Forbidden Tides, by Kyla Stan

I love a good mermaid book, and when I got the opportunity to read an advance copy of Kyla Stan’s new book, Forbidden Tides, I took it. I had already read her YA werewolf novel, Poet Tongue, and some of the aspects of that book I enjoyed were its vivid descriptions of the natural setting and its strong message of conservation of nature. Oh yeah, and that book had a good plot and theme about finding one’s sense of belonging within a community. I wondered if she’d transport some of those themes into an underwater realm, and I’m happy to say that I wasn’t disappointed.

The story starts with a prologue occurring when main character Astrid Murphy was only a few years old. While at a beach celebration with her parents, a figure appears from the water and beckons to Astrid. Yes, it telegraphs a good chunk of the upcoming story, but it’s so well-written that I don’t mind knowing that early that Astrid is part Sirenia (Stan’s species name for the mermaids in this story)—after all, it is mentioned in the book description.

Jump ahead to Astrid when she’s eighteen years old and dismayed by her father’s coarse attitude and disgusted with his occupation. He has a lucrative business fishing for Sirenia; apparently, they’re a culinary delicacy. Though I agree with the message against hunting endangered species, and though I’m no vegan, I can understand the message of seeking healthier and/or more humane alternatives than eating meat. However, the eating of Sirenia can be interpreted as borderline cannibalism since they have human-like upper halves. Fortunately, this is only a side detail briefly mentioned and never shown.

The majority of the story deals with Astrid coming to terms with her true heritage, a Sirenia male named Zander tasked with finding his dying king’s heir, and the interconnected history between the two stories and Astrid’s parents on land. I’m not going to spoil the details, but some of them are easily spotted and others are hidden well. There are some fun fish-out-of-water moments as Zander comes to land looking for Astrid. And there are some tense interactions between Astrid and her father. For the most part, the story is solid.

My only issues with the story are that I think it rushed to its conclusion and some elements needed for that conclusion seem to come out of nowhere—without saying much, I’m talking about Astrid adapting to her role among the Sirenia and Zander’s fate near the ending. The novel reads at a relatively quick pace, so it wouldn’t be hard to plant a few necessary seeds for the ending to flow better earlier or to slow down some events at the ending. Also, the epilogue is a fantastic idea concerning Astrid’s younger brother, but it would be more meaningful if he had had a greater role earlier in the story. But I guess when the criticism is that you want more, it’s a lot better than wanting there to be less.

Because what’s there is good. Like her previous novel, Kyla does a great job describing the wonder of nature. And her mermaid world is different from some others I’ve read, so that’s a welcome touch. For its interesting characters, strong imagery, and some clearly thought-out themes, you should dive into Forbidden Tides, which I give FOUR STARS.

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Forbidden Tides is available at Amazon.

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