Author: Jennifer Donnelly
Length: 340 pages
Source: Library Book
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.
Characters: So while this book, for the most part, is only told from the third person point of view of Serafina, there are chapters that she does not tell. I have to admit, sometimes I get so wrapped up in the story that it's hard for me to tell who's POV it is when there's a third person POV. So, other than Neela, I'm not quite sure if there are other perspectives. Anyway, this is the story of mermaids, caught in a terrible attack, who escape to find out they have a greater role in this under sea world than they thought. They have to team up with four other mermaids and develop and grow their respective magics to thwart a great evil from returning. Since this book mainly focuses on Seraphina and Neela, for the most part I'll talk about them. Seraphina is a strong character, who can't let go of self-doubt sometimes. She's great at covering up her feelings, but hiding her heart my not be what's best for her in the end. Neela doesn't want to be a princess. Forced into a role she didn't choose. She has other dreams, passions, and talents and is scared she won't get to express them. Both these girls are fearsome and extremely loyal to one another. They work hard and with the help of the other girls, I could see them doing anything they set their minds to.
Romance: There... actually isn't much romance in this book, which is funny because for a while there it looked like there would be. Not a lot, but definitely more than there was. Okay, so I'm going to try and explain this as delicately as possible. There is what looks to be a love triangle in this book, but it's not quite confirmed, and I have other theories that I won't divulge at this time. Anyway, first we have Sera's betrothed who seems to have changed much since they last saw each other, becoming more of a party boy and wild child than the sweet boy she knew. Now, what's great about this romance is that we get to see how it came to be and the author did so in a succinct way that actually made me care about these two as a couple, whereas most established romances fail in that department. Then there's the mysterious boy that Sera and Neela meet on their journey with a past of his own. We don't find out much about him, but I did sense some romantic leanings with him and Sera. However both romances are cut short before they can quite form, though, at least for me, that just adds to the mystery.
World Building: I've read quite a few mermaid books in my time, but I have to say that so far this is the best in term of submerging the reader into mer-culture. Most mermaid books focus on a protagonist who finds out they're mer, and not someone already in this society. Plus there are the different mer kingdoms and different cutures around this world. The magic system is amazing, using the power of song to cast spells was genius and wonderful. I'm always a sucker for a good Prophecy to Save the World kind of story, and this is definitely one of those. Last but not least there's the mythology. Now, there is a bit of Greek Myth with Atlantis and all that, but it also looks as if this world has a bit of it's own mythology, or the author is pulling from some more abscure parts of Greek Mythology. Either way it was very entertaining and I loved how myth and magic weaved into this world. If I had one criticism, and seriously this is tiny, it's that sometimes the mer-slang and lingo could get a bit too cheesy. An example of this, though this one is actually one of the better ones, is currensea instead of currency.
Predictability: Have you ever read one of those books where there seems to be a lot of foreshadowing pointing to one or various things that look to be surprises, only for the book to end before finding out anything of the sort? Well this book is like that. Granted, unless you have the same thoughts I do, maybe you won't see it that way, but either way that's definitely how I experienced this book.There are other twists to be sure, things that either seemed to come out of nowhere or are barely hinted at. Though there are a few things that I saw coming because when a book has an extensive glossary, as this one does, I tend to missuse and abuse it, luckily it doesn't have anything too spoilery in it's pages, but if you're extremely sensitive to even the smallest spoiler, I'd steer clear until the end.
Ending: Much like with those books that seem to be hinting at something only to leave the reveal for another time, there's the books that seem to end too soon. Now I can give this book a bit of slack because it is still awesome, but there was a certainty that this story was unfinished. There's a lot left unsaid, and most likely a lot left unrevealed, and the ending just didn't feel quite like a traditional beginning or mid-series ending. There wasn't really a final climax, though there was a pretty epic scene at the end, but it doesn't fit in with most final climaxes, and then the story just ends. Again, I'm not upset, because there was a lot to the end and there was a lot of the future teased in the finale, but it was a tad disappointing.
I loved this book! Which is a good thing since Disney-Hyperion sent me a copy of book 4: Sea Spell, I would have felt bad if I hated the series and couldn't get around to reading book 4 for them. This is a brilliant fantasy and anyone who loved merfolk or witches I'm sure will love this, and hey let's throw in Mythology Nerds too!