I should begin this review by saying that as Managing Director of IFWG Publishing Australia, I have published Jan M. Goldie (Brave's Journey – young teen fantasy), but I was not compelled in any way to review this book. I was simply handed it for my personal enjoyment. Which I did.
A Mer-Tale is a Young Adult contemporary fantasy novella, skirting closely science fiction. It primarily tells the tale through the POV of Thala, a young mermaid from an ancient mer-family, facing many personal and collective challenges, including the extinction of her race at the hands of an aquatic, alien race. I'll leave most of the spoilers now – it is worth a read.
I enjoyed A Mer-Tale and am impressed with strong world-building and character development in a relatively short work. At the same time, I feel that the story could have been longer, and there are a few places that are hurried – being a young adult story (as opposed to a young teen tale – middle grade), I think the audience would have appreciated delving a little deeper into the world, the cultures depicted, and most importantly, the characters and their interrelationships. Having said this, this is not a deal breaker – as I have already stated, Goldie has achieved much in a small space, which is no mean feat.
Thala's character is the most developed, which isn't surprising as it is her POV that dominates the story and given its first-person mode, allows the reader to easily slide into her thoughts. She is, above all else, and even beyond her prodigious burgeoning powers, a girl of determination and courage. This is, in my view, the theme that runs through the novella – the power of love and determination. Interestingly, there is a somewhat parallel thread running through the secondary narrative – that of Shiv, the uber-evolved alien (and which I think may have needed more expansion).
An outstanding dimension of Goldie's work is her scene-setting, bolstered by her strong imagination. Mermaid and Selkie tales abound in genre literature and Goldie has been able to knit such a tale with a fresh spin, most notably the concept of an alien/Earth conflict, with almost insurmountable differences, occurring beneath the ocean waves, and with humanity oblivious to it. On the surface this plot-line could appear ridiculous, far from the reach of suspended disbelief, but not in this particular case. It is strong and believable world-building.
I would recommend this one-night read to any lover of mermaid tales or imaginative young adult fiction. Four out of five stars.