If you've ever watched The Deadliest Catch on the Discovery Channel, then you have an inkling of just how dangerous crab fishing in Alaska can be. The crab fishing season out of the small town of Soldotna is just part of the setting of Drowning Mermaids by Nadia Scrieva.
The dangers of the sea are more than the usual in this first book of Ms. Scrieva's new Sacred Breath series. Those dangers also include predatory and dangerous mer-people. In Ms. Scrieva's paranormal version of events, the Bermuda Triangle disappearance are merely collateral damage of some age-old clan warfare under the sea.
The first person to drown in Drowning Mermaids isn't a mermaid. The man was a crewmember on Captain Trevain Murphy's Fishin' Magician. But Leo was the first man that Trevain has lost in all his years as captain, and he doesn't understand what went wrong. There was no storm, and Leo was a greenhorn, but not that green. The boy wasn't drunk or over-tired. He just seems to have fallen overboard for no good reason.
The crew are drowning their sorrows, at the local strip joint when Trevain's world takes a turn from the morose into the fantastic. A dancer steps onto the rickety stage, not to do the usual bump-and-grind, but to perform 14 minutes of mind-altering, heart stopping ballet. She does still strip at the end. It's required. And she is unquestionably beautiful. And seems unbearably young to the fifty-plus Trevain. But her dancing is what speaks to his sorrow and confusion.
His brother, the ne'er-do-well Callder, notices that Trevain and the dancer, Aazuria, steal glances throughout the evening once her dance is over. He clumsily arranges for them to talk. Aazuria seems an old soul in a very young face. Trevain is the only person she wants to talk to.
Because Aazuria is not the girl she appears to be. Far from it. She is the Princess of Adlivun, one of the undersea kingdoms, and has lived most of her life in the waters under the Arctic. She is also over 600 years old. Trevain is the only person who talks to her as an intelligent person and not as just a beautiful body.
Not that he's not interested in that too, but he's gentleman enough to believe that since she can't possibly be interested in him, he doesn't want to look like an old fool chasing after a young girl. He's happy with the intelligent conversation.
Trevain is generous and kind to Aazuria, expecting nothing in return except friendship. He has no idea who she is, or what she is.
What he doesn't know is that her people are at war, and that she is on land for her safety. And that her war is about to crash into his coast, sweeping his life into the rocks. If he can manage to give up every single one of his preconceived notions about himself and the world, he can have his heart's desire.
Or he can be alone and bitter for the rest of his life.
Escape Rating C+: I'm a sucker for stories set in Alaska, after living there for three years. Some parts of the setting were familiar. The whole thing about people coming to Alaska for the very high wages, and then getting stuck because the prices are equally high, that rings so true. And the place gets in your blood. If you can make the adjustment to the dark in the winter.
About the story. On the one hand, I kept turning pages, because I really wanted to see how the author made it all work out. There are not a lot of mermaid paranormal romance stories in general, and usually they use the siren theme. This one didn't, and I was glad of that. It's always good to see someone take a different road. Or sea lane, in this case.
I liked that Trevain and Aazuria did a twist on the older woman/younger man theme, since they are but aren't. But they also unfortunately hit the insta-love, or at least the insta-connection thing a bit too hard. Trevain invites someone he sees as a girl working in a strip joint to move in with him, along with all her sisters, during their first meeting. Even in small-town Alaska, that's just not likely.
On that third invisible hand there's a family sub-plot involving Trevain's mother that is heart-breaking. And it's a twist you don't quite see coming.
Originally published at Reading Reality.