Washing Ashore, by Ginna Moran

And here I am, finishing Ginna Moran’s Spark of Life series. Before I start this review, here’s a reminder: Though I’m spoiler-free for the book I’m reviewing, I cannot (and will not) guarantee that for previous parts in a series.

In the first book, Diving Under, narrator Ava Adair was accidentally knocked overboard into the ocean and rescued by hunky merman Carter, but the only way he could save her was to turn into an unexpected mermaid. The book was really cute as she had difficulty keeping her legs at times, with complications arising when she transformed at inopportune times.

In the second book, Treading Water, Ava’s difficulty shifting has been found out by King Attilonius and forces her to remain underwater, ultimately to become his new queen. The stakes were higher due to there being such a formidable antagonist, and the introduction of his daughter Luna as an ally was a nice touch. And then it had an amazing and unexpected final reveal/cliffhanger.

So I wanted to read this final book, Washing Ashore, as soon as possible to find out what that all means. (And as a side note, I must say how much I love the titles of the books in this trilogy. Not only are they nicely connected to motion in water, but they also have parallel grammatical and syntactical structure. I really appreciate that.)

Ava and Carter have found themselves on a hidden island. The King’s rules stipulate that the existence of the merfolk must remain a secret. If any human finds out about them, that human must either become a mermaid and live under the sea (kinda like in Ava’s case) or be killed (kinda like what it appeared would happen to Ava’s friend Giselle toward the end of the last book). Well, apparently there’s a third option: a safe haven created by the long-since-gone Queen Celestina—an island that has a protective spell around it so no one, neither human nor merfolk, can get to the island, but the people on it can’t leave either. And that’s where the first part of the story takes place.

The idea of this setting is extremely clever, and it allows for a surprising reveal of a character long since lost (not spoiling the surprise). It also helps create tension, as some of the inhabitants of this island don’t trust Ava because she’s a mermaid, and it’s because they know about the merfolk that has led to their forced isolation on the island.

Meanwhile, Ava is having bizarre dreams and some spells of sleep-swimming, where she causes the ocean waves to get rough, endangering the island. In the previous book when she confronted King Attilonius, it was shown that she has some magical control over water. The book sets her up as the “chosen one” character to free merfolk from the King’s oppressive rules, even if they seem relatively content with the rules imposed upon them. The stakes get built even higher as a final confrontation looms in the latter part of the book.

For this reason, the book has a very different feel than the other two books of this series. While Diving Under was mostly a lighthearted YA fantasy romance, and Treading Water mostly continues in that vein with the additional conflict of being trapped against her will, Washing Ashore is far more serious in nature. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, as it’s a natural progression in the story and in Ava’s maturing as a mermaid and adult in the face of a patriarchal oppressor, but it took some getting used to.

The way the ultimate confrontation is concluded is definitely satisfying, and I liked where the epilogue implies the characters and world is headed, but I would have liked a little further resolution between Ava and one of her family members. But that’s just a minor issue. I’m glad that this series washed ashore on my radar, and I’m happy to give Washing Ashore FOUR STARS.

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Washing Ashore is available at Amazon.

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