Thursday, January 12, 2012

Between the Sea and Sky by Jaclyn Dolamore

Between the Sea and Sky by Jaclyn Dolamore calls to mind and old proverb: "A bird may love a fish, but where would they build a home together?" Mermaid Esmerine has taken a vow to be a siren, one of the magical protectors of the sea. She looks forward to joining her older sister Dosia in this calling . . . but shortly after Esmerine takes her vow, Dosia disappears. Was she taken captive by humans when she ventured too close to the human world -- or did she join them of her own free will? Esmerine uses her siren magic to effect a painful transformation to a human form. She travels to the seaside town where Dosia was last seen, only to learn that Dosia's new husband has taken her to his home in the mountains. In the town, Esmerine seeks out her old friend Alander, one of the winged people known as the Fandarsee. Alander has grown up into a stuffy, bookish young man, but his strong sense of duty and his nostalgic fondness for Esmerine leads him to help her in her quest to find (and if necessary, rescue) Dosia. They face dangers along the journey that draw them closer together, and as they realize that their childhood friendship is blossoming into something more, they each must think about the challenges and hardships that a relationship between them would have to overcome.

There are relatively few mermaid books on the young adult market (compared to, say, vampires, werewolves, zombies, angels, elves, dragons, or ghosts), and even fewer that are well-written. This is one of those rare mermaid stories that strikes the right balance. Part of the success of the book, in my opinion, is due to the setting -- a world like ours, but not quite ours. I also love the Fandarsee, who are much more fascinating than the merfolk to me.

My only real issue with the book is how casually Esmerine takes her vow to be a siren -- it's almost set up as a made-to-be-broken sort of promise (sirens are generally fascinated with the human world, and there seems to be a high rate of attrition as they abandon the under-sea world for human husbands), and I felt all the way through that both Esmerine and Dosia seemed to take the promises that they had made very lightly. I also thought that the pacing was almost too quick in places. That's a rare complaint for me, especially with fantasy books, but I thought a bit more time could have been taken at the beginning to establish the setting and the relationships between Esmerine and her family. All in all, though, I found this an enjoyable read, and would recommend it to readers who like this sort of light fantasy.

(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)

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