Fierce, seductive mermaid Syrenka falls in love with Ezra, a young naturalist. When she abandons her life underwater for a chance at happiness on land, she is unaware that this decision comes with horrific and deadly consequences.
Almost 140 years later, 17-year-old Hester meets a mysterious stranger named Ezra and feels overwhelmingly, inexplicably drawn to him. For generations, love has resulted in death for the women in her family. Is it an undiagnosed genetic defect...or a curse?
With Ezra’s help, Hester investigates her family’s strange, sad history. The answers she seeks are waiting in the graveyard, the crypt, and at the bottom of the ocean - but powerful forces will do anything to keep her from uncovering her connection to Syrenka and to the tragedy of so long ago.
©2012 Elizabeth Fama (P)2012 Macmillan Audio
This book tries to tell two stories - one in the past, and one in the future. The story in the past is the only one worth reading, and it's so frenzied and complicated that it can be a bit confusing. The story in the future is driven by a protagonist with no personality. Her character is comprised of two things - not wanting to fall in love (for a really, really dumb reason - she doesn't want kids - because she's never heard of getting her tubes tied) and being obsessed with history. Both things serve only one purpose: for her to research the story from the past. She exists only as a medium through which we can understand the past storyline. Nothing about her makes her interesting as a character on her own. She has a brother who pops up twice in the book, and both times their dialogues are pointless and flat. She tries to conjure up familial feelings between them but it doesn't work.
The woman who reads the book is too old to read this book (I feel). She does the mermaids' voices very well, but when she narrates a teenage girl, it sounds like an older aunt or grandma reading you a bedtime story badly. This doesn't help to make her sound like a realistic character.
It was an interesting-ish take on mermaid lore, and entertaining enough if you can get the book for free from a library. But I dislike that I paid for it.
This was recommended repeatedly in forums I found while trying to find good, new, adult mermaid-centric fiction, and now I TOTALLY get why. This is not only a great story (rated YA I believe, but perfectly suitable for adults as well), but the narrator is absolutely MARVELOUS. Katherine Kellgren is on point from beginning to end, and since so often the narrator can make or break a story (even the best ones), this was s double delight. (And I am PICKY about my narrators. ;))
The writing was thoughtful, the plot interesting and unraveled at a good pace, the characters were interesting, palpable & believable, and overall the whole book was both smart AND heartfelt, which doesn't always happen together in fantasy stories. I think my only criticism would be that I can't remember if/where the main character (Hester) was described, but.. that may be my crappy memory, or something deliberately left out by the author. Either way, I loved the thought-provoking, truly immersive way this book was written, and now just can't wait to read more by Ms. Fama, as well as hear more by Ms. Kellgren. -Thanks to "Monstrous Beauty," you may henceforth officially consider me a devoted fan of both. :) ♥
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