3/5 StarsI'm always drawn to mermaid fiction and generally speaking disappointed. I don't know why this subgenre is so hard to master. Maybe it's that Ariel is always peaking over our shoulder as only Disney movies can. Or maybe a world of fish and fins is somehow too foreign, more foreign than land-based fantasy tales and outer space adventures.
Between the Sea and Sky is better than most mermaid stories. I suspect a lot of people will really like this book. Especially if you like star-crossed love stories. But for me, it's just not quite there.
First I want to talk about what this book did right
- Esmerine was a likable and believable main character. I know that seems like it should be a given, but the last mermaid book I read I didn't like any of the characters. She's the type of person you could root for. Esmerine is smart, caring and loves her family.
- Consequences for magic - So often magic has no consequences. Mermaids in this story feel pain whenever they walk on land. I know where it comes from in mermaid lore (I may have done some research on the topic lately). It's a nice touch.
- Not a love at first sight story. I was worried about this but there's actually a friendship first.
- Not one species is "evil" or the bad guy. The story doesn't oversimplify things. There are good mermaids, good humans and good flying people.
Unfortunately I must also talk about what didn't work in this book for me. For me, the main flaw was that the stakes didn't seem high enough. Either she stayed on land or she didn't. Neither choice seemed drastically better than the other. I wasn't invested. Partially I think this is because the enchantment of the siren's belt wasn't very well explained. I didn't (and don't) understand the consequences of giving someone her belt. It stops the pain and there's some kind of enchantment involved but what that entails I don't know.
Another problem I have with this book is that apparently a underwater society didn't have any of the problems of our world on land. In the beginning we're introduced to a world where people have different jobs, the main character's family seems distinctly lower middle-class (they talk about things they can't afford), but then Esmerine is aghast at all the problems of land based society. There's poverty, beggars, cripples and she doesn't understand this at all. I find it unrealistic that an underworld world with some kind of economic system could exist entirely without poverty or flaws. To me this felt like a continuity error.
This book is well enough to read. I have no major issues with it (like I do with a lot of paranormal YA) but at the end of the day I felt pretty ambiguous towards it. I just didn't care enough. But I suspect a lot of people will enjoy the romance and skim over the flaws but I just expected more.