When I first saw this book I thought there was no way that anyone could ever pull it off. Seriously. Barring the fact that metal tends to rust underwater, there just didn’t seem to be a way to gel my ideas of what constitutes ‘steampunk’ with the teen culture of mermaids. In some ways I was right, if you’re looking for victoriana you’re not going to find it here, nor will you find vapid pastel coloured frappucino drinking teenagers. But in so many ways that is the best possible mermaid novel I can think of.
It has been two years since Rory drowned, and Lorali is in Hastings, living the quiet life of a normal teenage girl. But her safe life on land won’t last for long. Life in The Whirl has become a hotbed of underwater politics and as the council jostles to oust the king, one Mer in particular has her eye on Lorali as the key to her own rise to power.
Meanwhile, Aurabel, a lowly Mer from the wrong side of the trench, is attacked by sea beasts and left for dead – and without a tail. Raging with righteous anger, she rebuilds herself a mechanical tail and reinvents herself as a fearless steampunk Mer seeking revenge. But she never expected the most important job that was about to drop into her lap.
(Note, I did not read the first of Dockrill’s books set in this world Lorali but I don’t think this book counts as a sequel in the strictest sense as much of the action concerns an entirely new character) however, it is possible that I missed some of the more interesting elements of the plot this way, in which case I apologise for misleading you…
Setting! A setting is very important and that is the same case for this book. We have the underwater world of mermaids and we have the human (or walker) world above. It would appear that humans can be made into mermaids and vice versa though, in this book, that process wasn’t entirely explained. You get the perspective from both worlds as the writing is multi-perspective. My interests mostly lay in the underwater story, since that had much more of the ‘new’ plot where the outside world was a continuation of the characters from Lorali. I did like that the connection between the two world and the two beings, however tenuous, was established.
What this plot does magnificently is dramatic irony. At almost every point the reader is completely aware of what is going on (due to the multiple perspectives) while the characters are none the wiser. With a villain like this one that really works as trust and instinct are key themes and key motivators in this story. I think this is an excellent story, it has moments of pain, of sadness, of overcoming hardship, anger, joy, love, unrequited love-you name it, it’s there. There is, strangely, a humanity to these non-human characters that shines through in Dockrill’s writing.
I adored the character of Aurabel. ‘Queer, badass, half metal mermaid’ would be a business card I would willingly carry. Lorali wasn’t quite as amazing in my eye but that might just be because Aurabel’s brashness (she is a mermaid from the ‘wrong side of the tracks’ after all) was so refreshing given how normally you only ever encounter beautiful, graceful and eloquent mermaids.
My absolute favourite element, and that which made me actually laugh out loud, was the fake facebook group. Dockrill perfectly captures the inane facebook arguments that we all know and love to hate from fan groups all over social media and actually uses it to drive the plot of the book from yet another perspective. It’s so simple but it could have so easily felt fake, on the contrary, this makes absolute sense in the context of this book and the internet as it currently is.
I didn’t think I’d like it. I certainly didn’t think I would like it as much as I did. If I had one critique it’s that I don’t think all the plots were tied off as neatly as they could have been, but perhaps we are leaving room for another sequel. Who knows?
My rating: 4/5 stars.
Aurabel publishes on the first of June so there’s still time to order your copy if the fancy takes you!
I received a digital advanced review copy of this book from the publisher (Bonnier Zaffre) in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Fed up with the vapid mermaids as I am? Let’s talk about it! Comment below or tweet me @judithcmoore. Can’t wait to hear from you!