Thursday, October 20, 2011

Between the Sea and Sky

I got this one, courtesy of Bloomsbury, at the annual ALA conference in New Orleans last June. It’s an ARC, but it comes out in five days. The cover is gorgeous. And the back cover talks of mermaids, sirens, winged people, and love. I love mermaid stories, movies, and books. And there really have not been a lot of YA books covering this topic yet.
I was kind of expecting it to be more about mythology. The only time I ever really remember sirens being mentioned is in Greek mythology. Though, I loved the character in the show The Gates, who was a modern day siren. And for some reason the one episode that stays really clear in my mind from a show I used to watch as a kid (So Weird), on Disney channel, is the episode that involved a siren. But even in shows, sirens were the minor characters or a single episode. It was nice reading a whole book about them.
I was planning on saving this one for my birthday (tomorrow), but my life will get the best of me tomorrow. It’s Grandparent’s/Special Friends day at my school library, and I know I will be very busy. Then, I’m going directly to the library I volunteer at to throw a big Twilight party for teens. Needless to say, not a lot of reading will get done tomorrow. And I surprisingly finished this book in one short morning, just now. It moved quicker than I thought it would.
The book starts on the day Esmerine becomes an honored siren. Sirens are honored for the hard work they do, protecting the sea. And Esmerine is excited to join the ranks of her sister, Dosina, but she also feels a little trapped in her decision and her oath to always protect the sea. But, Esmerine does not have much time to dwell on her decisions because after only being a siren for a day, it becomes clear that Dosina is missing.
Dosina told Esmerine how she went inside a human’s house and made friends with humans, something they have been taught not to do. And for most mermaids this is not a hard rule to abide by, because while mermaids/mermen can all change their fins into legs, it is rather painful to walk. And the only way a siren can walk without pain is if she gives away her belt (which gives her power), or if her belt is stolen. And Esmerine knows that her sister is involved with humans.
Esmerine and Dosina were always interested in the surface, and in humans. And as children, they used to play on their legs more than anyone else. They even made friends with Alandare, who is part of a scholarly, winged people.  Alandare teaches Esmerine to read and the two grow up telling stories on the beach. Alandare eventually left to go to a boarding school and then never returned. But, since Esmerine enjoys using her legs, despite the pain, she goes in search of her sister and Alandare, who she know will help her.
She finds her old childhood friend, and discovers he’s a little reluctant to give her any help at first, but eventually their friendship is rekindled, and it’s clear there’s more going on then just friendship. He teaches Esmerine how to pass as human, and the two spend their time searching for Esmerine’s sister, reading stories, flying, and trying to deal with all the inter-species animosity between mermaids, flying people, and humans.
I found the lives of the mermaids and the world Dolamore creates for them, so interesting. I loved learning about the sirens, the magic belts, the underwater life, and the singing.  And I really loved learning about the mermaids’ interactions with humans. I wish I had a chance to learn more about the flying people. I feel like Alandare’s people did not get as much time as humans and mermaids here. And I felt a little cheated. Why introduce something so unique and interesting, if you’re not going to go into great detail about it?
I did like how Alandare and Esmerine worked together, and how Alandare helped Esmerine become smarter, and how Esmerine helped Alandare learn to live more freely, and to have fun. There are some very interesting side characters who work in the bookshop, but even they could not get Alandare to loosen up ever. Only, Esmerine seems capable of getting the up tight, academic to smile.
I really enjoyed reading about these characters. I wish more was mentioned about the flying people. And I was not always a fan of Esmerine. She was weak because of her walking handicap. She faints due to the awful human clothing. She never likes human food. And she is so ignorant of the world. However, despite all of these things, her resolve to find her sister never waivers, and she has this almost naïve optimism about her that makes her a worthy heroine in my opinion.
Dolamore is a very simple writer. And sometimes I found myself wishing for more language, especially in regards to characters who liked to read so much. And I hope she wasn’t dumbing herself down for a younger audience, but sometimes I couldn’t tell if she was or not. Though, I left the book feeling more like the author’s writing style was just rather simple, and not really feeling like she was too focused on a young audience.
All in all though, I really enjoyed this book. The love story was like a lot of other YA love stories, but what made this book stand out for me was the world. Everything about these creatures and the places they live was just so interesting to me. I give it an 7/10. And I think I might give the other book she’s written, a try.

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