In a cottage high atop Llanfair Mountain, sixteen-year-old Clara lives with her sister, Maren, and guardian, Auntie. By day, they gather herbs for Auntie’s healing potions; by night, Auntie spins tales of faraway lands and wicked fairies. Clara’s favourite story tells of three orphan infants—Clara, who was brought to Auntie by a stork; Maren, who arrived in a seashell; and their best friend, O’Neill, who was found beneath an apple tree.
One day, Clara discovers shimmering scales just beneath her sister’s skin: Maren is becoming a mermaid and must be taken to the sea or she will die. So, Clara, O’Neill, and the mermaid-girl set out for the shore. But the trio encounters trouble around every bend. Ensnared by an evil troupe of traveling performers, Clara and O’Neill must find a way to save themselves and the ever-weakening Maren.
And always in the back of her mind, Clara wonders, if my sister is a mermaid, then what am I?
At the time of writing this review Goodreads have rated this as 3.65 out of 5
Wishing gets you nothing.
These words are old wounds carved into the trunk of an ancient tree. Above the vandal’s warning, the tree stretches evergreen limbs across the glassy – surfaced Wishing Pool. Below, its dark roots twist and trail into the water.
Do trees make wishes? I do not think so.
But I am wishing.
I wish that my sister would come out of the water.
I have a fondness for mermaid stories which I think is a throwback of being a child of the 80’s and loving everything that The Little Mermaid had to offer. And after some – but admittedly not much – reflective naval gazing it has become apparent that I have a fondness for books about sisters.
I don’t know why. I have no sisters and was never really bothered by not having sisters but maybe part of me feels like I need to experience sisterly relationships vicariously through stories.
Hmmm. I don’t know. It’s not like I feel the need to make up for a lack of mermaids and faeries in my childhood by reading books about mermaids and fae…. oh wait.
Basically the premise of this story suited me very much. Two sisters, one a mermaid and the other one, well not, who have conflicting goals. Maren (our mermaid) is hearing the call of the ocean and desperately wants to return to a place that she knows is home.
The other sister, Clara, desperately doesn’t want her sister to leave. Why? Well the purest of reasons. She deeply loves her sister and doesn’t know how to live without her. Wonderful, I thought. I live and breath for positive and loving relationships between sisters in stories. It doesn’t have to be perfect but this sounds gorgeous.
As it eventually goes in these stories, Clara realises that she can’t stop Maren from becoming who she truly is and decides that love means helping her journey back towards the ocean.
This could have been a beautiful book.
I don’t know if I have said this before and if I have please forgive me. Sometimes books are great and sometimes books have the unrealised potential to be great and it’s the latter that can really suck.
The main issue was that the plot was never quite executed to match that beautiful premise. The blurb? Well that is the entire plot.
The Mermaid’s Sister is a tale of four quarters. The first quarter, before Maren goes full mermaid, is the best part. This quarter allows for the build-up of the world the characters inhabit and the demonstration of their strong bonds with each other.
“Yes”, I thought. Give me this sisterly love and gorgeous setting (Appalachian mountains in the 1800’s with folktales and magic – yum). I want it all. I am loving this book.
Then, oh then… the rest of the book happens. Oh boy.
Clara and O’Neill (more on him in a second) take Maren to the ocean and hi-jinks ensue. Ok, hi-jink –singular – ensues, in that they get kidnapped by a travelling show. But that is it. The plot never goes anywhere after that, our characters are aimless and passive and don’t actually do anything.
The saddest thing? The sister relationship gets completely dropped for some strange, non-starter love triangle that was resolved even though it doesn’t introduce any real conflict to the story. For something that did a whole bunch of nothing it sure occupied a lot of ink.
I also had some issues with the characters. Auntie and the wyvern (Osbert – love him) are the best. In fact, Osbert is the best and he’s a pet that doesn’t speak. He is the reason that I am giving this book an extra star. That’s right Osbert, you get a full star just for yourself.
The rest are just meh. I said I would mention more about O’Neill and so here goes:-
He solely exists to act as a love interest to Maren and Clara although there is no chemistry between him or either sister and is, in fact, an unnecessary addition to the story. He does nothing apart from exist for two women to ‘squabble’ over. And what’s also pitiful is what the writer does to Maren.
Maren is an interesting and vibrant character until she goes full mermaid and then her role is to act jealous every time she witnesses one of those drippy Clara and O’Neill moments. Here we have an intelligent, emotional, charismatic woman reduced to hissing and snarling. Awesome.
Clara just grates with her constant ‘woe is me’ mentality as she constantly acts the martyr (I have also never read a character so preoccupied with chastity that they balk at shedding a layer of clothing in 40 degree weather (centigrade) until now. Ugh). Also, why must we always have two sisters where one spends her entire thought process whinging about how and why everyone loves the much funner, much more interesting sibling. Oh I don’t know why, possibly because they’re not a self-centered whinge-bag Scarlett. I mean Clara.
There were some lovely moments though which is what makes me sad that The Mermaid’s Sister didn’t work out. The setting is just idyllic and the nods to folklore and Auntie’s magic are also particularly enjoyable. The majority of this is due to the pretty writing. I can’t help but feel that the author needs to work on plot but that her writing stands up wonderfully especially in terms of description and she does turn out some gorgeous scenes. Even in the simple scenes of domesticity you get a feel for the world and the people she has created.
Ultimately I felt that this was a tale of two relationships – Clara and Maren and then Clara and O’Neill. It was Clara and Maren’s story that had potential and that I was most interested in but this was dropped in favour of a traditional romance story.
Traditional romance is fine but a love story doesn’t have to be romantic and in my humble opinion the true love story here should have been between Clara and Maren. I felt that this book could have (and should have) gone a different way and it would have been much better for it.
Like I’ve said, this could have been a beautiful book.