Thanks to Good Choice Reading Arc Tours, I spent last week reading Jacyln Dolamore's BETWEEN THE SEA AND THE SKY.
Have you guys read it? Even though I was on the arc tour, it's out now. Look! Buyable!
And you should definitely buy it.
Why, you ask?
Let's start with the Goodreads summary, so you know what the book's about:
"For as long as Esmerine
can remember, she has longed to join her older sister, Dosinia, as a
siren--the highest calling a mermaid can have. When Dosinia runs away to
the mainland, Esmerine is sent to retrieve her. Using magic to
transform her tail into legs, she makes her way unsteadily to the
capital city. There she comes upon a friend she hasn't seen since
childhood--a dashing young man named Alander, who belongs to a winged
race of people. As Esmerine and Alander band together to search for
Dosinia, they rekindle a friendship . . . and ignite the emotions for a
love so great, it cannot be bound by sea, land, or air."
Y'know what? I kind of don't like that Goodreads summary. Let's get a few things straight here.
First off, when Esmerine's sister Dosinia (who everyone calls Dosia) is found missing and assumed to be on the mainland. Esmerine isn't sent to fetch her, she chooses to go. And that's why Esmerine was awesome. I have this weird thing about mermaids--I love them. I totally wanted to be Ariel the Little Mermaid when I was six years old. And the fact I dyed my hair red in high school definitely didn't have anything to do with her amazing floating 80s bangs...right? But I've had a hard time finding YA mermaid books I like. My issue falls in that I think it's a difficult creature to work with--I've read books where their siren call causes men to die for them, and then they are le sad and so tortured. And I've read books where they don't want to be part of the sea and are le sad and tortured, until a man saves them. It's hard not be a damsel in distress when you're half fish, it seems. Which, back to my original point, is why Esmerine is so awesome. She's quiet and strong and fights for what she believes in. She loves her family but fights for what she believes in, even if it goes against what they think. She was thoroughly capable of taking care of herself and getting what she needed, and she was a joy to spent the book with. That's the other thing this summary got wrong--she doesn't happen upon Alander, she goes searching for him and finds him. Like I said, this is a girl of action! A girl of planning! She doesn't just stumble conveniently from plot point to plot point.
The other thing I think this summary is missing is that yeah, there's a love story, but it's not quite with the intensity that it makes it sound. Maybe it's just me, but "igniting emotions" seems like a fancy way of saying "instalove" to me. Which is not what happens in this book. Instead, Dolamore spends her time growing Alander and Esmerine's friendship, both through shared memories of when they were friends during childhood and the new experiences they have in trying to find Esmerine's sister. I feel as though the summary tries to epic-ize this book, and even though it has all the elements--mermaids, winged people, romance, a quest of sorts--it's a much quieter and more subtle narrative than that, which I really enjoyed.
The other great thing about this book was the world-building. This book is only 240 pages, and yet Dolamore manages to create a mermaid world, a human world and a winged-person (called the Fandarsee) world without info-dumping or slowing down the narrative at all. Impressive, right? I think the world-building in this book is so successful because the world is explained through the characters, instead of straight narrative. We learn how the Fandarsee are different as we learn who the mermaids are. By learning what the Fandarsee do, we learn what the mermaids don't do. We see Esmerine trying to figure out the way things work in the human world (like going to the bathroom!) and through that, see how it happens in the mermaid world. It was kind of like a mini-anthropology lesson wrapped up in each chapter.
Finally, what I loved most about this book is that Esmerine loves books. Obviously a challenge for a mermaid, right? But it was such a wonderful subplot that plays out so perfectly...it left a huge smile on my face, that's for sure.
If you're looking for a complete, satisfying, fairy-tale esque story to warm your heart this winter, BETWEEN THE SEA AND THE SKY is definitely worth your time!