Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Seaborn Transformation

Woohoo, my first rambling from the new house!  With the triple digit heat I thought I would ramble about a summer book.  The book is The Mermaid's Sister by Carrie Anne Noble.  I got it as an e-book a while ago and totally forgot I had it until my fire station book group were all going through our e-books to see what we wanted to swap.  This book checked off my love of fantasy, mermaids, adventure and family.  As always SPOILERS AHEAD!
 Clara and Maren are two very special sisters that were left as infants on the doorstep of the mountain healer/hedgewitch whom they call Auntie.  Maren was left in a giant conch shell in the middle of the path and Clara was brought by a stork.  They are raised by Auntie who regularly tells them the story of how they came to live with her.  The little family works, plays and loves together spending 16 happy years.  The whole time Auntie makes it very clear that Maren will eventually turn into a mermaid and need to be returned to the sea.  At the start of the book we see Maren starting her transformation with her fingers and toes starting to webb and spending hours under water.  Clara is both sad and angry at what she feels is the loss of her beloved and vibrant sister.  Clara spends a lot of her time trying to find a way to keep her sister human.  A welcome break comes in the form of a visit from Scarff and his adopted son O'Neill traveling peddlers of wonders.  Maren in her bold and brash ways flirts with O'Neill intimates that they will some day get married.  O'Neill seems to return her affections, sitting with her as her transformation forces her to live almost full time in a giant tub of water.  Clara finds that she is jealous of O'Neill's attention to her sister and at the same time ashamed that she would ever want to deprive her sister of any happiness.  After trying multiple spells and cures it becomes apparent the Maren will turn completely into a mermaid and that she will need to get to the ocean to survive.  O'Neill and Clara pack up the now water bound Maren into the peddlers wagon and off they set.  Along the way Clara and O'Neill become close, with him telling her it was always Clara he loved, but he felt like a protective brother to Maren and wanted to protect and make her happy.  After a couple of adventures, the peddlers wagon catches on fire and the trio are "rescued" by Dr. Phipps and Company Medicine Show, which consists of Dr. Phipps a show man with a temper, his exotic wife Soraya and their brute of a son Jasper.  Dr. Phipps puts Maren, who has pretty much finished her transformation on display and charges for tickets to see her.  Dr. Phipps and his family use fear and intimidation to keep the trio with the show.  Eventually after mass chaos and such most of the Phipps family is killed and Clara and O'Neill are able to get Maren away.  They get to the sea and the mermaids come and welcome Maren home.  Clara is sad to lose her sister, but recognizes how happy Maren and that she truly belongs in the sea.  Clara and O'Neill decide to get married and return to the mountain where the very happy Scarff and Auntie have made their home.  While they all miss Maren, they realize the best thing to do is live their life to the fullest and be glad that Maren is also happy.

World Building - The world is a mix of medieval Europe with a bit of magic and fantasy thrown in.  The world itself if fairly generic but provides a good setting for the story.  The best part of the world building is Dr. Phipps show which is in turns interesting and horrific.  Not a whole lot to say about the world other then it was a pretty solid canvas in which to tell the story.

Story - The story was very well done.  I felt it was original, detailed and all flowed together in a layered complexity that gave the story depth without confusing the reader.  I like all the elements that came together in the story, mermaids, adventure, family, love, hate, anger, sadness, heroism, everything that makes a good rollicking tale to tell.  I also like that while it had all the elements of a typical fantasyish book, the story felt wholly original and fresh without straying to far from a comfort read territory...not sure if any of that made any sense...but...yep

Character - The characters in this book I felt were very strong.  While they were mostly written to fit the tropes (dutiful sister/daughter, brazen young woman, heroic boy, enigmatic yet motherly hedgewitch, etc) each character seemed to have personality quirks and sparks that made them come alive past the cut and paste basics.  It is nice to see a writer who can nod to the classics when it comes to characters and yet still make them individual and vibrant.  With the new trend in subverting all known tropes, it is refreshing to see a classic worked in such a well written matter.

Editing - The editing was good.  The story was just the right length.  The book was readable and followed through with all of its promises.  The voices were clear and consistent.  Editing was good, with nothing about it that took me out of the story.

Mermaids - I love mermaids, after dragons they are my favorite supposed mythical creature so I enjoy reading any decently written story that involves them.  For the most part I very much enjoyed how the author dealt with the mermaid aspect of this story.  Pretty much Maren was the only mermaid we really dealt with so we did not get...or need to know the whole history of this worlds mermaids.  I liked watching this feisty girls transformation from a passionate young woman to a happy and free mermaid.  The description of her transformation was interesting and pretty and her love of the sea from the very beginning was very clear.  The only thing I wanted to know was why Maren was human at all in the first place.  Is it something that all mermaids start as humans then transform?  Was there special circumstances in Maren's case?  How did Auntie know that she was always going to turn?  Other then that I loved all the mermaid parts.

Traveling Peddlers/Shows - I have always liked the idea of traveling shows and peddlers.  The idea of people traveling all over the place, collecting stories, artifacts, acts and people.  I like that these
things become a bit of a touchstone of far away places.  In this book we see two extremely different examples of this.  We have Scarff and O'Neills wondrous wagon full of amazing things from far off places all with stories of their own.  On the flip side we have Dr. Phipps traveling show which show cases the darker side of these types of shows.  Enslavement of people and creatures for show, exposing of young ladies for the entertainment of others, tyranny and fear.  I like that this book showed both sides of the coin both how wondrous and potentially horrific these things can be.

Family - I think my favorite thing about this book is the concept of family.  Not a single one of our good guys is related by blood and yet they all consider themselves family.  They love each other as sisters, as mother and daughters, as father and son, as uncles, aunts, cousins, nieces, nephews all sorts of familial ties.  This really drives home the point that you do not have to be related by blood to be family.  I love this sentiment, especially in this world of blended families, surrogate families and people just needing people to count on.  In stark contrast we have the Phipps family, who are a family in the traditional sense and they mostly look out for themselves and terrorize each other.  I like that the author is able to point out that family is family either by blood or choice and that just 'cause your family doesn't make your relationships perfect and that if you are not related by blood it does not make you any less family.

Overall the book was pretty good.  Not spectacular, but still very solid.  It made a great summer reading book and with the acknowledgement of a few raised eyebrow moments in the traveling show I would recommend it to anybody over the age of 12 who wants a good original story to sit down and read.  I give it 7 out of 10 pearl tears and am very glad I found it on my phone just in time for summer.  Happy Reading Everybody!

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