MERMAID MOON, by Susann Cokal, Candlewick, March 3, 2020, Hardcover, $22.99 (young adult)
Susann Cokal’s Mermaid Moon goes beyond your typical mermaid tale.
At the center of Mermaid Moon is Sanna, a mermaid. But Sanna is different than all the other mermaids — she’s only half seavish. Sanna was born of a landish woman. On the night of Sanna’s birth, a sea-witch cast a spell that made Sanna’s people, and everyone else involved, forget how and where she was born.
But Sanna has always known she’s different. Her tail is shorter. She can’t swim as fast. She’s an outsider in her matriarchal society. At 16, Sanna decides it’s time to get answers. She apprentices herself to the witch in exchange for information and to learn the magic of making and unmaking.
Tasked with a quest from the witch and hopeful of finding her long-lost mother, Sanna transforms her tail into legs and follows clues to the Thirty-Seven Dark Islands. Once on land, Sanna quickly realizes learning to transform was the easy part of her mission.
Mermaid Moon takes place over the course of less than a week, but at nearly 500 pages, it’s not a quick read. Author Susann Cokal’s prose is rich and full-bodied, requiring some thoughtful reading:
“The tide of red washes through the flowers of the ancient vine that has suckled on the courtyard stone as long as anyone can remember. The flowers, too, have never changed memory, but everyone who see them now somehow knows that they will always be red hereafter.”
Short chapters allow for contemplation and move the story forward faster than one would expect.
Sanna is a beautiful character, but I initially struggled with her. It wasn’t until I was about 100 pages in before I really got a sense of who she is. Even so, she continues to develop over the course of the book, making her a much more complex being than she first appears.
Mermaid Moon is a thoughtful and layered novel that blends fairy tale, medieval times and modern themes seamlessly. However, due to the pacing and dreamy nature of the novel, I suggest reading an excerpt or checking it out from the library prior to purchasing.
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