Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama

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. 
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? With Ezra’s help, Hester investigates her family’s strange, sad history. The answers she seeks are waiting in the graveyard, the crypt, and at the bottom of the ocean—but powerful forces will do anything to keep her from uncovering her connection to Syrenka and to the tragedy of so long ago.
I was pleasantly surprised by Monstrous Beauty. It was dark and it also harkens back to the mythology of mermaids while still inventing some of it's own. In this one there are alternating POV in terms of the past with Syrenka and the present with Hester. At first, this was a bit off-putting, but quickly resolves itself into sharing bits of the story as we need it.

The mystery that surrounds Hester is also not fully revealed at once, but slowly shown to us as we get to know both her and Syrenka of the past. I enjoyed this as it allowed the story to preserve some of the tension. Syrenka is also a character I really enjoyed. Even though I would have liked to know her much more intimately, I think the distance also made sense. She wasn't human and so had a different way of looking at things. It was her struggle to love and be loved that made her character stand out to me. Hester, I also enjoyed, but admit to liking a bit less when quick decisions make you question the quality of her character. However, these moments were few so it didn't end up bugging me that much.

I give this mer-tale (get it?) 4 stars. I really enjoyed a story that harkened back to the mythology of old. One where the main themes are of loneliness, love/death, sacrifice, and mystery.
I received this ARC from Farrar Straus Giroux and no compensation for my review was given.
Bloggy PS:
I would also like to say something about the cover. The cover I first saw was:
I loved it and it makes sense in the book. However they changed it and I don't know why! I think this one was perfect and the current one... quite frankly doesn't fit the story as well. *sigh*
This book is to be published tomorrow!


  1. Oh I need to read more books about mermaids! Really I think it's always awesome, I'll have to check this one out.

  2. Oh your mer-stories! :) I love that they are making a splash in the literary world!

  3. I do like the original cover better as well. It is more intriguing and I'd be more likely to pick it up.

    I haven't read many books involving mermaid mythology. I love that this books sounds darker than your typical mermaid book.

  4. I really liked the original cover too Melissa! It had that darker quality to it that I thought fit the book, the new cover is pretty, but it's all bright and colorful when the book definitely is not. I really liked how the past and present came together in this book as well, I thought it was brilliantly done. I could have done without a couple scenes (like the lung-eating) though. *shudders*

  5. I liked the first cover much better as well. I wonder what made them change it. You liked this one better than me. I thought the beginning was kind of shaky and I never liked Hester until the very end. The strong emotions she felt in the beginning and her reactions to them just seemed so implausible to me. Her intense anger was one I really didn't get.
    But I will agree, definitely dark and the body part eating, YUCKO!


    1. @Jenny and Heather... the organ eating was an old myth for mermaids to emulate humans. Yum... :P

  6. I did wonder since I saw that other cover around first and loved it, while this is frankly just boring

  7. Really curious about this one. All the other mermaid stories seem to have a certain "Little Mermaid" quality to them, you know? I like how this one harks back to the original tale and then invents its own mythology. This one is on my tbr pile!

  8. First I love the new blog header! Probably my fav! Second I agree about the covers, I like the first one. I have this for review and now I am more enthisiastic about it since I am reading great reviews and I like the historical setting. I must admit, though, I am burned out on mermaid books!

  9. Oh this sounds like a great mermaid tale. Thank you!

  10. Mermaids are swimming all over the YA book scene nowadays. I haven't been tempted yet, but something about this synopsis makes me want to dive in the genre. Maybe I should watch Splash first :)

  11. Awesome review! I love that this book is different that other mermaid story. Nice review!

    P.S. I love your new header!!

  12. Nice review, glad you enjoyed it.

  13. I tried a couple of mermaid books this past year and wasn't impressed ( I don't think I finished either one) but this one does sound tempting.


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