This review contains no spoilers.
Serafina, daughter of Isabella, Queen of Miromara, has been raised with the expectation – and burden – that she will someday become ruler of the oldest civilization of the merfolk. On the eve of the Dokimí ceremony, which will determine if she is worthy of the crown, Sera is haunted by a strange dream that foretells the return of an ancient evil. But her nightmare is forgotten the next day as she diligently practices her songspell; eagerly anticipates a reunion with her best friend, Neela; and anxiously worries about Mahdi, the crown prince of Matali, and whether his feelings toward her and their future betrothal have changed. Most of all, she worries about not living up to her mother’s hopes.
The Dokimí proceeds, a dazzling display of majesty and might, until a shocking turn of events interrupts it: an assassin’s arrow wounds Isabella. The realm falls into chaos, and Serafina’s darkest premonitions are confirmed. Now she and Neela must embark on a quest to find the assassin’s master and prevent a war between the mer nations. Their search will lead them to other mermaid heriones scattered across the six seas. Together they will form an unbreakable bond of sisterhood as they uncover a conspiracy that threatens their world’s very existence.
I didn’t even connect this to being by the same woman who wrote A Northern Light, when I first read through it. Its such a big step away from the historical aspects of that book that I was amazed that the same woman was able to write both. Looking back however, I see that her style, heavy on the details, still shines through. Some people don’t like the almost info-dump like style of the book, but I didn’t mind it. Thats the kind of book that I like, with rich imagery, history, and setting. The more I know about the background the happier I am. Thats just how I read.
I really liked the plot and most of the characters – there was, of course, a love story, and what seems to be a set up for a love triangle (but since other reviews on Goodreads didn’t mention it, I won’t risk spoiling it) – but other than that it was pretty good and mostly romance-free. There was a lot of action and a lot of girl power, as well as plenty of diversity and history/culture thrown in.
If you don’t like puns, don’t read this book.
- An all-night wave is what we would call a rave (a party with drugs)
- Wrasse means ass (and there are also badwrasses and jackwrasses)
- Curentsea is money
- Gobies and Gupies are insults
- Transparensea is an invisibility spell
- Merl is a girl, and a merlfriend is, you guessed it, a girlfriend.
- Instead of family trees we have family corals
- RaySay is the language of Manta Rays
- Pesca is the language of anchovies
- Dolpheen is, you guessed it, the dolphin language
I’m sure I missed plenty of the absurd word plays that are in this book, which may or may not be a good thing. Some people thought that the words and the jokes made the books less believable and too childish, but for me, personally, they only served to enhance my enjoyment of it.
Sera: I really liked Sera. She’s a well balanced character who wants desperately to be immature, but forces herself to grow up and be a leader for her people’s sake. She understands that, even though she might want to do other things, she accepts that she has a responsibility.
Neela: Sera’s best friend, Neela wants to be a fashion designer when she grows up. Did I mention she’s Indian? She and her people all live off the coast of India, and have therefore picked up a lot of the culture.
Matali: Sera’s betrothed who is nothing like the boy that she remembers. He’s grown into a punk since she last saw him, and no longer the romantic that she remembers.
I liked it quite a bit. Some people, as I briefly mentioned earlier, thought that it was too childish for their tastes (mostly citing the puns) and thought that it should be marketed to younger readers. While I think middle grade readers would love this book, I also see no reason that YA readers shouldn’t check it out as well. Its a funny, well written book about Mermaids, what else is there to ask for?