Hannah (Daughters Of The Sea)
by Kathryn Lasky
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Daughters of the Sea: Hannah / 978-0-439-78310-1
Author Kathryn Lasky is one of my favorites from the Dear America / Royal Diary series, so it seemed natural to pick up her new mermaid series. As always, her writing style is smooth and so easy to immerse yourself into; I was surprised how quickly and effortlessly I breezed through this pleasant novel.
Hannah is, as you can probably tell from the cover and the series title, a mermaid - only she doesn't know it yet. The reader *does* know it obviously, and since it takes Hannah pretty much the entire book to figure it out herself, there's some danger that the reader will get impatient while Hannah figures out her specialness. Lasky handles this with a light touch, however - Hannah is special, unique, and different, but she's also sheltered enough and confused enough to be constantly unsure of what her differences might mean.
Staying near to the 'daily life' details that Lasky excelled so well at providing in the DA/RD diary formats, Hannah is shown taking a service job as a scullery maid for a rich Bostonian family. As she scrubs potatoes, gazes wistfully at the family's harp, and tries to avoid the Evil Rich Girl and her cat, clues keep piling up to make Hannah realize that perhaps she is not quite what she seems. There's a slight verge of Mary Sue-ism here (Hannah doesn't have rainbow eyes, but she *does* have rainbow hair!) but Lasky moves over it briskly enough, and I found myself enjoying the novel immensely and not quite able to put it down.
Then we get to the ending, though, and if I have one complaint about this book, it's definitely here. A love interest is provided in the form of a eerily sympathetic 'young' man (he's in his 20's and Hannah is 15, and yes, this is set one hundred years ago, but that doesn't mean I have to like it), and Hannah is drawn to him as the one other person on earth who might truly understand her. The whole set-up is cloyingly thin - the two fall into each others arms without knowing the first thing about the other, and the only thing they seem to have in common (besides the sea) is that they're both beautiful and broody. I've nothing against romances in children's books, but I would prefer a romance that's grounded in some realism with real human beings, not just another 'knight in shining armor' ideal that has been ground into the dirt with repetition. It just feels like a cheaply contrived reason for Hannah to pretend that she's Cursed with Awesomeness when the reader would be off to the deepest part of the sea without a look behind them.
And while I'm on the topic of real human beings, I genuinely thought that the Evil Rich Girl might turn out to be an interesting, three-dimensional character, but in the end Lasky just reverted to using her as a convenient villain in order to finally push to a conclusion, which was disappointing.
Having said that, I did enjoy this novel as a quick and interesting read. There's a lot - possibly too much - here that is cliched and overdone, but the cliches never really detracted from the engaging "daily life" details and the overall "secret mermaid" story. And I will admit that younger, less jaded readers will probably be more likely to forgive the sometimes two-dimensional characters. My recommendation is to give it a read, although you might want to wait for the paperback version.
NOTE: This review is based on a free Advance Review Copy of this book provided through Amazon Vine.
~ Ana Mardoll
View all my reviews