This week’s review is of A Song of Sea and Shore by Katherine Macdonald. This is another Twitter find (nobody’s surprised at this point…). As always, this is my honest opinion and I did not receive any compensation for doing this review.
About the Author
Katherine Macdonald is a UK author and English teacher who lives in Kent with her toddler child and two cats. Personally, I find the cats’ names quite amusing: Admiral Roe and Captain Haddock.
I have had the distinct pleasure of many pleasant interactions with Macdonald on Twitter. You can find her here. The #MarchOftheWhumps she and author L. V. Russell hosted was an absolute blast to participate in.
A Song of Sea and Shore is available in Kindle eBook and Paperback from Amazon.com. It is enrolled in Kindle Unlimited, so you can read it for free with a subscription. Other wise the eBook is $3.99 and the paperback is $11.99 USD. This is what I paid for them.
The paperback comes in at 288 pages of story (there’s a few more pages of afterward, author bio, etc). The book is in English, and I’m not aware of any plans for audio or translation at this time.
This is one of my least favorite covers among Macdonald’s fairytale retellings. I’m not a big fan of the multicolored text or the kind of spotty lens flare thing the image has going on. Unlike many (I would say most) of Macdonald’s covers, this one actually feels indie. Putting it side by side with the glory of The Rose and the Thorn is almost unfair. It does however do the job and did not detract from my desire to read the book.
3 teaspoons for exterior design.
The interior design is really nice. There’s some whimsy without feeling chintzy. The decorative font on the chapter headings for the print edition is charming, and I really enjoy the cute little seashell details used on the title page and around the quote from Hans Christian Andersen’s original story. I did not notice any major formatting issues with the print book nor the eBook edition.
5 teaspoons for interior design.
This brings the average for design to 4 teaspoons.
Okay, so this is a fairytale retelling. That by default means it has to work even harder than your average fantasy book at having a killer premise to counterbalance the fact that it’s basically a remake. In my opinion, A Song of Sea and Shore does not disappoint in this regard.
Here’s my summary of the premise: A conflict is brewing between the merpeople and the humans. From the Sea Queen’s perspective, the humans have been flaunting their treaty with her. From the humans’ perspective… well, mermaids are just a myth, right? Desperate, Neri makes a dangerous deal so she can go to land and convince the humans to honor the treaty before her vengeful mother wipes their kingdom from the earth.
Macdonald seriously amps up the stakes compared to the original Little Mermaid tale. Instead of one mermaid’s heart and soul, Macdonald puts an entire kingdom at risk of obliteration. With this being marketed as a slow-burn romance you know you’re most likely going to get that HEA*, but Macdonald makes you sweat for it with these stakes.
The main couple of this love story are Neri and Kai. Neri is the daughter of the Sea Queen Maris, while Kai is the prince of a human kingdom. The two of them met when they were young, and Neri has carried a bit of a torch for the prince ever since. It’s too bad he doesn’t remember her for much of the book.
I found Neri to be brave and determined. Being in her head during the 1st person sections was not as onerous as some 1st person books I’ve read. I’m a talker and a writer, so I can only imagine how frustrating it would be to loose the ability to communicate effectively, even if only temporarily. I really felt for Neri through the whole story.
Kai is a thoughtful and endearing prince. Having said that, of all the characters in the story, he probably made the least impact on me. Writing this review weeks after having read the book, I’m struggling to recall anything about him that stood out.
There is a side couple as well, Hans and Greta. Hans is one of Kai’s friends and valets. Greta is the librarian, who happen to be deaf. It is Greta and her sister Hella who teach Neri how to communicate with everyone around her without her voice. Greta also is the source of some sass, giving poor Hans a hard time in his courting. They were a very enjoyable side-thread.
I think Maris and the “Sea Witch” deserve a mention here, too. Their history together is heartbreaking, although I won’t go into it because I don’t want to give any spoilers. Although she is in some way the antagonist for much of the story, Maris is truly a loving (and terrifying) mother. I would have actually liked more of Maris in the story.
All in all, I give the book 4 teaspoons for characters.
Really there was just enough worldbuilding to feel like there was a world. It wasn’t a blank room. Much of the worldbuilding was related to the mermaids or was otherwise more of a vibe. It got the job done.
There’s a bit of a rollercoaster to this plot, with plenty of surprises I did not see coming. It’s well paced and keeps you engaged. I made the mistake of reading a few pages, and next thing I knew this book was jumping its place in line with the TBR** pile.
The plot definitely lived up to the promises of the premise and certainly gave a new spin on the story while still paying homage to the original Andersen tale.
I might as well have been a water fountain for at least the second half of the book. Macdonald’s writing is poetic, and can hit you right in the feels. If you don’t like being weepy even after you put the damn book down, you might want to avoid. However, if you like ugly crying through your lunch break and going back to work with a red nose, please proceed.
One of the things I’m not a usually a fan of is books that are largely 1st Person POV that intermingle chapters of 3rd Person POV. A Song of Sea and Shore does this quite a bit, but it didn’t bug me too much. The scenes with other POV characters added a lot to the story, and given that Neri has literally no voice for much of the book being directly in her head was somewhat necessary.
I don’t recall any massive editing mistakes. I do recall thinking a few word choices were odd, but nothing that majorly distracts or takes away from the book.
I really waffled on whether or not to give this section 5 teaspoons. The overall style, voice and poetry of Macdonald’s work is amazing, and I know the whole 1st/3rd mixed POV thing isn’t a turn off for a lot of readers. In the end, I decided to give it 5 teaspoons and let go of my own bias.
A Song of Sea and Shore left me wanting to dive into more of Macdonald’s fairytale retellings. However, I think I’ll need at least a week between them to recover from the emotional rollercoasters. An excellent book, and well worth the read.
Final score is 4 teaspoons.
**TBR – To Be Read
* HEA – Happily Ever After