Merry Wanderer of the Night  + [YA]

Review: The Mermaid's Mirror by L. K. Madigan

The Mermaid's Mirror by L. K. Madigan is the story of Lena, a 16 year old who feels the call of the sea. She been through a lot of changes in the last year or so, changes that come from growing up. Her best friend, Kai, has grown into something more, and she's trying to navigate the boyfriend-girlfriend thing without alienating their other best friend, Pem. She's also desperate to begin surfing, but because of a horrific accident when Lena was young, her father refuses not only to return to the water himself, but also refuses to let Lena learn to surf. But the sea is calling to Lena, stronger than ever and she finds herself unable to resist its call.

And then she sees the mermaid. After that, nothing will ever be the same.

Although not a direct retelling of The Little Mermaid, The Mermaid's Mirror definitely contains elements that feel very like a fairy tale and the story moves in much the same rhythm and pattern as a retelling. There are mysteries to uncover, secrets to keep, and unbelievable challenges to face.

Lena is fairly close to her family. Her mother died when she was young and her father remarried when she was nine. This is the mother she remembers and they have a relationship that is closer than many biological families share. She doesn't always understand her father or the decisions he makes, but she loves him and they too are close, although that relationship gets a little strained as she realizes just how many secrets are really being kept. But it is with her half-brother, Cole, that Lena has the strongest relationship. About ten years younger than Lena, he worships her in that special way reserved only for young children. And she is a wonderful older sister, doing what she can to make sure Cole always feels loved and welcome by her.

Her relationship with her friends was also handled very well. Lena is still a little unsure about what it really means to be Kai's girlfriend and you can tell that he is more into her and their relationship than she is. She cares about him, but you can kind of tell that something is missing. But the three of them, Lena, Kai and Pem are close and it is obvious that they all truly care about one another.

As Lena searches for truths about the mermaid in the water and the mother she never really knew, she begins to unravel the secrets that her father was not ready for her to learn. When she finally gets the full story, she is left with an unimaginably tough choice. She is taken, by the mermaid in the waves, to live beneath the surface, in the village of the merfolk. Wrapped in the enchanted seal cloak, she is able to breath the water and survive in the water. Below the surface, she learns about different kinds of love and her whole world is opened up to new possibilities. Her thoughts of her previous life are murky and seem to drift away almost as soon as she has them. It is eventually that strong connection to her family, specifically Cole that will eventually force her to make a choice between the world she has always known, or the world she is just discovering.

I think that the real strength of Madigan's writing with this story is her characters. They are so complex, so developed and so real that I cannot help but feel drawn to them. I feel Lena's pain and her confusion. The anguish of her father is palpable when he realizes his daughter is lost to him. Although the story was delightful and the writing well crafted and beautiful, it was the characters that truly made this story. They are what carry it, what the story rests its weight upon.

I was thrilled with how much I enjoyed this book. Madigan does not take the easy way out here. She does not give you a pretty package to wrap your story in and make the world perfect. But she does give you a real story, one that is beautifully told and one that will linger with me for a while. I imagine that this is a tale that will make sudden appearances in my mind, reminding me of the enchanting world beneath the waves and the bittersweet relationships all tied together by Lena. It was much different than I had expected, but it is, nonetheless, a story that I truly enjoyed and one I imagine I will be reading again in the future.