The Mermaid’s Sister by Carrie Anne Noble
‘In a cottage high atop Llanfair Mountain, sixteen-year-old Clara lives with her sister, Maren, and guardian, Auntie. By day, they gather herbs for Auntie’s healing potions; by night, Auntie spins tales of faraway lands and wicked fairies. Clara’s favorite story tells of 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, Clara discovers shimmering scales just beneath her sister’s skin: Maren is becoming a mermaid and must be taken to the sea or she will die. So Clara, O’Neill, and the mermaid-girl set out for the shore. But the trio encounters trouble around every bend. Ensnared by an evil troupe of traveling performers, Clara and O’Neill must find a way to save themselves and the ever-weakening Maren. And always in the back of her mind, Clara wonders, if my sister is a mermaid, then what am I?’
You read a book and become acquainted with a story, and our favourite books become friends. The Mermaid’s Sister by Carrie Anne Noble, has joined the list of my book friends. So, when offered a guest post on this excellent blog, I wanted to recommend a book I felt passionately about, and one that has stayed with me. That it has in it, an actual fantastic book dragon, (Osbert the wyvern), made my choice peculiarly fated. Here is what I loved about The Mermaid’s Sister….
‘Pilsner follows Auntie about like a winged, two legged puppy…She feeds him bits of our best cheese, morsels of apples and pears, and wee griddle cakes studded with sunflower seeds and raisins-all arranged prettily on a blue flowered saucer.’
There are so many things about this novel that are charming. I particularly loved its wonderful creatures; Osbert the small, blue pet dragon, Zedekiah the pony with a mane woven with silver bells, and Pilsner the dancing, draughts playing raven, all captured my heart. The cottage on Llanfair mountain is cosy and warm, and the descriptions of Auntie’s mouth-watering cooking, definitely made me go in search of some baked treats. (Be warned). The magic and mythology will stir in you a sense of wonder and enchantment, and at the same time, the descriptions of simple, everyday pleasures will equally beguile.
‘The caravan is magnificent. From hooks and pegs hang glass beads and strings of pearls, pendants of gold and enamelwork, chains of silver, and belts of leather as soft as a kitten’s belly. Spoons carved from wood, plain and sturdy. Fishing lures and lutes, lamps and baskets. Dazzling ornaments and common kitchen knives…’
While the novel is woven through with fantasy, Noble has created a world that is fully formed and wholly believable. I think being able to clearly imagine scenes and characters is especially important for fantasy novels, and something which I tried to do when creating my own novel In Fallen Woods. Although, if I really think about all the books I love and care about, it is because the world inside that book is real, (no matter how fantastical), and I believe in it. There are no nagging questions, or the lingering annoyance of an aspect of the plot that didn’t make sense, the characters remain true to their character. It all has a ring of truth.
‘There is no cure for being who you truly are.’
Like all the best YA novels, the novel accurately depicts the emotions of adolescence. It describes ubiquitous experiences, such as the deep conflict of being jealous of a sibling; or the terrible insecurity and pain felt by watching the one you love, being besotted with someone prettier, brighter, and altogether more dazzling than you could ever hope to be. It addresses the essential questions of one’s character; where do my morals lie, who am I, and who do I hope to become? How innocence is exchanged for knowledge and wisdom…I am sure The Mermaid’s Sister will strike a chord in the heart of any young adult, or adult for that matter.
A seashell, a stork and an apple tree child…
I loved the characters. The story is told through Clara, who you instantly sympathise with. She is strong, brave, kind and moral. She loves her sister Maren fiercely, and would do anything for her. Maren is captivating and whimsical, and everything you imagine of a mermaid. O’Neill is vividly drawn and strongly charismatic, but also flawed and human, which I thought added another layer of authenticity. Noble has created well rounded people that you really care about, and made the success of their fate imperative to our peace of mind.
‘There is no word for the emotion between pity and love, or for the one between longing and sorrow.’
I think I was most struck by the writing. The ‘voice’ of the main character is so elegantly expressed, her words appearing simple and clear, yet deeply poignant and truthful. At times, the writing is lyrical and conjures beautiful imagery. At other times it describes universal experiences, such as grief and pain without resorting to cliché or tired analogies. I imagine this is the kind of writing that would make literary agents drool; to me it is honest, poetic and beautifully honed , and has all the hallmarks of a classic.
‘Wishing gets you nothing.’
These are the opening words of the novel, and they are often repeated by Clara throughout the novel as she tries to live by them, and never quite succeeds. As a veteran wisher myself, I found these words shook me up somewhat, but I do agree you don’t achieve anything by wishing, you have to make things happen for yourself. In my case, wishing to reach people who I believe would enjoy my novel, won’t happen if I don’t get the message out! Having said that I do wish that you would read The Mermaid’s Sister. I wish you will love it as much as I did.