Review: Of Seafoam and Saltwater

MerMay is still in full swing! For my second mermaid book this month, I decided to check out Of Seafoam & Saltwater by Kay Leyda. This is a "lost princess" archetype story about a seemingly ordinary girl who discovers she's a mermaid and dives into a new world of undersea adventure and intrigue. Although this plot has been done many times before in books such as The Tail of Emily Windsnap, movies like Barbie in a Mermaid Tale, and independent works like Nerissa Sanderson, The Part-Time Mermaid, it's presented differently each time. This book is the author's premiere novel and the first in a series called The Piscea Chronicles. It's easy to see that she intended for it to be a series because there are a ton of characters, kingdoms, and concepts thrown at the reader to the point where the book can be difficult to follow at times.


The first thing that drew me into this book was the beautiful artwork on the cover. I read many indie novels about fairy tales, mermaids, and lost princesses, but I've never seen one with a cover in such a lovely art style. The close-up of the main character with her gentle purple locks flowing in the current, warm brown skin, anime-inspired eyes, and whimsical underwater kingdom backdrop make the book feel like a work of art before even turning to the first page. I wondered if it would read more like a manga due to the art style on the cover, but it is definitely a novel and a fairly lengthy one at that. From the moment Cari's life collides with the ocean, she is thrown into an overwhelming world of culture shock with royal names, traditions, and a life-altering quest to save her family. She dives right into her training without question, ready to reclaim her status as the lost mermaid princess. This is truly the start of a long fantasy epic and is not for those seeking a light mindless read.

Although the worldbuilding gets much stronger after Cari turns into a mermaid, the writing in the first few chapters is some of the weakest in the book. There is very little detail about Cari's life on land, and she isn't turned into a mermaid due to some great catastrophe or because someone came looking for her. Instead, she randomly decides to conquer her fear of the water one day after avoiding it for almost her entire life. After she dives in, her legs merge into a purple tail, and she meets a prince who immediately recognizes her as the lost Princess Emiynn. The other iterations of these types of stories usually include a protagonist who struggles to balance her life on land with her secret undersea escapades. It seems that Cari cares very little about the people who raised her. She makes no effort to return to land or contact them in any way. The moment she learns her true identity, she decides to forgo her other life and immerse herself in this one. There is so much detail about the undersea kingdoms that I wondered if it was even necessary for her to have grown up on land for the story to work.

Though the rest of the book is written well, I had a hard time keeping up with all the characters and settings among the merfolk. It seemed like every other chapter was introducing a new merperson, but there was never enough time to become emotionally attached to any of them. Even Cari, the main character, had few interests or personality traits and only wanted to reclaim the life that was taken from her and find her true family just like every other lost princess. What should have been a straightforward rescue mission was convoluted by side plots, a revolving door of new characters, and endless worldbuilding. The ending was an obvious tease to read the next book, but I did not feel emotionally involved enough with the characters to get excited about it. I think this book would have worked better if it had been told entirely from Cari's perspective, and each merperson that was introduced had been given their own book in The Piscea Chronicles.

Of Seafoam & Saltwater by Kay Leyda is an ambitious start to The Piscea Chronicles, offering a unique take on the 'lost princess' archetype. While the beautiful cover art and vivid worldbuilding are definite strengths, the novel's pacing and character development struggle to keep up. With a vast cast of characters and intricate underwater kingdoms, the story feels overwhelming at times, making it difficult to become emotionally invested in Cari's journey. Despite its potential, the book's weaknesses in writing and character development hold it back from being a truly engaging read. However, fans of epic fantasy and mermaid tales may still find it worth exploring, especially if they're willing to commit to the entire series. With refinement and focus, future installments could truly shine.

Comments

Sugar said…
Making the mermaid princess not want to return to the mainland is not that difficult...just give her a horrible family like Harry Potter's or something like that 🤣.
Lisa Dawn said…
That would have created more emotional interest than I felt the book had.
Sugar said…
The title and cover design remind me of the webtoon Strawberry Seafoam.

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