fairy tale. In the first chapter, there's a line describing the wyvern: "His blue scales, pale as a summer sky on his belly and dark as midnight on his back, catch the dim light like curved slices of stained glass." I love the poetry of it, especially describing the glass as slices. Other sentences are more awkward. For example, at one point, a smile is described as such: “[the smile] would not look out of place on a crocodile with a belly full of fresh antelope.” While it gets the point across, this is a wordy way of saying the smile looks evilly satisfied.
The characters are cute, but they could be more developed. Clara is enamored with her sister and constantly describing her beauty. Yes, her sister is a beautiful mermaid, but it sounds like Clara has a major inferiority complex, and that’s never addressed. Whenever Clara mentions herself, she talks about how she’s not pretty like her sister, not brave, not skilled, not at all noteworthy. This could have been an interesting plot point, where she realizes she doesn’t have to be a glorious, mythical creature to be special. But she never does. Even at the end, when someone tells her she’s brave and sweet, she refuses to believe it.
Meanwhile, her sister doesn’t seem to live up to all the praise. The faster Maren transforms into a mermaid, the less personality she has. Once she loses her speech early in the book, all she does is primp, cry, or stick out her tongue at Clara. She seems more like the object of a video game quest than a dimensional person experiencing a major transformation.
This story has a lot of promise: One girl destined to become a mermaid, the other girl struggling to accept the loss of her human sister and realize her own self-worth as an “ordinary” person. It’s clear the author is a wonderful writer. I just felt like a lot of aspects could have been more developed, and when they weren't, it fell a bit flat. Still, it’s a fun little adventure that keeps you reading.
The language flows naturally, easily, effortlessly; not once do your eyes trip over a clumsy sentence or even a bumpy word. The story structure is solid, and there are just enough twists and turns to surprise you but not confuse or lose you. The characters are multi-dimensional with minimal description, which is not easy to achieve. The imagination is impressive: never have I come across any mention of this kind of mermaid!
Perhaps best of all, although having a mermaid in the family is what drives the whole story, the real story is not at all about having an actual mermaid in the family.
This is the kind of book that you will continue to recommend to people years after you read it. Very well done!
(By the way, I give 5 stars only to books like this, books that “wow” me.)
Most recent customer reviews
Recommended for anyone looking for a feel good adventure.
A great read!