Book Review: Between the Sea and Sky


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  • Reading level: Ages 12 and up
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens (October 25, 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 1599904349
  • ISBN-13: 978-1599904344


Between the Sea and Sky by Jaclyn Dolamore takes Little Mermaid and spins it to whole new heights –literally.

Esmerine is a mermaid, well actually a siren; just like her older sister Dosinia. Receiving her belt should have been one of the best things that could happen to her, but she is still uneasy. Not only are her and her sister the first in her family to be chosen to be sirens, but she also has a history of being the mermaid who was friends with that winged boy. She also has a fondness for books, which don’t do too well underwater. Then Dosinia goes missing and there are rumors from Land that she has been spirited away to the mountains by her new human husband.

Convinced that Dosinia was tricked into giving up her belt, a keeper of siren magic, to her new husband and thus trapped forever as a two-legger; Esmerine decides to investigate by journeying above the waves and onto Land. Mermaids don’t do too well on Land, not even sirens with all their magic. Their feet feel unbearable pain which means they can barely walk. When a mermaid gives up her belt to a human, the pain goes away. Esmerine has no intention of giving up her belt.

Stranded in the middle of town with aching feet, she is surprised to discover that Alandare, the winged friend from her childhood, is working at a bookstore in town. Alandare agrees to help Esmerine find her sister, but their friendship has changed. It is both more and less at the same time, with neither one wanting the other to give up who and what they are. Is there any in-between for a girl of the sea and a man of the air?

What I loved best about the book was that Esmerine wasn’t just a mermaid, she was a siren. Also while Alandare had wings, they are more like those of a bat and not the angelic feathers that most winged people are described as having. It kept things interesting. Esmerine’s love of books had me thinking more of Belle than Ariel, which meant instant “like”. There were also allusion to other legends, history, and tropes. Stealing a siren’s belt for example, mirrored the tales of fishermen stealing the skins of their selkie brides to keep them on land. Alandare was a bit of a radical in his love of enlightenment era-ish pamphlets on philosophy. So this book was a delightful mix of traditional tale and more.

Dolamore does what she does best, taking a traditional tale and rethinking it. This story has been ten years in the making as it began with the seeds of a thought, “what if?”. Dolamore went back to the good parts of that story to create Between the Sea and Sky. You will be hooked right until the very end wondering if the two will work out their differences.

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