A mermaid's attraction to a man begets both love and evil in the waters off Plymouth, Mass., where these exotic creatures have always lived and will live forever.
The romance between Syrenka and her beau, Ezra, in 1872 leads to a particularly disturbing murder-suicide, and the pact she makes with Noo’kas, the queen of the mermaids, has repercussions that reach into the present. In modern times, Hester puzzles over her family history; her female ancestors have tended to die young for generations, her mother included, making her decide to swear off love and maybe have a chance to survive into old age. Fama's lush language makes the past seem as immediate as the present-day scenes. Fantasy elements are incorporated seamlessly, so despite knowing about the mermaids from the first, readers will only gradually comprehend the extent to which they have influenced the lives of those around them. The sense of foreboding grows as Hester learns more and more about the past and struggles to find answers to her questions about her own future. The blend of history and fantasy enhances both storylines as the narrative shifts between past and present, gradually doling out clues. Dilemmas and choices are complex, providing much food for thought.
Not so much romance as suspense, this stylish fantasy mesmerizes. (Fantasy. 12 & up)