Monday, September 17, 2012

Monstrous Beauty (review)

4/5 stars

When I first started Monstrous Beauty I was practically begging "please don't be just another paranormal romance, please!"  Mermaids are probably my favorite mythical creature andI have long searched for a good mermaid story.  Most mermaid books just don't work for various reasons.

When the book started I was worried.  The book begins in 1872, following the mermaid Syrenka who has fallen in love with a human.  The book gets really dark really quick, setting a tone that lasts throughout the novel. I liked the darkness.  The immediate lovestory worried me.  But the story wasn't actually about Syrenka and Ezra.

What may have seemed like a romance for the first few pages changed.  It fast forwarded to modern times and started following Hester.  The mystery took center stage--inexplicably rancid communion bread, an unsolved triple murder in a church crypt and stories about the church being haunted.  From that point onward I couldn't put the book down.

Monstrous Beauty is a dark creepy paranormal.  There is some romance, but it's more of a secondary plot.  The story focuses on Hester as she unravels the dark secrets in her family's past. Hester's mother died shortly after childbirth, as did her grandmother before and great grandmother before her.   In Hester's mind love and death are interwoven, so she has decided to shut herself down against even the possibility of being in a relationship.

The story jumps between present day in the 1872, revealing Hester's families past piece by piece.  Both timelines are necessary and relevant to understand the mystery.  Pieces of the past are revealed as Hester discovers them so that the reader can began to piece together the puzzle along with her.

The book is well written, allowing you to sympathize with both Hester in the present and Syrenka in the past.  Also, the human "villains" are not simplistic, but complicated characters who's motivations you understand and even sympathize with at times.  I always appreciate when all the characters are believable.  Too often the heroines have understandable motivations, but the villains are just evil for the sake of being evil.  But in this book almost everyone is doing what they think is right.  Good and evil is not completely black and white.

Though there is a love story, which of course is my least favorite aspect, but when everything is revealed it actually makes sense.  It never overwhelms the rest of the story, the mystery to unravelling the past is always the central plot-line and the romance advances the story.  I may not like it but I understand it's purpose.

This is the best mermaid book I've read by far.  What's more, is it's not just good in relation to other mermaid books, but actually a good book.  If you're looking for a paranormal that's more creepy than lovesick then this is the book.

I received an ARC of this book from Southern Book Blogger ARC tours.  If you live in the South and haven't signed up you should!


Allison said...

I am so intrigued by how creepy this book sounds! And I love what you said about it being not just a good mermaid book, but a good book in general. I definitely think I need to read this one.

Amanda said...

"Dark creepy paranormal" is not normally my thing. I don't really like paranormal anything and dark/creepy books kind of freak me out. But I am still so excited for this! I haven't read any mermaid books and I am so relieved to keep hearing it's about more than a paranormal romance. Because I can do mysteries, and one from alternating time periods sounds even better. I'll definitely need to pick this up!