There is no cure for being who you truly are...
2014 Winner — Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award — Young Adult Fiction
Published in March by Skyscape
Pages - 236
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. She realizes that Maren is becoming a mermaid—and knows that no mermaid can survive on land. Desperate to save her, Clara and O’Neill place the mermaid-girl in their gypsy wagon and set out for the sea. But no road is straight, and 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 mermaid.
And always, in the back of her mind, Clara wonders, if my sister is a mermaid, then what am I?
* * *
Make no mistake, this is a fairy tale through and through and requires suspension of disbelief. If you can do that, you’re in for a treat. The book was originally titled ‘Seashell, Stork and Apple Tree’ and centres around three orphans (two girls and a boy) who have grown to their teens being taught that one was found on the doorstep inside a seashell, another was dropped off by a stork, and the other under an apple tree. With Maren, the older sister turning slowly into a mermaid, Clara, the other sister, is left wondering if she will one day turn into a stork!
The characterisation is great with nearly every character unusual and captivating. The villains are dastardly, the heroes intensely likeable. There’s more than a touch of Grimm’s fairy tales rather than Disney, so expect some dark moments. Pilsner…that’s all I’ll say.
Maren, despite saying not a word in her mermaid form, still manages to convey all a mermaid should be; beautiful, flirtatious and wrathful. You can just imagine her being the source of all those tales of tortured sailors at sea.
But beware if you like your heroines in touch with their soft side - though the story is written in the first person, some readers may find Clara’s voice sometimes a bit detached. I found this fit with the traditional style of a fairy tale as well as Clara’s ultra-pragmatic character. However, I can imagine some readers - who prefer their female first person novels to have a bit more of an emotional attachment to the story - may find it unrealistic or unengaging.
I was really wondering towards the end if this fairy tale would have a happy or grim ending. I won’t spoil it for you, but I think I would have been delighted with either – it was the journey that was the most captivating.