A delightful middle grade fantasy! I was bound to love it because it’s about mermaids (that always gets me).
The main character, Eliza, is a pre-teen with a close relationship with her grandma, Nana Mora, who lives on a remote island, tells eccentric mermaid tales, and runs a little shop by the sea where she sells mermaid trinkets and maps to the Mermaid Cove, where supposedly the mermaids go to sing every Winter Solstice. Nana Mora invites Eliza to spend the Christmas break with her on the island. All Eliza’s life, she has told her stories of the mermaid called Silverswift, but she has never told her the ending before. Now, as her eyesight is dimming, she wants to go with Eliza to the Mermaid Cove this Winter Solstice so she can see it one last time, and so she can tell Eliza the end of the story. Eliza’s mother Jocelyn is the main antagonist–she is very practical, and fears that her mother is losing her reason and encouraging Eliza to believe in fairy tales. Eliza manages to convince her mother to let her come anyway though.
The story interweaves Eliza’s journey with Nana Mora, and a young man about her mother’s age named Ellis, and Mora’s tale of Silverswift, which we get to hear from the beginning. Silverswift was a mermaid princess. In this version, mermaids live hundreds of years, but they each get a “season” of one year during which they get a silver stripe in their hair to indicate that for that year, they can choose whether to go up to the land, or stay in the ocean. Once the window closes, they never again have the opportunity to have legs… but if they choose to stay on land, there they will remain. Silverswift deeply loves the ocean, and she’s the fiercest and most courageous of the mermaids… but she falls in love with a human.
You can probably guess where this is going, and why Nana Mora has told the story to Eliza all her life, but never told her the ending. I guessed it too, though there was a red herring in the story that led me to believe my initial guess was wrong for awhile. It wasn’t. The obvious device took me out of the story a bit, but it was still a heartwarming tale of love and redemption.
My rating: ****
Sexual content: none
Political content: none