This is a difficult one to review because 1) it’s an indie read, 2) it’s a top-rated f/f indie read about mermaids, which I have a soft spot for (I grew up on H2O: Just Add Water ok), and 3) I didn’t hate it, I promise. I just didn’t fall in love with it, either. Hence the ambiguous af rating of 3.
Here’s what I liked about it:
– Meela is such a complicated girl and I did find that appealing about her. She’s an interesting character imho and her dynamics with all the other characters fascinated me. I could put a lot of the things that frustrated me about her down to her age and the pretty fucked up way she was raised, ngl.
– As for side characters, I think my faves were Annith, Blacktail, and Lysi. They all seemed to have well-rounded lives outside of their interactions with Meela’s POV and I enjoyed their scenes with her a lot.
– The action was intense, but fast and very vivid and that’s where the book really took off imho. The author’s strength is in her action sequences, in my opinion, because it’s very hard to put the book down during any of the battle scenes. She is excellent at writing action and imagery you can see clearly in your mind and makes you keep turning pages, which is an excellent skill to have as a writer of a book literally about war.
– I didn’t notice a lot of editing issues or grammar issues like I sometimes see more often in indie books, so kudos to the author and/or beta and editing team for making this a very readable book. I might have misgivings about the narrative, but not about the text itself.
Here’s what I was iffy about:
– The YA tropes, especially during the first third of the book, were pretty off-putting, especially once the more grimdark elements of the book started and contrasted with the intro and gave me quite a bit of whiplash. So basically, the stuff with Dani and, to a certain extent, Tanuu. And the whole weird black/white whiplash of opinions Meela has about the mermaids at alternate intervals, which kinda makes sense for YA novels in general but not so much in light of all the complicated disturbing stuff that happens later in this particular novel? Idk it seems like this book was wavering in a weird space between YA and adult, almost NA based on its violence alone.
– Speaking of which: While I appreciated the action and battle scenes since the pacing was so much better than the intro of the book (imho) the gore and violence did get pretty fucked up at times, ngl, and while I have no issue with it if this were a NA or full-on adult book, I can’t imagine a 12-year-old or 13-year-old YA reader stomaching some of the content. Like, I’m 24 and used to reading gore and seeing it irl by virtue of my profession and needed to read a fluffy webcomic after finishing this book so that I could fall asleep without nightmarish imagery on my mind. See trigger warnings section for more details.
– The worldbuilding, as other readers as mentioned, is also not a strong point of this book. Perhaps the language was the worldbuilding element with the most detail but even then, I was still unsure when the characters were speaking Eriana vs English at times. Also, I was unsure why this island was abandoned by the rest of the world and why helicopters from the mainland didn’t help them out more? Or planes? Idk but if mermaids existed irl and were killing dozens of humans on the regular, I’d like to think at least more folks interested in the supernatural would take interest. And then I get why the last bit of the plot was tossed in to give Meela a reason to keep on living after the events of the book, but like would it have hurt for some foreshadowing of it in the intro of the book, at least? Because I got to that part and was like, “ok but one would think her culture might have at least hinted at something of this nature so it feels like less of a deus ex machina plot twist”.
In sum, I think this book is worth reading if you are looking for an f/f mermaid book that’s a quick read, but bear in mind the violence, tropes, and worldbuilding.