Review: Mermaid's Song (Dark Sea Academy)

One of the books that stood out to me the most from the last free book promotion was Mermaid's Song by Stacy Claflin. I'm a sucker for all things mermaid and princess. After completing Deborah Grace White's Vazula Chronicles, I had high expectations for stories about mermaids and royal academia. The first book in the Dark Sea Academy trilogy did not quite meet those expectations. While the setting of a school for mermaids was similar on a surface, level, Mermaid's Song was very juvenile and didn't present anything new about mermaid lore. At least the covers are stunning.

It can be a challenge to write from the perspective of a teenager and not come off as flighty or immature. Marra, a half-human half-mermaid princess along the lines of Emily Windsnap, looks like a mature young adult in her cover illustrations but sounds like a silly prepubescent child, at least in the context of the first book. All she wants to do is live a normal life as a human on land, flirting with her high school crush during the day and gossiping with her best friend all night long. When her uncle dies suddenly and her obviously evil father becomes the new king of Valora, she is forced to return to her life as a mermaid princess and leave everything she knows behind. She takes the news with all the grace of a spoiled crybaby, arguing with her parents at every chance she gets and making secret plans to live in her best friend's closet. Ultimately, she has no choice but to give in.

The mermaid school was disappointing. This book has very little worldbuilding compared to other mermaid books I've read and treats the merfolk like humans who happen to have tails with no explanation about how the mechanics of the world could work the same in the sea as they do on land. For instance, the dormitories have bathrooms that are referenced as places where the mermaids "shower and pee," even though that doesn't make much sense underwater without additional explanation. The mermaids dress in normal human shirts and dresses, forgoing pants. I know the fashions were similar in Deep Blue, but it seems more practical to wear seashells underwater instead of fabric, which would cling to their skin in the water as though it isn't even there. What's even more confusing is that one top Marra wore was described as "fuzzy." I'm not sure how it's possible for fabric to be fuzzy underwater.

Marra's new life has its ups and downs. She gets a nice room, is reunited with her childhood best friend, and finds a new crush in her school guide. However, she also makes an instant enemy whose intent to kill her is blatantly clear as she blames Marra for the king's death even though she knows it was Marra's father, and not Marra herself, who may have been linked to it. The mean girls are so direct in their actions that it was all the more perplexing that the headmistress decided not to punish them at all when she learned about it. The most interesting thing in the book is when Marra uses a magic trident that turns her hair pink and learns that she is part of some sort of ancient prophecy that is likely expanded upon in the rest of the series.

After completing Mermaid's Song, I had little interest in reading the rest of Dark Sea Academy, especially when Deborah Grace White's Vazula Chronicles provided a similar setting with much stronger worldbuilding. Marra came off as too childish to relate to, despite her beautiful character design on the cover of the book. The story is dark but never goes too far, so I think it would be a good option for younger children who are looking for something edgier than other mainstream mermaid books.


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