Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Columbus Spies Mermaids!

On January 9th, 1493, Columbus wrote in his log that he saw mermaids. They say what he really saw were manatees, but how do we know that? He said they were "not half as beautiful as they are painted", but really? Manatees? Ah well. Columbus thought they were mermaids. So, here's some YA takes on the half-human, half-fish creatures of the deep.


Fathomless by Jackson Pearce. Finally, a Little Mermaid retelling that's even darker than the original. Lo is a soulless ocean girl who can return to being a human if she can get a mortal to fall in love with her-- and steal his soul.

The Mermaid's Mirror by L. K. Madigan. Lena lives on the coast, but her former-surfer father has forbidden her to learn how. When she turns 16, Lena decides that this is the year she will surf with all her friends. Of course, what (and who) she finds beneath the surface fills in many of the holes in her life and family. Many readers will clamor for a sequel. Sadly, Madigan passed away a few months after this was released.

Between the Sea and Sky by Jaclyn Dolamore. Right before Esmerine is supposed to become a Siren, her older sister disappears out of the ocean. Unsure if Dosinia went by choice or is being held against her will, Esmerine goes after her.

Of Poseidon by Anna Banks. In mermaid (sorry, SYRENA) romances, it's usually a mermaid falling in love with a human boy. But Emma is human (or at least she thought so) and Galen is the Syrena prince. Emma's not a mermaid, but she is can talk to fish and may just be able to save Galen's kingdom. The first in a series, the second one's not out yet. I assume we'll see it in the spring.


Real Mermaids Don't Wear Toe Rings by Helene Boudreau. Jade thought it was rough when she got her first period while bathing suit shopping. But when she dozes off in the bath she took to calm herself down and wakes up with a mermaid's tail? And then when she finds out that her mom didn't drown, but is also part-mermaid and is being held prisoner in the lake? Plus all the normal drama of puberty and boys and changing friendships. The third installment, Real Mermaids Don't Need High Heels comes out next month.

Forgive My Fins by Tera Lynn Childs. When Lily learned she was half-human, she left the royal mer-life behind to try life on land. But, she's still half-mermaid, and mer-people don't date, they bond for life. No simple high school romances for this girl! The first in a series, the second one is Just for Fins.

Lost Voices by Sarah Porter. After a brutal attack, Luce expects to die when she succumbs to the icy waters off the coast of Alaska. Instead, she transforms into a mermaid and finds a group of girls like her-- girls who suffered horribly on land and lost their humanity, becoming mermaids. But humanity is still above them, and they have voices that will lure the sailors to their doom, exacting their revenge. The sequel, Waking Storms is out now.

Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama. In 1872, Syrenka fell in love with a human and left the ocean. Today, Hester works at a historical reenactment site and fears dying in childbirth, like every woman in her family for generations. Syrenka's decision has consequences that linger, and as the stories intertwine, Hester's determined to figure them out.


Mermaid Park by Beth Mayall. Amy is sick of her family and her life. While they vacation with a family friend on the Jersey shore, Amy finds a job against her mother's wishes as one of the mermaids at Mermaid Park. Over the course of the summer, she learns the truth about her family and herself. This is not a paranormal, as the mermaids are regular teens performing for the tourists. But it is a fun excuse to link to this photoessay of the mermaids at Weeki Wachee Park in Florida.

The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan. This is more selkie than mermaid, but when Misskaella gets the seal magic to bring the seal women up, Rollrock Island will never be the same. The effects are devastating to the seal-women and the human women and everyone on the island. Skipping between characters and time, we see effects before evolution. Lanagan is not an easy author and this is not an easy book, but it's a really good one.

Lies Beneath by Anne Greenwood Brown. Calder and his sisters are merfolk living in the icy waters of Lake Superior. In order to survive, they kill at random, feeing off the energy of humans. But, there is one man they target for much more personal reasons, unless Calder falls in love and messes the whole thing up. The sequel, Deep Betrayal comes out in March.

The Vicious Deep by Zoraida Cordova. Tristan is hott (and he knows it) and a lifeguard, but after a rescue mission gone wrong, he wakes up three days later in the hospital. Growing gills. Tristan is heir to the mer-kingdom, but not everyone wants him to assume his right place and they'll stop at nothing to stop him. More action than romance, the second installment The Savage Blue was released last week. 

What are your favorite mermaid stories? They've been gaining popularity the last few years, with a ton coming out in 2012. Are mermaids here to stay?

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  1. I was surprised when I found the Columbus info when I was researching mermaid lore for my own book. It really wasn't too long ago that people *did* believe in mermaids.

    At first I was surprised, but when I thought about it, it made sense. At the time of exploration sailors were bringing back stories about all sorts of fantastical creatures. Cows on legs with necks taller than a house, giants cats with great heads of long hair, tiny animals with hands like people but furry all over with tails...why not mermaids? :)

  2. Also try Mermaid's Mirror, by L.K. Madigan. Houghton Mifflin, 2010.
    (my no-spoiler review:

    Lena is a surfer drawn to dangerous waves, despite her father's surfing accident and her mother's disappearance.

  3. ES Ivy-- At a time when many maps still said "here be monsters" why not mermaids? But, how do we know that what he really saw were Manatees? Of all the sea creatures we assume he meant, Manatees? really? And how does that explain mermaid sightings elsewhere?

    Katy--Yes! I love Madigan! Mermaid's Mirror is on the list!

    1. Well, I have my own theory about why we don't see mermaids any more. :) Miri's mom tells her what *really* happened to mermaids in my MG book Miri Attwater and the Ocean's Secret. (I hope it's not too spammy to mention the name of my book!)

    2. I got to thinking about it and decided just putting that teaser looked too spammy. So anyway, in my book I came up with an alternate history of mermaids.

      Mermaids weren't trying to lure sailors to their death with their singing, they were trying to warn them about where the rocks were. The idiot men :)just often steered *toward* them instead of away. Then when the Europeans started exploring the globe, the mermaids saw that they took over the native people everywhere. Determined to remain independent, they constructed bubble cities at the bottom of the ocean to hide in and gave up on warning sailors about the dangers of the ocean.

      Why did they need bubble cities to hide completely? Because mermaids are mammals, like dolphins or seals, not fish. The first time Miri's legs turned into tails, she learned that the hard way when she tried to breathe under water!

  4. I'm not sure whether it could be called YA - I read it a couple years ago and my sense of the YA/Adult boundary is hazy at the best of times - but Kit Whitfield's In Great Waters may deserve a mention here. It's a historical fantasy that reimagines the time of Henry VIII (I think?) such that Venice enjoys a generations-long (and dynasty-founding) pact with the Deepsmen (merfolk). The Asking the Wrong Questions blog has a thoughtful review with equally thoughtful commentators.

  5. ES Ivy-- if your book fits the theme of the list, I don't think it's spammy to mention it!

    Vortexae-- ooo... mermaids + the Tudors + Venice? Be still my heart. I'll have to check it out!

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