Reviewed by: Leigh
Genre: YA Fantasy
Approximate word count: 80-85,000 words
Availability Kindle: YES Nook: NO Paper: YES
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Heather Matthews is a freelance writer and novelist based in Vancouver Canada. She has written three books: Carolina, The Scullery Maid, and The Secret of the Emerald Sea.
Fourteen-year-old Jane lives in a little seaside village and is attracted to the water, even though her grandmother never taught her to swim. One rainy night she steals away and finds out that she is half human and half mermaid.
Generally to judge a book, I look at three things: story, plot, and writing. Of these, only the story is really compelling. Because of this, I'm really torn on this book because the story is really interesting and holds my attention. However the writing is bad and most of the plot is predictable.
Writing about the story itself is hard because the plot is what pushes the story along, but what I will say is that very few stories about Roman mythology are as well researched and constructed as Emerald Sea. Without giving anything away, Ms. Matthews really took the time to develop a compelling story. In that regard I give the story itself 4 stars.
When one dives (heheh) into the mechanics of the story, that is where the issue start to arise. After reading the first page, I looked at my cat and said, “She is a mermaid princess and her father is Poseidon.” Sure enough, Jane is a mermaid and her father, whom she was told died before her birth, is Neptune (same god, different country). Then when Jane, who was never taught how to swim but somehow knows how to move on a tail like nobody's business meets Neptune with his booming voice, I looked at the dog—since he scared the cat away—and said “Neptune is going to scare Jane and she's going to run home to dry land.” Sure enough, away she went. In this respect, Emerald Sea is a good book for practicing precognition.
Then there is the writing itself. The sentence structure most of the time in clunky and over-complicated. I think Ms. Matthews was trying for an older way of speaking (ala Pride and Prejudice), but it comes off as pretentious. Several times I found myself asking, “What fourteen-year-old speaks like that?” or analyzing the writing. And that is a no-no in the fiction world. The point that the reader starts wondering about the writing rather than what will happen with the story is that point that the author misstepped.
There is a lot of telling in this book too. I wonder if Ms. Matthews is worried that her readers cannot make an inference. Don't just tell us she was pleased, frightened or determined – show us.
When it comes down to it, this is a very “pretty” book. Much of the prose is flowery or overly wordy. Most of these phrases could be cut to make the book itself tighter, which would make for a better novel.
No significant issues. I received an advanced copy.
Rating: *** Three stars