Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Lost Voices by Sarah Porter

Summary (courtesy of GoodReads):   What happens to the girls nobody sees—the ones who are ignored, mistreated, hidden away? The girls nobody hears when they cry for help?  Fourteen-year-old Luce is one of those lost girls. After her father vanishes in a storm at sea, she is stuck in a grim, gray Alaskan fishing village with her alcoholic uncle. When her uncle crosses an unspeakable line, Luce reaches the depths of despair. Abandoned on the cliffs near her home, she expects to die when she tumbles to the icy, churning waves below. Instead, she undergoes an astonishing transformation and becomes a mermaid.
A tribe of mermaids finds Luce and welcomes her in—all of them, like her, lost girls who surrendered their humanity in the darkest moments of their lives. The mermaids are beautiful, free, and ageless, and Luce is thrilled with her new life until she discovers the catch: they feel an uncontrollable desire to drown seafarers, using their enchanted voices to lure ships into the rocks.
Luce’s own talent at singing captures the attention of the tribe’s queen, the fierce and elegant Catarina, and Luce soon finds herself pressured to join in committing mass murder. Luce’s struggle to retain her inner humanity puts her at odds with her friends; even worse, Catarina seems to regard Luce as a potential rival. But the appearance of a devious new mermaid brings a real threat to Catarina’s leadership and endangers the very existence of the tribe. Can Luce find the courage to challenge the newcomer, even at the risk of becoming rejected and alone once again?  Lost Voices is a captivating and wildly original tale about finding a voice, the healing power of friendship, and the strength it takes to forgive.

And here's what I thought:   This is the second mermaid story that I have read in the past few weeks, and the two books couldn't be more different (which is cool).   Beautifully written, this story gives us a different perspective on what life as a mermaid could be like.  As you can see from the summary, Luce has been left with her uncle, who isn't nice at the best of times, and a worse person when he drinks (and he drinks a lot).  After a horrifying confrontation with him, Luce flees to the sea, falling off a cliff and into the water.  Rather than drowning, she transforms into a mermaid, and soon encounters a sinking ship, and a group of other mermaids.   While she definitely enjoys being able to swim so deftly, and be in the company of the other mermaids, it soon becomes clear to her that her new life isn't going to be an easy one.

The relationship between Luce and the mermaid queen, Caterina, is an odd one, veering between friendly and unfriendly in a wave of a tail (ok... couldn't help it!).   Caterina doesn't always seem like the most stable of minds (perhaps because she's been a mermaid so long), and frankly, at times, I got tired of her and found her annoying.   Actually, I found a few of the other mermaids to be annoying, too --- apparently, transforming into a mermaid doesn't mean you automatically have a sparkling disposition.   At times, the rivalry between Luce and some of the mermaids was a bit wearing -- I wanted less talking, more action.

There were parts of the story that I thought were extremely creative and cool.  For example, girls who become mermaids undergo the transformation when something awful happens in their lives, usually some type of abuse.  That's a new idea that I haven't come across before.   In this story, there are only mermaids (no boys, no men), but there are also larvae, babies and small children who have made a transformation to mermaid, but because they are so young, have limited abilities (speech, swimming, etc).   These larvae are kind of disturbing (let's face it -- calling them larvae is a bit off-putting).  The attitude of Caterina and the other mermaids towards these creatures is pretty heartless; they make it clear to Luce that there's no point in really even acknowledging the larvae because they attract sharks, and plus, the orcas just eat them up, so why care?   Luce is pretty repelled by this, as well as the mermaids' attitude towards humans.  If you think they dislike the larvae, wait until you read about how they view people --- they are positively venomous towards them.    And, actually, this is something I thought was interesting about this story.  In other mermaid stories that I have read, mermaids are portrayed as being beautiful, sometimes sexy,  and while they might attract sailors, don't seem to have animosity towards them.  In Porter's story, the mermaids have a hatred of humans, deliberately sinking ships and causing people distress.  They are sirens, attracting with their songs, and then wreaking havoc. 

This is the first in a trilogy, so it will be interesting to see where the author takes Luce next. 

First sentences:  "Lucette?  Did you even hear the question?"
Luce had been gazing out the window at the darkened sky sinking over the harbor still dotted with rough floating ice, the mountain walls of shadow-colored spruce and rusty boulders under the greenish-glassy dusk of a coming storm."

Thoughts on the cover:  Beautiful shot of a mermaid diving down, with light filtering through the water.  Perfect for the mermaid theme of the story.  Is this Luce?  I would say no (you'll understand when you read the story), but this could be any of the mermaids in the group.

Note: I received an ARC of this book through Book it Forward ARC tours. 


Casey (The Bookish Type) said...

I'm really intrigued by the abuse aspect of the story. Perhaps that's why the mermaids hate humans so much? Because they've caused them so much pain? This sounds like a really interesting story. Thanks for the great review!

BookQuoter said...

Love that cover. I have to read at least one of these mermaid books. This one sounds good too.

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