Merfolk

With cover art for Urban Mermaid in the works and a batch of edits on their way to me – I hope – in time for the Memorial Day week-end, there’s not much else I can do at the moment except work on the sequel which is what I did this last week. One of the major themes of this story is a – very – silly crush which one of the peripheral characters has on one of the central characters in UM. If asked, she would tell you herself that the aforementioned crush is silly – the word ‘obsessive’ also comes to mind – and totally impossible yet it is her primary form of entertainment. The trouble is that this crush is causing problems and winds up driving a wedge between the character and her VBFF. The chapter I’m playing with at the moment contains one of the turning points in the story which leads the character to move beyond this crush – OK, it’s almost a monomania – and begin developing an actual life of her own.

I spent a considerable amount of time during our Bermuda cruise last week – It was terrific, thanks for asking! – explaining all this to my wife as well as why I have to walk a fine line in writing the Colony Island series. It is worth noting here that my wife of 40 years – August 3rd is the precise date – has little or no interest in reading fantasy novels or going to movies with fantasy themes. While she did insist on seeing the Lord of the Rings saga, it was easy to tell that she would have rather been doing something – almost anything – else during that time. (To be honest, I did feel that way during The Two Towers.)

I suppose I should take a moment to explain that the series, Tails from Colony Island, deals with merfolk who have moved from the sea on to land and try to live a normal – read human – existence. Indeed, they are pretty much like the rest of us – except for the fish tail bit. The world of Colony Island changes all because a mermaid living and working in the big city falls in love – much to her chagrin – with a human. The sequel is a love story as well which kinda-sorta makes me a romance writer. (How successful a romance writer I’ll be remains to be seen.)

The fine line has to do with how I create, develop and employ my characters. As I mentioned earlier, they are pretty much like the rest of us. If I make them too much like us, then the story becomes rather dull and our lives are hum-drum enough as it is. On the other hand, if I make the characters too different and exotic, I lose the premise for the series and the stories become something else entirely. So far, the main differences have to do with sex and marriage. That alone should be enough to draw people into the tent. Whether you’re a NASCAR driver or an author, the hardest thing in the world is to be consistent and consistently good, at that. I’ll start to have an idea as to how I shape up come the end of Sept.

It has finally started to sink in; this idea that I’ve actually written a novel and it’s actually going to be published in less than five months’ time and I’m going to have a launch party and will probably have to sign four or five copies. The final blow on my noggin’ came Sunday evening when my brother congratulated me and told me how proud he was that I had done this.

My (kid) brother; the one who has made his living as a writer for the past twenty years and has earned more professional awards than one can shake the proverbial stick at. I know that my mother was proud of his accomplishments – Mom always liked him best, anyway – while she was, more often than not, a bit befuddled about what I did for a living.

Mom, see? This is the programming language I invented and it lets us publish law books from a database!

Do what? A data . . . what? Have mercy!

My only regret is that I didn’t do this six years ago when she would have been able to hold a printed copy of Urban Mermaid in her hands. I doubt that she would have ever made it past the prologue – much less understood what an “urban fantasy” was – Anne of Green Gables was more her speed.

“People laugh at me because I use big words. But if you have big ideas, you have to use big words to express them, haven’t you?” ― L.M. MontgomeryAnne of Green Gables

The biggest thing that I’m just starting to realise is the fact that I have to all of this all over again – five or six more times – before the story of Colony Island and its inhabitants is finally told. While I really don’t have to do anything after this, I’ve seen too many authors complete their first book with promises of more to come and then you never hear from them again except for having babies and getting tattoos – I mean tattoos on the author, not on the baby.

All that being said, it’s time to stop writing about ‘me’ and get back to writing Sirena, the second book in the Colony Island series.

Exciting, to say the least!

Exciting, to say the least!

Urban Mermaid will be published under GGP’s Moonlight Gardens imprint.

Pouraka Cover Art

Pouraka Cover Art

by Dianne Lynn Gardner

Nihil novi sub soleThere is nothing new under the sun. This Maxim from Ecclesiastes could certainly be said to hold true within the realm of mer-fiction as it is a ground which has been plowed many, many times. Plots involving vast undersea cities, sub-aquatic strife, sea-witches, battles with monsters and/or humans, unrequited love, and of course, the perennial favourite of a teen-aged girl/boy suddenly discovering that they are in actuality, a mermaid/merman. This is not to say that such stories boasting these plot-lines – or variants thereof – are dull-making or not worth reading. Indeed, they can be fun, exciting, thrilling, endearing, and a veritable fin-fest. Every once in a while, however, the devoted connoisseur of mer-fiction yearns for something new, something different.

All is not lost. Of late, there have been two mer-novels that have covered fresh territory and have proven to be quite enthralling. The first, Flippin’ The Scales by Pete Tarsi, has already been discussed by this reviewer. The second entry, Pouraka by Dianne Lynn Gardner, is the subject of this review and is undoubtedly a quite noteworthy book.

We poor, landlocked humans are inclined to think of mermaids – and mermen, of course – as living a wild and free existence in the oceans of the world, having the occasional dolphin sidekick with whom they pass the time of day and are happy and joyous 24 x 7. The world which Dianne Garner has created for this story is far different than the one of our imaginations. It is a world where merfolk are a hunted species under constant encroachment by humans, tourists, and oil rigs. The ocean waters that border the land are rapidly becoming an inhospitable place to abide, evocative of the book of Amos, 7:17. “ . . . your sons and your daughters shall fall by the sword, and your land shall be divided by line; and you shall die in a polluted land . . . “ Their dire situation invites the reader to apologise for being human.

Tas is a merman who can no longer remain silent or idly by while his clan slowly dwindles. They continue to be hunted by humans and first his beloved mother fell victim and now his older brother has been wounded by their harpoons. To spend another season where they presently are risks extinction for the entire group. His idea is to take the members of his clan – including the aged and the wounded – North where the hope of a better life – or even simply life itself – beckons.

Conditions are somewhat different for merfolk to the North where Barnacle Bay lies. The merfolk have, overall, a better life and their home cavern – called in the mer tongue, Pouraka – has long provided a comfortable home and although pollution has impacted their food supply to a certain degree, they are much better off than those who live to the South. One of their advantages is that they and their home are protected by the humans who reside in the town beside the bay.

Cora is one of Pouraka’s denizens and she is rather fond of the humans who live on the shores of barnacle bay. Though the magic of Pouraka’s waters, which are jealously guarded by the merfolk, Cora is able to leave the sea behind and walk amongst her shore-bound neighbours, not the least of whom is her best friend, Beth. While Cora is always quick to defend her human friends and protest that not everyone who walks on two legs is a threat to mer-kind, she is nonetheless somewhat naïve as to how the world above the water’s surface works.

Despite the initial impulse of some merfolk to turn away the refugees from the South, they are given shelter and in time, absorbed into the Pouraka colony. It is through this gift of sanctuary that Cora meets Tas and he soon begins to play an increasingly important role in Cora’s emotional life. Sadly, whatever respite the southern merfolk might have gained by seeing refuge in Pouraka is short lived. The northward progression of oil hungry humans continues bringing with it arrogance, death, greed and plunder. The merfolk may be able to run but they cannot hide and a time is fast approaching when hard choices will need to be made.

Dianne Lynn Gardner has woven a thoughtful and provocative story for young adults that is as much about the choices in life which we all must face as it is about scales, tails and survival below the surface. Through the eyes of the mermaid, Cora, readers will learn that life and the world in which we live is not always as simple as we would like to believe. There are two romances in MS Gardner’s story and before the final word on the final page, irrevocable choices will need to be made and each will result in a sundering. Readers – both young and old – will enjoy this story for the plot itself as well as the thought provoking questions which it presents.

Dianne Gardner is without a doubt one of those multi-talented people that those of us who fall into the realms of ‘ordinary’ and ‘really ordinary’ cannot help but envy. Aside from being an author, she is also an illustrator, oil painter and filmmaker. Pouraka is Dianne’s first real foray into the genre of mer-fiction and it is this reviewer’s considered opinion that she seriously contemplate one or more return visits. If she can maintain her fresh approach to the subject, MS Gardner will find a ready and enthusiastic audience.

My Rating:

Visit Dianne Lynn Gardner’s Website at gardnersart.com

Flipping The Scales

Flipping The Scales

by Pete Tarsi

Some of you just may remember that episode of The Smurfs where Smurfette put on these magical dancing shoes and then couldn’t get them off her feet and was forced to keep dancing and dancing. Well, that episode was based on The Red Shoes by Hans Christian Anderson who also wrote The Little Mermaid. Since neither of these stories – as originally written – had the sort of Disneyesque ending that people prefer these days, we’ll end the comparison with Flipping the Scales by Pete Tarsi right here. Just hold on to that idea about Smurfette not being able to get those shoes off her feet for the next few paragraphs.

It is sunrise one morning and summer vacation is already two weeks old. At least it is for teen-aged human girls. However, the two girls coming ashore on an island beach are not human; at least not in the conventional sense. The girls are named Lorelei and Marina and they are mermaids looking to spend a day amongst the human population to enjoy all sorts of things like ice cream. At least Lorelei is – she’s done this before. Her companion isn’t so sure and would happily turn tail and head for deep water at that moment. In the world that Mr. Tarsi has created for this story, merfolk have the ability to shuck their tails on the day of the full moon and walk amongst us. Their tails are an iridescent skirt-like garment which once removed, must be carefully hidden near the sea lest it fall into the wrong hands. Without it, they will be stranded on the shore, unable to return to their ocean home.

Lorelei has done this many times but Marina is a novice who is finally cajoled into hiding her tail and joining her best friend for a day of adventure. Marina is not the only teen-aged girl who has been cajoled into doing something she would rather not. Jill and her best friend Meredith are on their way to that very same island to spend three weeks with Jill’s cousin, Hailey, and her parents. Pete Tarsi doesn’t name the island in question but it’s OK to think of Block Island or Martha’s Vineyard if you like.

Meredith is an extremely bright young lady with two over-achieving parents. Her mother is no Princeton Mom and has thus lashed her daughter to a treadmill of no fun, no boys and no dating until she is well established in her career, some twelve or fifteen years hence; even longer if she decides to pursue one or more advanced degrees. Meredith is heavily into extracurricular activities and she is permitted to enjoy them as long as they serve to further burnish her high school transcript. With all that knowledge stuffed into her head, she regularly plays the pedant, much to the annoyance of Jill and most everyone else her age. Meredith’s main objective for the next three weeks is reading, reading and more reading. No time for anything resembling fun.

Fortunately, Jill and Hailey are pretty much normal girls and they see it as their duty to make sure that Meredith has something not unlike a normal summer vacation; for her sake as well as theirs. Three weeks with an insufferable stick-in-the-mud is not their idea of fun. Once Meredith has been kitted out for some time by the sea, the girls head for the water, crossing the private beach in front of Hailey’s house – the very same beach on which our two mermaids had come ashore. Meredith finds this piece iridescent fabric that resembles a skirt. Even though she is not clothes crazy – or hair crazy or boy crazy – like Hailey and Jill, Meredith nonetheless decides to try it on. Surprisingly, it fits very well – too well, in fact – and things start to happen. Try as she might, Meredith can’t take it off and before you can say ‘Ariel’ three or four times, her legs are history and in their place is an orange mermaid’s tail.

When Marina and Lorelei return to the beach as sunset approaches, they discover that Marina’s tail has gone missing. Sunset waits for no mermaid and Lorelei returns to her natural element while Marina spends a long and lonely night by the water’s edge. It is not until the next day that she and Lorelei encounter the three girls and discover their mutual problem. There are no exceptions to the rules and both Marina and Meredith will have to wait until the morning of the next full moon before they can trade places and return to their normal lives. In the meantime, Marina is going to try and pass for human with Jill and Hailey’s help and Lorelei has the unenviable task of trying to help Meredith pass for mermaid. The next four weeks are going to be long ones for all concerned.

Pete Tarsi has three very fortunate daughters. He wrote Flipping the Scales for them and it is very much a fun read, easily surpassing almost any bedtime story imaginable. He has taken the simple idea of a human girl and mermaid accidentally switching places and has fleshed it out into a captivating story with five likeable characters with whom young ladies can easily identify. Mr. Tarsi’s story is suitable for readers from middle school to well within the high school age range. Anyone who has ever wished that they were a mermaid – or merboy – will delight in the world which he has created.

There is much more to Flipping the Scales besides the tail switch. There are a couple of nascent romances, an exploration of life both below and above the waves, an elementary physics lesson or two, and a couple of mysteries as well; not the least of which is just what sort of secret is Hailey hiding behind her bedroom door. There is plenty of action, adventure and discovery in Pete’s story and those who take the time to dive into this tale of tails will be happy to learn that the author plans to develop this into a three-book series.

As a reviewer who has read more than his share of mermaid stories, I am more than pleased to say that Pete Tarsi’s wonderful story is a welcome addition to the genre and is a ‘must read’ for anyone – female or male – who wants to explore this particular realm of fantasy. If you like and enjoy stories about mer-folk, do not let the book’s intended target audience put you off. Simply take the plunge and enjoy this wonderfully refreshing story.

My Rating:

Cover Art

Cover Art

 by Katie O’Sullivan

Within the span of a few months, Shea MacNamara’s life has changed dramatically.

OpenQuote  To anyone watching him, he looked like a normal teenager, out walking his dog on the beach in the early morning. He wore a plain white t-shirt that clung snugly to his muscular frame, along with cut-off jeans and sandals. His long hair was the color of golden wheat and his tanned skin set off his bright green eyes. He looked like so many other local kids who spent a lot of time along the shorelines of Cape Cod. An ordinary boy. Except Shea no longer fit into that category.

He lost his father, moved from the Great Plains to Cape Cod, found his mother, found his grandfather, found a girlfriend and found out that he was Royalty. Oh yeah … one other thing … he found out he was a merman. A lot of changes for a fifteen year-old boy. However, finding things can be short-lived. Earlier that summer, Shea had a ringside seat to an attempted coup d’état which he and his girlfriend, Kae, helped to foil. His mother was being strong-armed into a dynastic marriage with a king young enough to be her son and Shea’s brother, but the coup has changed all that. Young King Theo was a casualty of the plot and Shea’s mother has departed to take over the sea throne of the Southern Ocean and his girlfriend is due to follow her once she goes to Atlantis to give testimony against the evil – you can ‘Boo’ if you want – Prince Demyan. Regent to the late King Theo, the not-so-bonny Prince was the power behind the coup and was last seen hot-footing it – or is it hot-finning it? – out of town.

On the morning of Kae’s departure, Shea is standing at the water’s edge, fulminating at the unfairness of life and perhaps secretly hoping for one final assignation with the love of his young life. She doesn’t show up. Her father, however, does. Kae is missing and what is more, she was last seen in the palace gardens the previous afternoon, holding hands with a young merman – a young merman whose name was not Shea. We will learn that Kae has been abducted and rather than joining the search for the missing mermaid, Shea is charged with the task of giving testimony before the high court of Atlantis in her stead. What is a young merman to do?

Katie O’ Sullivan has followed up on her 2013 success of Son of a Mermaid with the equally exciting Blood of a Mermaid. Katie writes in a fun and captivating style that should enthrall both young and older adults. Targeted at the younger end of the YA spectrum, her latest novel is suitable for middle schoolers and perhaps younger readers when enjoyed in the context of a library reading circle. This reviewer is pleased to find a novel in the YA sub-genre of Merfolk stories that is equally appealing to both boys and girls.

Shea has his own set of problems. Aside from discovering that he’s not human – at least in the conventional sense – and not your ordinary sort of merboy, he has been told to stay out of the water lest he becomes too easy a target for abduction or worse. And … there’s one other thing. It seems that his choice of Kae as a girlfriend isn’t going over well with some people – especially her father, Lybio. It would appear that sub-surface royalty marry much more often for alliances and connections than for actual love.

Lybio let out a long sigh, cursing under his breath. He turned his head to look at Shea. “It may not be your choice, my Prince. Royals are never free to marry whom they choose.” He let his words sink in for a few moments before adding, “In the end, you, my Prince, will always need to do what’s best for the clan.” Shea thought of his own mother, having to leave her husband and child behind. He took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. He would never let that happen to him. Royal or not, he wouldn’t abandon the people he loved, not in a million years.

Like any good father, Lybio does not want to see his daughter drawn into a hopeless relationship, no matter how nice the boy may be. For his part, Shea isn’t too keen on this Prince business, either. It helps to explain his birthmark but has not brought much in the way of tangible benefits. While he may have a brilliant career as a merman awaiting him, living in Oklahoma did have at least some benefits. For one thing, no one called him ‘My Prince’ there. It goes without saying that Shea’s struggle to have a relationship with the one he chooses rather than the one who may be chosen for him will be a continuing theme through the rest of this series.

As Shea makes his way to Atlantis, he will have to rely on his wits to save both himself and those who are traveling with him. Katie O’Sullivan’s story of intestinal fortitude is a fine example of her values in writing for this particular target audience. Both Shea and Kae demonstrate examples of courage and determination in this series where – so far – the good guys are really good and the bad guys are truly wicked. Even the mage who plays such a pivotal role in Kae’s abduction demonstrates remorse and redemption by the story’s end. Ms. O’Sullivan has penned a truly good and exciting story for young readers; one that parents, et al. should not worry about those in their charge reading. For those of us who are – ahem – somewhat older, Blood of a Mermaid is a fun and exciting story from a time that recedes in the rear-view mirror with each passing day.

If you – and by that, this reviewer means readers who are young and/or young at heart – enjoy fantasy, adventure, young love and all those intangibles that make our lives what they are,  Blood of a Mermaid by Katie O’Sullivan is a fun and very worthwhile read. One need not be fascinated with those living beneath the waves who swap their fins for feet to enjoy this story but the reader may very well find the world of merfolk to be a rapture of the deep.

 
My Rating:

Katie’s website may be found at katie-osullivan.com

Katie’s blog may be found at katieosullivan.blogspot.com

Buy your own copy of Blood of a Mermaid.
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June 26th & 27th, 2014

Three Great Stories

by

Three Great Authors

From

Three Great Countries

Mark Your Calendar!!!

Mark Your Calendar!!!

 REVIEWS:

Cover Art

Cover Art

 by S.K. Munt

Over the course of the past year, I have had the distinct pleasure and privilege of reviewing S.K. Munt’s Fairy Tail Saga and have enjoyed each story from start to finish. Inasmuch as Stained Glass is the conclusion of the series, I have chosen to deviate from my usual approach to reviewing novels and instead, have looked at the story through an analysis of the four central characters in this story. S.K. Munt has an extraordinary gift for developing the characters that inhabit her stories and each of them deserve their moment in the reviewer’s spotlight. Taking this approach also reduces the number of spoilers and I do not wish to take anything away from the reader’s pleasure in perusing this “must read” conclusion to the series.

Submitted for your consideration; A four-time loser named Lincoln Grey who has squandered the sympathy of his peers by trying, in less than a year, to emulate the lifetime accomplishments of his greatest rival and has failed miserably. Feeling used and discarded – again – by the love of his life, Ivyanne Court, Lincoln uses and discards his friends and allies in a bid to prove that he is much more than a nobody. While “Oh yeah? I’ll show her” may be the rallying cry throughout history of every lover who has been pipped at the post by his competitor, Lincoln Grey’s campaign to somehow show the woman who spurned him that anything Tristan Loveridge can do, he can do better is a disaster and Link does not even realize it. Try as he may, he can’t capture Tristan’s aura … at least among merfolk.

Ivyanne has been out of the picture for eight months and a lot has changed in the interim. She has been around the world on her post-nuptial tour, uncovered the back-story regarding her family’s origins and become a mother – not to just an heir but to triplets. The women of the Court dynasty seem to have been hitherto cursed not to bear children until after their first century but Ivyanne has apparently broken that curse and she has returned to the Seaview to find that much has changed there as well.  Her knight – Sir Lincoln Grey, as it were – has used his reward to refurbish the resort and is continuing his masque as an alcohol-fueled bon viant and playboy. Despite all of his debauchery, Link seems to be thriving, his buff body even more attractive than before. Sadly, Lincoln Grey, the person, has become increasingly less attractive to the people who should really matter.

… and though he didn’t remember most of it well, he hadn’t forgotten how perfect that coupling had felt.

Lincoln’s amorous adventures have largely been a parade of bed-partners in a desperate search to replace or relive his time with Ivyanne. Somewhere in the alcohol induced haze, there was one perfect night with one perfect partner. That relationship has gone by the boards, as has his relationship with Grace. Though she had promised to wait until he was ready, the beast he has turned in to is much more than Grace can bear and she has fled to the Philippines. Pummeled by the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Link writhes in emotional and psychological anguish like a fish impaled on a spear. The past eight months have been an attempt at self-medication which has – as it usually does – failed.

S.K. Munt has deftly turned the sympathetic character of Lincoln Grey into one that the reader wants to wash their hands of and she does it in a one hundred and eighty degree tour de force that leaves the reader wondering just what it was Grace or Ivyanne ever saw in him. There is more than one point in Stained Glass where the reader expects to hear a single gunshot and then Ivyanne and her mate swim off into the sunset as the credits start to roll, the only question being who pulled the trigger.

In direct antithesis to Link’s character is that of Tristan Loveridge. The author has taken the crowd-pleasing character and made him more likeable as a person whilst showing more depth to the royal consort. Tristan is truly and deeply in love with Ivyanne and will do anything to protect what is his even if it includes shooting Link, the poster boy for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder who doesn’t seem to understand the meaning of “No” and “Go Away”. The question is, would Tristan really liquidate Lincoln and if so, would Link thank him for it? Tristan’s attitude towards his former rival seems to be an odd mixture of compassion and scorn. It is Tristan who wants to break things to Lincoln gently and it is Tristan who really feels for the guy and yet Tristan looks down on Link for once again feeling sorry for himself. Given Lincoln’s string of losses throughout the Fairy Tail Saga, feeling sorry for himself seems to be the only viable alternative to using the .22 calibre pistol hidden in his safe. For over a decade, Lincoln Grey has been the man of constant sorrow and it could well be that Tristan’s attitude is due to his own life of privilege. Even the ‘perfect’ have their imperfections.

The author has painted an even more detailed portrait of Ivyanne in Stained Glass that reflects her sorrow for the pain and misfortunes that her family seems to have dumped on the Greys through the years. It is questionable, however, if she is really to blame for these misfortunes or is merely where the buck finally stops. She sincerely wants to make things right but can that ever be accomplished completely? In one sense, she already has made one thing right. Ivyanne was unwittingly responsible in a way for Lincoln losing ten years of his life to misery and sorrow and yet, because of his renewed association with her, Lincoln has gained centuries in return. S.K. Munt has made one aspect of Ivyanne abundantly clear; she really and truly does love Tristan Loveridge though the reader does sometimes wonder if his physical attributes have anything to do with it.

Finally, there is Grace Londeree, the somewhat spoiled child of privilege who latched onto Lincoln like a limpet in Heads or Tails. Although Grace was seen as an incorrigible flirt – as least where Lincoln was concerned – she also showed an amount of maturity which was often lacking the other characters. However, in this, the finale to Ms. Munt’s Fairy Tail Saga, it is Grace’s overall lack of maturity that is her undoing. Lincoln is searching for a clone of Ivyanne and he repeatedly cites Grace’s immaturity as an impediment. Even though Grace said that she’d wait, Lincoln’s womanising – or is it mermaidising? – was too much for her and she walks out on him. He hardly notices and the story finds her trying to ride out Typhoon Bopha with her music students. On the one hand, she dealt with Link by walking away but yet, there is still something about him that speaks to her soul. Does she hope for a rescue from Link and even if she were to accept one, what form would that rescue take? Stained Glass will see Grace Londeree grow up in the course of having responsibilities thrust upon her. While readers – and this reviewer – will miss the eighteen year-old with the hots for Lincoln Grey, the post-Bopha nineteen year-old is much more of the woman she needs to be – for herself and for her future.

Our cast of characters assembled, it is now time to consider the central thread of the plot in Stained Glass.  Ivyanne Court has discovered than an unseen hand has shaped events affecting the Court and Grey families for nearly a millennium. It is a hand bent upon destruction and its endgame is one of extinction. His name is Luca. After dumping Lincoln Grey in favour of Tristan Loveridge, Ivyanne Court has the unmitigated gall to walk back into his life and ask her knight to lead an expeditionary force to neutralize Luca. As one learns the extent of Luca’s power and the forces that he controls, the reader is left to wonder if she is asking him to go a suicide mission. The reader will also wonder just how dumb can Link be and why is he even considering this? Is Lincoln simply obsessed by Ivyanne or is there something else at work here? Even Ivyanne seems to be unaware of Link’s true mental state. Will he ever have the strength of will to tell Ivyanne to go away or is he simply a wounded animal – a rogue shark, if you will – that needs to be put down. All arguments may well be moot if the characters find that the enemy is already amongst them.

Over a five book series, S.K. Munt has treated readers to a very hot and very wild ride through the secret world of mermaids and mermen, fate, lust, and blood-lines. Up until Stained Glass, the main mystery has been which suitor would wind up with Ivyanne. In her thrilling conclusion to The Fairy Tail Saga, Ms. Munt presents the reader with the mystery of why all this is even happening and what will be the ultimate outcome. This reviewer has devoted much of this concluding review to the main players as the author has a natural flair for character development. Lincoln, Grace, Ivyanne and Tristan have made this series what it is and they each deserve a curtain call.

Besides characters, S.K. Munt has displayed a talent for provocative writing and in the series finale, the Queen of Steam has delivered once more. Those readers of tender sensibilities should avert their eyes from the following excerpt:

He’d been drunk, and she’d been comforting him. She’d started kissing away his tears and before he knew it, she’d whispered her plea that he take her. He loved remembering how her vulnerable, tight little body had trembled in his arms, and how her teeth had sank into his neck as he’d gently eased himself into her- and how her tears had rolled hot and wet down his shoulder blade for only a few minutes before her pleas had become wild and her trembling had become violent, ecstatic shaking.

None but the truly jaded can read passages like this and not want a cup of tea, a long walk or a cold shower. As in her previous books, the characters, the plot and the romance of Stained Glass all come together in an expertly woven tapestry of love, lust, loss, gain, suffering and ultimate triumph. Although Lincoln Grey may have found himself to be a punching bag throughout the saga, relatively minor characters such as Pintang Kayu-Api have suffered as well and Ms. Munt has given them the same detail as she has the major characters and the story itself. For her, there are no half-measures.

This includes her treatment of Lincoln Grey’s character. Although his fans may be somewhat dismayed by what happens to Link, having him hit rock bottom is a necessary requirement that will lead to his ultimate redemption. Just below the surface lies the unspoken truth that Lincoln and Grace are more alike than the casual observer might think.

In summation, Stained Glass is a thoroughly enjoyable story which the reader will want to peruse more than once. No one who takes the time to read and absorb the finale will come away feeling that it is anything less than a wicked good tale and time well spent. To say more would only be gilding the lily.

Throughout The Fairy Tail Saga, this reviewer has admonished potential readers to start at the beginning of the series and he once again offers the same advice. This is not one of the serial novels where a person may come in during the middle or the end and easily deduce what has come before. S.K. Munt’s Stained Glass is the capstone of a carefully developed series of stories, all the more enjoyable because of what has come before. To paraphrase Bette Davis, this reviewer urges readers to Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

This reviewer lacks any and all qualifications to teach and yet, he would dearly love to conduct a semester’s course covering Stained Glass and all the books that come before. It is not merely the mythology but also the characters and their interactions with each other as well as the plot itself. S.K. Munt has a true gift for storytelling and creates fascinating multi-level characters along the way. Her stand-alone novel, Unchained Melody is positive proof that her talents extend well beyond the realm of mermaids. Those who choose to dismiss her series as simply a hot fairy tale for adults, do so at their peril.

And now, before the curtain call is over and the applause fades away, it falls to this reviewer to cry “Author! Author!” Ms. Munt, it’s time for you to take your bow.

In the interest of full disclosure, Stained Glass includes a bit of fan fiction written by the reviewer as an exercise in preparation for his forthcoming novel, Urban Mermaid – the first installment in his series, Tails from Colony Island.

 
My Rating:

Follow S.K. Munt on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/skmunt?ref=br_tf or on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7159848.S_K_Munt/blog
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Cover art for Keeping Merminia

Cover art for Keeping Merminia

by Emm Cole
We are all familiar with the old conversational chestnut that “something” is going to be a tough act to follow. We have all seen examples of that pronouncement ringing true. When this reviewer learned that Emm Cole was working on a sequel to Merminia, he said the same thing to his faithful cat, Rankin, who was sleeping behind his PC monitor at the time. Today, as Rankin sleeps behind the monitor once more, this reviewer is pleased to say that Emm Cole has more than successfully followed her own “tough act” with her sequel, Keeping Merminia.

In Merminian pre-history, two princes fought an ever-widening war over their late father’s estate. Adessia, daughter of one of the warring brothers, implored them to end their fratricidal war but to no avail. Desperate to end the conflict that swept up innocent commoners in what was a simple dispute over what had been bequeathed to each son, Adessia created a ring from tokens gifted by her father and uncle and then threw it and herself into the sea as a sacrificial offering to the fates that controlled the world. The fates complied and the armies of Adessia’s father were engulfed by the sea and transmogrified as merfolk. Although, they had gotten the better part of the bargain, the merfolk devolved into warring clans, all the while searching for the ring of Adessia and the ultimate power it gave to it’s possessor. In the concluding pages of Merminia, Ulric, of the Litiant clan obtains the ring and invades the land in what is essentially a continuation of the original conflict.

In Keeping Merminia, Ulric has taken over the land-based kingdom and changed its environment to suit himself and his Litiant followers. They are here to stay and the sea has suffered for it. Food becomes scarce while more and more merfolk, Merminians as well as the neighbouring Julgrenians give up the sea in the hope of surviving on land even though this change of venue robs them of their scales and their powers. Things are becoming dire and it falls to
Selinne, leader of the Merminians, to act; to end the turmoil and chaos that is affecting her clan and her beloved sea.

In the back of my mind, I recognize what I’m supposed to do next. I remember my dream. I can hear my dead father’s message on repeat. The fates want you to take the ring back from Ulric, he said.

Even with the ocean crying out, even as the bravest mermen flee from the waves—I hesitate. I can’t imagine the horror of being without my tail. How can I leave my home? If I do manage to stop Ulric, will there even be a home left to come back to?

And so, Selinne and Arimis, her protector, embark on a perilous quest to leave the sea behind and stop Ulric at any cost. They are not alone on this journey as they are accompanied by Gabriel, the Litiant who was Selinne’s first love, and Walter, the parentless 9 year-old child who saw Ulric first come ashore near the south coast fishing village. Their guide on this journey will be Yuri, an odiferous, drunken ale trader.

It is at this point that your reviewer dates himself by comparing the party’s perilous journey to that taken by the commando team in the 1957 movie, The Bridge on the River Kwai. The task of the commando team was to destroy the Japanese railway bridge. The task of Selinne’s party is to destroy Ulric. In both cases, the overland journey is long and arduous. The commandos will have to deal with Japanese patrols while Selinne’s party will have to deal with wild beasts and enchanted beings that pose an even greater threat than the patrols. There are hardships and wounds. As the movie-goer wondered if the commandos would reach the bridge in time, the reader wonders if Selinne and her followers will arrive in time to end Ulric and take back Adessa’s ring.
As one might imagine, an overland journey is not easy on those whose usual method of travel is in and through the water. Emm Cole brilliantly articulates the sense of loss and separation from the sea experienced not only by Selinne but by other merfolk – both Merminian and Litiant – as well. This longing is best expressed by Zara, the wife of Ulric.

Her hands dip into the pond. She traces the surface, making the water curl under her fingertips. “I miss the salt of the ocean soaking into my fins. I miss the way the current rocked me to sleep. I think about the freedom of somersaulting through a lit haze of jellyfish. I’m scared I’ll forget how the morning tide sifted sunlight. I’m lost in this place. I hate not being able to float, Ulric. These weighted legs make me feel like I’m constantly sinking to the ground.”

Aramis is Selinne’s long-time body-guard and unrequited lover. He will strike up an easy-going relationship with Gabriel even though they were once sworn enemies and had both sought her affections. Although Gabriel was her first love and Aramis was treated more like a long-term close friend by her, the reader will see the tide shift from Gabriel to Aramis. Gabriel is meant for other things and though he loves Selinne like no other mermaid, he understands that the tide is turning and must turn in Aramis’ favour.

You captured my heart because you weren’t afraid to look Merconius in the eye when his trident was at your neck. I’d never had that kind of confidence in front of him before. I adored you because you insisted on being yourself for better or worse. You refused to accept his judgments. I’d give anything to go back—to tell him that I didn’t need his acceptance and love if it came with conditions. I want to believe you’re still that fiery soul—the one who wasn’t twisted by him. I want to trust that this hideous war hasn’t changed you like it has changed Ulric. But if you’re going to let your fear of what the fates might do—or how I might feel about it stop you from going after Aramis—”

Most of Keeping Merminia takes place on dry land rather than in the sea and while this reviewer had potential reservations about mer-fiction where the venue was dry land rather than salt water, Emm Cole has indeed made it work and work very well. Ms Cole is an author of no mean talent and it shows in every word, sentence, and paragraph of this story. Emm Cole has accomplished something very special here and this reviewer is eager to what she will bring to future works The only adjective that is adequate for Keeping Merminia is Brilliant.

Regrettably, this story is most likely the last that readers will hear of Merminia. Emm Cole has no plans to extend the series and has turned her considerable talents towards other projects. Though her fans will miss additional stories from the hidden gardens of Merminia, they will nonetheless be grateful for the time she has taken to build and share this underwater world with them. If this is the first you have heard about Merminia, then do not read this story and expect to somehow fill in the gaps. The story of the Merminian world is much too complex and enthralling to be absorbed and understood in one go. Read Merminia first before embarking upon Keeping Merminia. Getting caught up in Emm Cole’s underwater world is perhaps one of the best things that a reader can do.

My Rating:

Emm Cole’s website may be found at emmcole.com

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Son of a Mermaid Cover Art

Son of a Mermaid Cover Art

by Katie O’Sullivan

Most of us are familiar in some way with the ballet, Swan Lake; lots of female dancers in white and a couple of token male dancers. In 1995, Matthew Bourne launched his own adaptation in which the female corps de ballet is replaced by male dancers and the focus is shifted away from Odette and towards Prince Siegfried. Since its debut, this ballet has not been off the stage – somewhere in the world – for more than a few months and was the longest running ballet on Broadway and London’s West End.

Katie O’Sullivan’s Son of a Mermaid is like Bourne’s adaptation in that the central character is male and it follows in the footsteps of Zoraida Cordova’s Vicious Deep series. Although both books share elements of similar themes found in female focused Mer-fiction, they provide a refreshing take on an oft told story and it is hoped that Young Adult males as well as the traditional female audience will enjoy both of these stories.  Whereas Zoraida Cordova’s series is definitely geared more towards the upper end of the YA age range, Katie O’Sullivan’s Son of a Mermaid serves the lower end of the range quite ably.

Shea MacNamara keeps losing members of his family. His mother left when Shea was a baby, his Uncle and Grandfather lost their lives when a rogue wave hit their fishing boat off of Cape Cod and most recently his father was swept away in a tornado that struck the family farm in Plainville, Oklahoma on the eve of Shea’s  15th birthday. Indeed, the only remaining relative is his paternal grandmother, Martha, whom he has never met. Martha MacNamara arrives in the days after Shea loses his father to take him “home” to Cape Cod, a place to which he has never been. While Oklahoma was almost as far away from the ocean as one could be,  the shores of the Cape were as close  to the ocean as one could be without actually being in it. However, in the ocean is one place that he has been told not to go. It’s just as well since Shea’s father, Tom, was never keen on his being in the water or learning to swim.

While Shea is homesick for his friends and school back in Oklahoma, living with his grandmother does have one benefit as he is finally able to learn something about his mother. Tom MacNamara was silent on that subject and asking questions about his mother had been a no-go area for all of Shea’s 15 years. Rather than dying in childbirth or abandoning Shea and his father entirely, his mother is still very much alive and his parents have kept in touch over the years. There is so much more to learn but the answers will be slow in coming. The biggest question Shea has is “Why?”

To pass the time, Shea walks up and down the beach with the family dog every morning to collect the detritus of human life that finds itself upon the sand, either en route to or returning from the ocean. While he is pondering “why” and “how”, Shea is being watched.

Hiding amidst the waves, she’d watched him walk the length of the beach and back again, gathering up the debris that’d become all too common along the shoreline. Something about him fascinated her.

She wasn’t supposed to talk to strangers at the beach. That was a hard and fast rule that she’d only broken once before. But those had been girls, and they’d been much younger. This was a boy…and a cute one at that.

The girl’s name is Kae and Shea will meet her on occasion as the days go by. She is something of an oddity as Kae doesn’t seem to understand the basics of life like wearing blue jeans or riding a bicycle. Another oddity is added to his life in the form of Hailey Thompson, a 13 year-old  transplant from New York City with a voracious appetite and a penchant for rapid fire questions and pronouncements. Stir in a helping of quirky neighbours and Shea has an interesting  summer ahead of him. This includes things like taking Hailey fishing – or rather, Shea going fishing with Hailey tagging along. Thanks to Hailey, Shea winds up tumbling off the dock and like a stone, sinking to the bottom where he discovers – after some anxiety — that he can breathe water. It appears that there are indeed some things about which he needs to learn.

It is Kae who becomes his teacher and she tells Shea who and what he really is. He is a merman and the son of Princess Brynnelania. At some point in their lives, most young boys dream of being able to rescue their mom from something or other and Shea is presented with the perfect opportunity. His mother is being coerced into an arranged marriage for political reasons and the fact that her prospective fiancé is only 6 years old makes her situation even worse. Though Shea himself is only 15 years old, he intends to do something about the situation and getting from the shore to the King’s Summer palace requires a different form of locomotion than he is used to. Kae shows him how easy it is by rubbing a special stone and repeating some special words.

Having never even been in the ocean before, or any large body of water for that matter, each new sensation amazed Shea. Every new sight, every new smell, every different texture that he reached out to run his fingers across. Everything was so completely different than anything he’d ever imagined.

Each nuance of his new appendage, the shimmering tail that was suddenly a part of him, continued to fascinate and distract him. All five of his senses threatened to overload from the sheer pleasure of the cool ocean current caressing his body. He felt like the ocean was running its fingers through his hair, welcoming him home. He wondered if he’d ever be able to get used to the feeling enough to ignore it completely.

Son of a Mermaid is a fun and enjoyable story and Katie O’Sullivan has done an outstanding job in bringing Shea MacNamara’s  story to life.  There is mystery and adventure in this tale of tails as well as enough young romance to interest YA girls. The romance will probably also interest YA boys as well though they most likely will not admit it. Although Shea does play the hero in this story, MS O’Sullivan has definitely included Kae in the action and this rescue against all odds in not a one mer-man show. Katie also artfully educates the reader concerning the growing problem of trash that both intentionally and unintentionally finds its way into our planet’s oceans.

By the end of the story, readers will want to know what happens next as there are some questions left unanswered. Fortunately for everyone – and that includes this reviewer – Katie O’Sullivan has planned more books in the series, the first of which is due in the Spring of next year (2014). Do not let the fact that her exciting and mysterious coming of age story is aimed at the younger YA market put you off. Among other things, reading should provide a fun and entertaining escape from the mundane experiences of everyday life. Son of a Mermaid provides exactly such an escape and this reviewer believes that anyone interested in mer-fiction will enjoy losing themselves in this story.

My Rating:

Katie O’Sullivan’s website is at katie-osullivan.com and her Blog may be found at http://katieosullivan.blogspot.com

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