Release Date: September 4th 2012
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Buy It: Book Depository
Fierce, seductive mermaid Syrenka falls in love with Ezra, a young naturalist. When she abandons her life underwater for a chance at happiness on land, she is unaware that this decision comes with horrific and deadly consequences.This was such a weird book, because I managed to absolutely adore it without connecting with the characters at all (except maybe the tiniest bit at the end). I honestly have no idea how that happened, except to say that Fama's enjoyable writing and thrilling plot more than compensated for characters that often felt more like they existed for the story rather than existing, and as a reader I was let in on their story. Somehow, though, that becomes a minor complaint in the scope of what is an incredibly exciting and well-written book.
Almost one hundred forty years later, seventeen-year-old Hester meets a mysterious stranger named Ezra and feels overwhelmingly, inexplicably drawn to him. For generations, love has resulted in death for the women in her family. Is it an undiagnosed genetic defect . . . or a curse?
I really loved how Fama dropped hints throughout Monstrous Beauty, so that as my friend Ambur and I read it together we were constantly speculating about what might happen, or what did happen, or how things would be explained. If you're the kind of reader who pays very close attention to the details, you'll probably see some of the twists coming, but I love that about it– it's not as if events come out of nowhere, Fama lays the groundwork. Even if you are that kind of ultra-observant reader, I'm sure there are still going to be things you don't see coming, because the plot is just incredible.
When it comes down to it, I think that Fama is an incredibly strong story-teller, and the result is that Monstrous Beauty is easy and thrilling to read. By the end I had a little connection to some of the characters, especially Syrenka, but that wasn't what kept me reading: it was the story. It's also a refreshing standalone novel where all the loose ends are tied up; if anything I could have done with a little less tying, especially in the epilogue which felt unnecessary. But I loved the book, so I'm not going to complain.
I loved the underwater world Fama imagined, her monstrous but beautiful mermaids, the way they ate the hearts of men, and the disturbing and violent sea queen. The novel transitions back and forth between two time periods, but they are written in such a distinct way that it wasn't confusing and actually added to the depth and complexity of the story. Despite my disconnect with the characters, I can't help raving about Monstrous Beauty because it's so exciting and fun to read, making it not only an awesome addition to the mermaid genre, but also a great book for anyone looking for riveting mystery with a paranormal twist.
Monstrous Beauty is also available on audiobook from Macmillian Audio. Click here to listen to a clip.