Between the Sea and Sky by Jaclyn Dolamore
Release Date: October 25, 2011
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's Books
Source: Caster Girls & Boys
For as long as Esmerine can remember, she has longed to join her older sister, Dosinia, as a siren--the highest calling a mermaid can have. When Dosinia runs away to the mainland, Esmerine is sent to retrieve her. Using magic to transform her tail into legs, she makes her way unsteadily to the capital city. There she comes upon a friend she hasn't seen since childhood--a dashing young man named Alandare, who belongs to a winged race of people. As Esmerine and Alandare band together to search for Dosinia, they rekindle a friendship . . . and ignite the emotions for a love so great, it cannot be bound by sea, land, or air.
I originally came across this book while stalking the web for mermaid books. Books featuring sea creatures (mermaids are a particular trend, although I love any stories about sirens, nymphs, selkies, etc,.) are a favorite of mine to pursue. There's something about the ocean that just calls to me. Maybe it's because I live in Florida, but I've always felt particularly close to the beach and the water. Perhaps it's unavoidable when you only live an hour away.
Also, I secretly hoped that Jaclyn Dolamore would come to Tampa. She lives in Orlando, and apparently visits Tampa for "thrift stores and Ethiopian food". Unfortunately, she's moving up north, so she won't be here much longer. There aren't many authors and bloggers in my part of Florida.
I also felt that this book hasn't had as much spotlight as some others, which is a bummer. For such a great book, not as many people know about it. After reading this, I'm definitely going to read Jaclyn's previous series, which started with Magic Under Glass. This is one of those books that has not received as much buzz, but it deserves to. If you like it, tell the people you know! This book is wonderful for all ages.
Nothing intrigued me more about this book than the fact that it was not a paranormal romance between a human and a mermaid or something like that, but between a mermaid and a winged-man. I don't think that I've encountered a book before that was about two different paranormal creatures that have fallen in love.
Esmerine has always wanted to be a siren. It's been her lifetime aspiration, the one thing that she dreamed about for her younger years, and it's finally happened. Her sister Dosinia is already one, and she can't wait to join her. It's her dream to become one and she's so close that she can't imagine anything else. Few girls are chosen to be sirens, and she is honored to be one of those few, especially since she isn't like the other girls in the ocean. Her childhood marked her as somebody different.
Dosinia was always her rock. She looked up to Dosinia for advice, and looked at her with awe. She wanted to be like Dosinia. And now they are finally going to be together as sirens, working together for the rest of their lives.
When Dosinia tells her that she has done something forbidden, it's all that Esmerine can do not to be horrified with her sister. How could Dosinia have talked to a human? How is it that she thinks that they could be good? Everybody knows the stories...stories of humans stealing away a mermaid and forcing her to live on land as their wives. Humans are dangerous, but Esmerine is caught between telling about what her sister has done or keeping quiet for Dosinia.
When Dosinia disappears, Esmerine's suspicions come to the surface. She is worried that her sister has gone to the mainland. She doesn't know whether Dosinia went willingly or whether she has been captured, but she doesn't know which one would be worse for her to stand.
Esmerine has to give up her dream of being a siren for a while during which time she has decided to go to the mainland. She has to bring Dosinia back. She may not know how she is going to do this, but she could not live with herself if she didn't at least attempt to bring her sister back. Sisters are supposed to stick together.
Her family protests, saying that it's no use if Esmerine is captured to. They are insistent that Dosinia is captured, because why would she willingly go with a human? Esmerine tries to tell herself that she is going for Dosinia, but a secret hope stirs within her. Maybe, just maybe, she might see him again.
When Esmerine was younger, she used to have a friend. Alandare was a winged boy, somebody she confided in and spent all her time with. Merpeople whispered that it was unnatural and strange for her to be walking around with two legs all the time, climbing all over the land with a winged boy and even reading. A mermaid shouldn't be doing those types of things.
When she gets to the mainland, Esmerine goes to a city in the hopes of retrieving Dosinia, but with an even deeper hope of finding love again, in somebody she never thought would be possible.
This touching and entertaining novel about how far someone will go - and what they'll risk - to recapture sisterhood and lost love, Between the Sea and Sky will play with your emotions, and it makes for the perfect beach read.
Esmerine was amusing. She was strange to people, but she didn't really understand what made her different. She had a piercing and clear view of the world because she didn't let prejudice taint it. She didn't understand why she couldn't do things, what she could do, etc,. It was refreshing to say the least, to read about a person so uninfluenced by the negativity around her. She didn't care what people thought of her.
Her yearning to be a siren was something that I could relate to. I know what it's like to want something more than anything, so I could relate to the effects that it had on her. To be a siren was something that few people were chosen for, but she has had this opportunity. For Dosinia to take that opportunity away from her made me a bit mad, because I would be pissed if somebody did that to me.
Esmerine was also willing to go far for what she believed in. She was loyal enough to risk everything for her sister, not even for that. It was for the chance that she might see her sister again, and that her sister might come home with her. That simple action told me more about her than anything else could have, and it made me respect her.
Dosinia wasn't a particular favorite of mine. Like I mentioned above, I got mad at her because she knew that her sister wanted it more than anything to be a siren and she still abandoned her. I thought that her action was reckless and selfish. I understand the need to have flawed characters, but she seemed to blatantly disregard Esmerine's feelings.
Her family had interesting dynamics. There seemed to be a subtle line of etiquette with the mermaids. You could do some things to make you unique (and perhaps stand out, for the chance to become a siren) but you couldn't stray too far from the line. The fear of humans was understandable. The loyalty to one's family and friends contested with that fear of the mainland, so it changed the way that they looked at things. Esmerine's bravery on this front was what made her memorable.
I really loved the world-building. Between the Sea and Sky is one of those novels set in a fantasy world where things are generally accepted. Mermaids were a regular fixture as well as the winged people. It was nice to read it in this format because it made the romance believable and clearly illustrated lines of prejudice.
As Esmerine ventured onto land, we got to see the wonders through her eyes. Not being a part of land yet, she looked on mundane things with awe. It gave us the kind of insight that I had only seen before with Two Moon Princess, which had actually been with our world as we knew it. This was for a different world that was completely fantasy and that you just absorbed.
During part of it, Jaclyn would oh-so-subtly slip in some siren lore and it would have me completely enthralled. I just loved how she made it almost cultural and created traditions around it. I really enjoyed how she wove it into the story, and we constantly compared Esmerine to the "average" siren.
When we first encountered Alandare, he seemed frankly like a bit of a jerk. Before we get to know him, we see him when he is super stressed and surly. I loved him though because he honestly adored Esmerine. I thought it was so sweet. I always love it when in books, childhood friends end up falling for each other.
Alandare and Esmerine's romance was absolutely amazing. At first, it was a friendship. There wasn't any love at first sight or intense "sexytimes" (in the words of Melina from Reading Vacation) but it was a quiet yearning. Their friendship slowly captured their feelings for each other until you could feel it turning into a poignant and enjoyable love.
It was not the "love" of many young adult books, that makes you feel as if there should be an exclamation point tacked onto the end. It was the love of many years of friendship, of understanding of each other's strengths and weaknesses, and that's what makes their love last. It wasn't petty or shallow, and it wasn't the forbidden love frequently exploited. It was sweet, with the nice guy and the girl, and it defined a new kind of "love" in YA. It was almost similar to Lola and Cricket's love in Lola and the Boy Next Door.
Don't get me wrong; I love a bad boy. I just love the nice guy a lot too, because they seem to always be the ones that are there for you no matter what happens. Although Alandare was grumpy at the beginning, he was a nice guy, and their relationship felt more real that way.
The writing was crisp and light. Jaclyn Dolamore has an almost playful voice in this, and she illustrates character and keeps the plot moving almost effortlessly. The descriptions were fantastic; it wasn't too heavy, while still not being the classic "beach read" with no depth. It had depth, but it floated in between the two extremes for the perfect read. It's simply wonderful to read, at any time at any place.
This book feels simply ageless. It has all the fascination and clean romance of a MG book, while still capturing a YA feel. It was a happy medium between the two that will captivate teens and preteens while satisfying parents. It feels like one of those books that everybody reads and enjoys, such as Harry Potter and The Hunger Games and such, while still being softer. It is an excellent book for a tween looking to start reading YA books, but seeking a cleaner read and not willing to give up MG yet. It's one of those in-between books for everything.
If you're afraid of high fantasy and prefer to stick to "urban fantasy", I suggest that if you're looking to bridge a gap that you try this book out because it doesn't plunge you into an intense high-fantasy world, but it does have excellent world building that makes you feel like you are in another world. Evocative and charming, her world building skills will astonish you. A part of this book that made it excellent WAS that it was "softer".
It was a quicker read because of its length, but the nature of the book made you want to linger. From the slow love to the journey that Esmerine makes, it will make you want to live in its pages. It can go either way depending on the reader, but this book was a great length for this story.
Enjoyable and quaint, Between the Sea and Sky captures all the yearning and quiet simplicity of love, the bonds of sisterhood, and the lengths that one girl will go to get her life together. Whether you're looking for a quicker read or a longer one, the tone and length working together will leave you satisfied. World-building fantasy and a magnificent journey will leave you captivated, and Jaclyn Dolamore's writing keeps you in love with it. This book comes highly recommended to anybody considering themselves a "mermaid" fan.
Recommended for anybody who loves: Graceling; Ingo; Waves; Splash (movie); Aquamarine; Lola and the Boy Next Door; Two Moon Princess; etc,.
Possible book club questions:
Do you agree with Dosinia's decision? Why or why not?How do the sailor's wives and the mermaids both believe that the other is in the wrong?Why would Dosinia and Esmerine's family refuse to believe that Dosinia went of her own free will?How can something you do in your childhood mark you as you grow older?What inspirations might Jaclyn have drawn upon for her world-building and mer lore?How did Alandare and Esmerine's love evolve from friendship? At what point in the book do you think that the transition occured?