Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Monstrous Beauty

by Elizabeth Fama
Read: September 5-6, 2012
Published: September 4th 2012 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Source: Purchase
Category: YA - Paranormal Romance 

Fierce, seductive mermaid Syrenka falls in love with Ezra, a young naturalist. When she abandons her life underwater for a chance at happiness on land, she is unaware that this decision comes with horrific and deadly consequences.

Almost one hundred forty years later, seventeen-year-old Hester meets a mysterious stranger named Ezra and feels overwhelmingly, inexplicably drawn to him. For generations, love has resulted in death for the women in her family. Is it an undiagnosed genetic defect . . . or a curse? With Ezra’s help, Hester investigates her family’s strange, sad history. The answers she seeks are waiting in the graveyard, the crypt, and at the bottom of the ocean—but powerful forces will do anything to keep her from uncovering her connection to Syrenka and to the tragedy of so long ago. 

Is loneliness a worthy price to pay for life?
In twenty-first century Plymouth, Hester has sworn off love because of a mysterious family history of mothers dying young.

Is any cost too great for love?
Syrenka knows that love and loss are intertwined, but still she’s drawn to the blue-eyed scientist who meets her every evening at dusk. 

What would you be willing to sacrifice for those you love?
In nineteenth century Plymouth, Ezra Doyle gave up his education at Harvard to care for his dying father. After his father passes, Ezra is sketching on a rocky outcropping when he meets a beautiful woman – who has a long tail and lives in the sea. 

What would you give up for the freedom to love?
Monstrous Beauty is mysterious, romantic, heart breaking and hopeful. It’s characters face graveyards, sea monsters, ghosts, curses and even tourists. Their choices have devastating generational affects. But in the end it is hope that shines through.  

Beautifully written and amazingly well crafted, I love the way Elizabeth Fama's words fill the page and her story weaves together. Although I generally dislike parallel story-lines where characters live in different time periods - I get bored of one, or it breaks up the flow of each individual story - this tale blends itself together seamlessly. After I finished the novel and was able to look back at it as a whole, I was even more blown away at how the two stories combined to form a full narrative. 

The entirety of Monstrous Beauty is set in Plymouth, Mass., and the location felt alive to me – the sand and the sea and the salt and the wind. The town and the graveyard and the museums - I could visualize it all. Although the story takes place in two different time periods, the fact that the setting doesn't change, gave the book a grounding point for me as a reader.

On a basic level Monstrous Beauty is a mermaid book written for a young adult audience. But it is so much more than that. It is darker and moodier than many mermaid stories that I've read. Those elements along with a rich, multi-layerd plot-line will appeal to a variety of ages and interests. For me, one of the most moving parts of the book happens when Hester weeps for the mothers and daughters that have come before her. I am both of those things, and I could feel her sorrow. As a lover of history, I was fascinated by Hester's discovery of tangible clues from the past, and the way that they brought her closer to the nineteenth-century characters in the book. If neither of these things interest you, I guarantee you will find something in these pages that does. 

Love Triangle Factor: It's Complicated. (Basically, it's better to read this story not knowing the answer to that question. Even so, if you want more of an explanation, keep reading. If you don't want to know anything, STOP READING NOW.) There is not a love triangle in Monstrous Beauty, although it may feel like it when you're in the middle of the story. There are supernatural forces at work, and that's all I'm going to say about it. 

Rating: 5 stars

Read about my trip to the Monstrous Beauty Book Tour Launch in Plymouth, Mass., HERE. 
I met the author and learned fascinating details about the story.


  1. Yes to everything! I love this book so much and the cover is so pretty! I liked the older cover just fine but the more I look at this one, the more I love it. Especially since Elizabeth Fama loves it so much.

    Complex plot, right? I loved it. So much more than mermaids.

    1. Yes. I think the cover is beautiful. It definitely captures the mood of the book. Even though Syrenka is supposed to have light hair.

      Yes very complex story and one of those that you see so much MORE once you're done with it and can view the story arch as a whole. However, I also had a really hard time reviewing this book because I didn't want to give away too much, so I think I ended up saying nothing at all.

  2. So, I am NOT a lover of mermaid books. Which is why I initially had no interest in Monstrous Beauty. But after reading your and Asheley's reviews and that fantastic author guest post on Ash's blog I now REALLY want to read this book. I *think* that maybe I can guess at some of the plot twists but I could be way off. Regardless, I'm going to have to check it out soon.

    Fave line in your review:

    "It’s characters face graveyards, sea monsters, ghosts, curses and even tourists."

    Even tourists!? That IS scary ;)

    And I definitely prefer the new cover to the old:)

    1. Yes. I think you would like this - if you can handle the mermaid angle. It has a lovely literary quality (Wendy D liked it too!), and is definitely dark and moody at times.

      HA. Thanks. Yes, I know all about tourists, living next to Salem = witch central. I used to work there too.

      YES this cover is gorgeous.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...