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Samantha Stone and the Mermaid's Quest Paperback – January 23, 2008
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For one, the content is a bit harsh for a book with "mermaid's quest" in its title. Some mild swear words are dropped, and a few characters - including a child - die. But let me back up a bit.
The story is about a clumsy, somewhat lacking in self-esteem, ten-year-old girl who lives in New Orleans with her single mother. Samantha lives a rather ordinary life until a supernatural threat shows up, and her mother is hospitalized in a coma. Samantha is sent to live with her father, only to witness even more supernatural phenomena show up and start endangering everyone. A friend of Sam's father breaks the news that Samantha is actually the daughter of a ruler of a world named Aerynon, and she is prophecized to save it - specifically at the age of ten. Poor kid. Having witnessed all sorts of craziness around her, and already caught between a mother in a coma and a father she dislikes, she isn't too eager to accept her new position. Even so, she presses on anyway and enters the world of Aerynon.
The book moves at a fast pace. I mean almost James Patterson fast. Chapters are 4 pages on average! Despite that, there's a good amount of character detail, and the reader is allowed to empathize with Samantha's plight. We see Samantha's thoughts all throughout, and some of them ring very true, such as her guilt at how her last words to her mother were in an angry tone. We also get to watch Samantha gradually adjust to the bizarre parallel world of Aerynon and learn what's going on. Leading up to the grand finale, however, the book becomes mostly action and little character study, but even then, the action is fun and there are many unexpected surprises.
I have to say that I was surprised and impressed with the book. There's hardly a plot device left hanging or unused. Things that seem like they would be interesting to learn more about do end up playing a role in the story. With a fast pace, likable main character, and good use of plot elements, the reader is rarely bored.
If there are any criticisms I have, I'd like to bring up a few. There are many odd similes used throughout the book during the first half, that end up getting dropped in the second. These similes show up all over the place in the narration, and in my opinion, it gets rather distracting.
The other is that the final "act", so to speak, of the story, moves so quickly through its action that all the time we got to spend getting to relate to Samantha stands in stark contrast to the "no time to portray emotions/thoughts" speed of the finale.
But I like this book overall, and I'm giving it 4 stars. If there's ever a sequel, I'll gladly snap it up.