Sixteen-year-old Clara lives atop Llanfair mountain with her adoptive sister Maren and their Guardian Auntie. Auntie is kind of a white witch and she tells stories to Clara and Maren about 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, Maren develops scales under her skin - she is turning into a mermaid and she is starting to weaken. Clara and O’Neill realise they have to take her to the sea as soon as possible in order to save Maren’s life.
I enjoyed this book. It was sweet and easy to read and fairly poetic in style. It's YA, but at times it felt like it's maybe aimed at a younger audience. Maybe because it's set in the last century, or maybe it's just the style (it's not gritty at all), but I would be happy to recommend it to an upper-middle grade audience. There are a lot of passages of back-story jazzed up as storytelling, but it was all done in a campfire-tales way so it didn’t feel infodumpy.
I liked Clara and her devotion to her sister, Maren. I’m not sure why she was so devoted, because Maren was pretty selfish and sulky, but Clara’s loyalty was commendable. She was clever and resourceful and a lot of the time she carried the plot along. There isn’t much in the way of high jinx - no explosions or murders - but there’s a kind of low-level underlying tension as to whether Clara and O’Neill will manage to get Maren to the coast in time to save her life. At one point, the trio manage to get themselves kidnapped by a group of travelling entertainers, and while the entertainer people were sinister and everything, you kind of knew that Clara et al would manage to escape.
The romance plotline is okay. It’s very slow-moving, but kind of sweet. It’s fairly obvious how it’s going to end, but it does the job and doesn’t get in the way of the rest of the story.
There were a couple of things that made me give this book a bit of the old side-eye. Maren gets left with Auntie when she is a baby. Okay. But it’s never explained why her mer-parents would do something that would put their tiny child in danger like that. And how did they get up Llanfair Mountain? You know, what with them having tails and flippers instead of legs. Or was Maren kidnapped? We just don’t know.
Plus, love triangle. *growls softly under breath*
Nevertheless, this was a sweet book. Fairly light on stuff actually happening, but totally readable.