Friday, October 12, 2012

Book Review: Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama

Hester Goodwin knows she can never fall in love.  With her family haunted by a mysterious curse that has doomed generations of the women in her Plymouth family to death shortly after the birth of their first child, Hester's own mother included, she is fiercely resolved to never risk her own death, or leave behind a motherless daughter like herself, by playing it safe and just staying single.  Not even best friend and boy-next-door Peter is an option - he just can't be.  Instead, Hester spends her time working at the Plimoth Plantation as a historical interpretor and hanging out with Peter and her little (half) brother Sam.

Until she meets Ezra.

Ducking into a cave on the beach to escape a party, Hester is astonished to find there is someone else hiding there too.  A boy with old-fashioned manners, speech, and clothing, Hester is immediately drawn to Ezra.  As the days pass, she finds herself unable to think of anything or anyone but the boy in the beach cave, her longing to be there with him quenched only when the tides submerge the cave.  Suddenly, her resolve to steer clear of love is gone, and when Ezra offers to help Hester solve the mystery of her family's curse, Hester eagerly begins digging into her past, revealing a dark history of death and love.

Almost 150 years earlier, Ezra Doyle, a quiet young scholar recently returned to Plymouth from Harvard to care for his dying father, is making marine observations at sunset when he catches a glimpse of a beatiful, pale woman deep in the water below the rocks where he is sitting.  Fascinated with marine lore and legends, Ezra is thrilled to discover that sea folk are not merely old sailors' legends, but an ancient secret held in the depths of the ocean.  The more time he spends with the lovely Syrenka, the more he loves her, and she him.  Deeply in love, Syrenka will do anything to stay with Ezra - even if it means giving up her immortality to walk on land with her beloved.

Ezra and Syrenka's star-crossed love affair sets in motion a series of events that lead to a chilling multiple murder, leaving Syrenka's descendents cursed with sacrifice and death.  Only when one of them has the strength of heart and will to break the curse will the cycle be broken.  But before Hester can be that girl, she must first unravel a century-old mystery and conquer her own fear of death - and love.

Elizabeth Fama's mermaids are gruesome, gorgeous, and eerie, with razor sharp teeth, fins that slice through water and skin like knives, and strange light cat eyes.  With the wild, rocky coast of New England, the mossy gravestones of colonial Burial Hill cemetary, and stone church crypts dating back to the Plymouth colony adding to the atmosphere of doomed love, obsession and inevitable death, this is one spooky tale of deadly secrets that lurk in deep waters.  If you loved the vicious mermaids in the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movie, you won't want to miss Monstrous Beauty @the library!

(who will be reading what promises to be the delicious Burn for Burn by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian this weekend!)

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