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Deborah Smith: Diary of a Radical Mermaid


Crescent Blues Book Views Belle Books (Trade Paperback), ISBN 0-9673035-7-5

Book: deborah smith, diary of a radical mermaid
Unbeknownst to the Landers, the Mer people do a good job of blending in to above-water society. But the Mers -- not mermaids but a race of more-comfortable-in-the-water-than-out humans -- possess unique talents: psychic communication (via singing), swimming underwater for long periods of time, delicate webs between their toes (to help their swimming) and a bit of glamoury. Mers possess their own social caste system, government and police force.

Juna Lee Poinfax enjoys living as a Southern socialite, spending lots of money and attending lots of parties. But a slur against Donald Trump prompts the Mer Council to assign her some community service, and her great-aunt Lilith makes her bring a Floater (a Mer without toe webbing but with a tremendous love of the sea and generally unaware of his or her Mer genealogy) to make her aware of Mer life. The Floater, renowned children's author M.M. Revere (Molly), refuses and Juna ends up kidnapping the stubborn, crippled woman and her ancient but beloved cat.

Lilith's schemes extend far deeper than just making Molly aware of her roots -- er, fins. A Swimmer (a supposedly mythological and primordial throwback related to Mer) hunts for his three young daughters. Rhymer, a Peacekeeper (Mer policeman) and the girls' uncle, spirits them to Lilith's Georgia enclave to protect them, fearing that the Swimmer, Orion, wants to kill them as he killed their mother. Molly and Rhymer quickly fall in love, and they both do their best to keep the girls safe.

But Juna Lee, banished to a resort in the Caribbean and under guard, winds up kidnapped by Orion as well as the two Mer sent to rescue her. Orion demands a meeting with Rhymer and information regarding the girls' location, but Rhymer refuses to divulge their whereabouts.

Although the second book in a series, Diary of a Radical Mermaid stands alone as a fun tale. The title seems a bit misleading. I expected this to be entirely about Juna Lee, but instead the main plot line turns out to be the Orion/Rhymer/Molly saga. Also, Deborah Smith bounces between three or four characters as narrators speaking in the first person. So each switch, sometimes two or three in a single chapter, jars the reader a bit each time, forcing a "Wait, who's talking now?" reaction. And the manuscript really needed another trip through a copy editor -- typos abound. But the world Smith creates enchants the reader. Or at least, it enchanted me, making me wonder if I'm really a Floater.

Jen Foote

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