Keeping Merminia, by Emm Cole

This past spring, I read the book Merminia, by Emm Cole and gave it four stars. The book was definitely well-written with lush language and vivid imagery, and the mermaid princess heroine Selinne was a delightful main character, but a war among mermaid factions in a Game of Thrones style wasn’t so much a plot for me. Still, the book is about mermaids, and I had the sequel also on my Kindle, so I thought I’d give it a read.

Since this is a review of a sequel, I can’t guarantee it will be spoiler-free for part one, but I’ll do my best to keep it so for part two.

Keeping Merminia is a very different book. There’s an underlying bleakness to it, as the two factions—the Merminians and the Litiants—are in the middle of the war started at the end of the first book. Selinne, the reluctant leader of the Merminians after the death of her father and brother, is searching for Adessia’s ring which will give her the power to end the war. Meanwhile, Ulric, the leader of the Litiants after the death of his bloodthirsty father, possesses the ring and wants control not only of the seas but also of the land of Dencur.

Thus, a majority of the story takes place on land—something I didn’t expect. Selinne ventures toward Dencur, accompanied by Aramis, the since-childhood friend of her deceased brother, and Gabriel, the Litiant who protected her in the first book and now is a mer without a faction. A love triangle develops, but it’s handled subtly without drawing much focus from the main plot. I won’t spoil it by revealing who—if either—she ends up with, but I wasn’t disappointed in the least, and the one(s) not with her in the end is given an appropriate resolution.

Another surprise was the narration. Where the first book is written in a third-person omniscient narrator, the sequel is written in first-person points of view, alternating chapter by chapter (for the most part) between Selinne and Ulric. It was an excellent choice, and author Emm Cole uses it effectively. The two leaders are on opposite sides, but the structure shows their differences and similarities, as both of their lives are upturned by the war between them. There are casualties and obstacles in both of their journeys, and both are war-weary.

There are some fun new characters introduced in the book, particularly a young human boy named Walter who travels with Selinne. His inclusion provided an intriguing counterpoint to the action. He’s heard the war stories and wants to be in one, yet he also represented hope of the future—a future that Selinne and company want to protect for everyone whether they have fins or legs.

Like in her first book, Cole excels at world building. I found this part much easier to keep track of characters on the opposing sides, mostly because of the alternating narration. The climactic big battle scene is vivid and gripping, and there were some surprising developments about Selinne’s lineage that I liked. The underlying theme of war and its effect on both sides is strong, and beautifully summed up in one of my favorite lines from the book:

“I miss it, the way the ocean washes it all away. Here the blood stains everything it touches. It makes it so hard to forget—to forget what I’ve done.”

Even though Ulric has the upper hand, he realizes that he can’t simply wash away the actions he has committed. Selinne has a similar realization, and the alternating narration juxtaposes those thoughts quite nicely. They say that neither side wins a war; there are just different degrees of losing. The book shows that theme very well without it coming across as preachy.

The story has a solid resolution, and all the major characters experience believable personal growth. The alternating narration works very well for the most part, though I thought it was a little slow in the middle. If you enjoyed Merminia, you’ll enjoy this. Keeping Merminia is a keeper at FOUR STARS.

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Keeping Merminia is available at Amazon.

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