I do not typically find myself captivated by mermaid fiction. I love folklore, mythology, science fiction, urban fantasy, and horror, and have given most of the mermaid reboots a shot. Each novel left me disappointed, however, either in characterization, depth, writing prowess, or story itself.
Sarah Porter’s “Lost Voices” trilogy has none of these flaws, and is, in my opinion, the best new Young Adult series to be published in the last five years. The only contender I can immediately think of is Lauren Destefano’s “Chemical Garden” trilogy, and even then I think “Lost Voices” has the scale tilted slightly in its favor.
“Waking Storms” opens with Dorian, the boy Luce could not bring herself to kill at the end of “Lost Voices.” Dorian lost his family in the shipwreck Luce’s tribe brought about. He is depressed; he is terrified that he is insane (he did see mermaids sinking their cruise ship, after all); he is furious at the creature he believes killed his parents and sister, and on top of all of this, he is horribly sickened with himself for being attracted to the mermaid despite this. He now lives on the Alaskan coast with two distant family members who do not particularly care for him. He is very alone.
Unable to tolerate this any longer, he runs to the beach on a bitter night, yelling for the creature–the mermaid–to face him.
Luce, for her part, has had Dorian on her mind, as well. Not that he’s the only thing on her mind. At the end of “Lost Voices”, (book 1) she and her friend Catarina left their mermaid tribe. Catarina, once queen, was violently ousted by the sociopathic new mermaid, Anais. By the time “Waking Storms” opens, Catarina has abandoned Luce, swimming off early one morning with no explanation or farewell.
Despite her crushing loneliness, Luce can’t bring herself to beg mercy from Anais and return to her tribe. She hates Anais; she is appalled and sickened that the other mermaids follow Anais so willingly; and Luce herself is wracked with guilt over the mermaids’ proclivity to destroy humans. Every mermaid has a beautiful, unearthly voice that literally drives mankind to destroy itself when they hear it. All mermaids were once human themselves, but turned to the sea as a result of horrendous abuse. Thus, most mermaids not only kill humans when they can, but love to do it. (Don’t the abusive monsters deserve it, after all they’ve done to these girls and countless others through the centuries?)
Luce, who herself became a mermaid as a result of attempted rape and a vicious beating, still can’t bring herself to continue killing people. She and her friend Catarina deserted their old tribe for many reasons, not least because Anais wanted to kill both Luce and Catarina. But Luce also dreams of beginning a new tribe, a tribe that will use their incredible song to build rather than kill.
Luce, swimming alone one night, is stunned to hear Dorian’s voice: he is singing, in his poor human imitation, her own mermaid song. It is the song she used to destroy his ship months ago. Stunned, she swims to the shore to see what is happening–and meets Dorian.
Much to Dorian’s surprise, they bond quickly, their attachment eventually blossoming into a relationship. As their relationship develops, however, it becomes is just as well that Luce abandoned the tribe; as both she and Dorian learn, Anais has been killing people and sinking ships in such a frenzy that the government is aware that something is wrong. Worse, the FBI itself is aware that the continuous loss of life is likely not of natural origin.
“Waking Storms” is gorgeously written, with amazingly deep characters that tug at the heartstrings. It is unusually dark for a young adult release, but not overwhelmingly so. The take on the mermaid myth is different, refreshing, and painful. The quandaries and moral dilemmas faced by Dorian, Luce, and other characters are genuinely distressing. While there are clear answers to most of these dilemmas (though not all), the solutions are never simple, never easy, and bear worse consequences for the people who make those right decisions than the selfish choices would. The relationship between Luce and Dorian is wonderful, yet stressful and ultimately heartbreaking while carrying on a bright beam of hope–just like everything else in the novel.
This is not an easy book, it is a gorgeous one, and highly recommended. I’m already counting down to the release of the third novel.
**Because a) so many people are asking; b) it isn’t like a huge spoiler or anything and c) I love spoilers, here you are: CATARINA DID NOT KILL LUCE’S FATHER. Seriously, think about it. Can you imagine a writer as talented as Sarah Porter taking such an easy and maudlin out? I didn’t think so.