The island of Twillengyle is a place where everyone knows everyone’s business, where the men are hardy fisherman and almost everyone has lost someone at some time to the beautiful and deadly sirens who haunt the beach. When one of Moira’s young violin students is found dead on the beach, the sirens are immediately blamed and the ban on killing them seems like it might be lifted. But Moira saw the body and knows that death looks suspiciously unlike a siren attack.
To prove this and hopefully save the sirens, Moira needs help. But the only man who can help her is Jude, the young lighthouse keeper whose own family were taken by the sirens, and from whom Moira is keeping a terrible secret. Intrigue, murder, family secrets and magic all come together as the two investigate and their lives collide.
This is Kelly Powells debut novel, and she draws strongly on her knowledge of maritime history and folklore. There’s something really evocative about the way that she crafts the lives and lifestyles of the people on the island and the stories around the sirens. The book feels a bit like a sea shanty, and I love that she’s captured that tone so well.
The book is a bit fantasy, a bit murder mystery and a bit romance, and Powell handles these threads really well. All the characters feel well delineated and individual, which pulls you into their lives nicely. The romance developes evenly and isn’t rushed or forced and the plot isn’t driven by dramatic, foolish gestures traps that a lot of YA stories fall into. Moira narrates the story, and I did feel that while her voice gives us insight into her, her grumpy behavior towards others would probably be confusing and one note to the other characters. It’s not something that spoils the story at all, just something that struck me while reading it. She is one moody teenager. I quite liked her.
While I loved the way that magic and everyday fishing village life met here, I think the reason if worked so well was the incredible way that Powell has of creating texture in her story world. I could really feel slippery cobblestones, well worn thick knit sweaters, the smell of salt on the wind or the bread that Moira’s mother bakes. I could see the still faces of people worn down by storms and salt sea winds and long endured greif. I really loved it and ate this novel up.
I do wish that Powell had explained more about Moira’s father and Judes family, becuase this isn’t fully explored and not all the questions are answered. I’m not sure if it’s so that a second book can be written or whether it just reflects that life is mysterious. It’s not a major problem, but I did feel myself wondering where those threads lead.
Either way, there have been a few YA sea stories lately, the Wicked Deep springs to mind, and I think if you liked those you’ll really like this too. I think this book, more than many others, captures the tone and magic of maritime folklore and really brings it to life.
Read It If: you love old fisherman stories of magical creatures of the deep. It’s rimed with salt and beauty, where romance and murder are neatly knotted together like a fishing net.
Thank you Simon & Schuster Canada for sending me the ARC of this book for review. All opinions are my own and honest.
Keep an eye out for the release of this book with its beautiful cover art on November 5th 2019.