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Between the Sea and Sky by Jaclyn Dolamore
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Between the Sea and Sky (edition 2012)

by Jaclyn Dolamore

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Member:leirali
Title:Between the Sea and Sky
Authors:Jaclyn Dolamore
Info:Bloomsbury USA Childrens (2012), Edition: 1, Paperback, 256 pages
Collections:Read, Library Loans
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Tags:young adult, mermaids

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Between the Sea and Sky by Jaclyn Dolamore

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Review courtesy of Dark Faerie Tales

Quick & Dirty: Cute and quick read with fun characters and a sweet romance.

Opening Sentence: It was not every day that a mermaid became a siren, and not every day that Esmerine attended such a party.

The Review:

Esmerine is a mermaid and she has always wanted to be a siren. The siren’s are trained to protect the sea and all its inhabitants from those that would harm them. They are given a magical belt that helps them to harness magic, but they are never to give this belt to a human. If they do their tail will turn to legs and they will never be able to return to the sea. Esmerine’s sister, Dosinia, has been a siren for a few years now and it is finally Esmerine’s turn to join the ranks of the sirens. But right after she finally gets her dream Dosinia runs away to the mainland.

Esmerine’s family is heartbroken and she decides that she will go after her sister and see if there is any way she can bring her home. She enlists the help of childhood friend, Alander. He is a part of the winged race people. When they were children he would visit her often and bring her books to read. They haven’t seen each other in years but Esmerine has many found memories of Alander. As they journey together to find her sister they not only rekindle their friendship but also start to fall in love. But they come from two very different worlds and being together may come at too high a price.

Esmerine is a sweet girl that has a lot to learn. She has lived a very sheltered life and it was interesting to watch her grow as a person throughout the story. I also loved that she really enjoyed to read and learn. In the world she grew up in there were obviously no books but she always loved when Alander would bring her something new to read. She was an easy character to like and I enjoyed being inside her head.

Alander was a very cute guy. At first he seems very distant and cold to Esmerine but as they spend more time together he starts to warm up to her. I actually really enjoyed watching their relationship develop. They had the original connection from when they were kids but they haven’t seen each other in four years so a lot has changed. They form a new bound and eventually they fall in love. I thought that Alander was adorable and he was fun to get to know.

Between the Sea and Sky was a cute, quick read. The beginning started out really slow but once things picked up it got a lot better. There were still a few places where the story lagged slightly, but overall, it flowed fairly well. The romance was well done and I could really feel the connection between the characters. The plot was very predictable and everything felt a little too convenient at times, but I still found it to be an enjoyable book. It was pretty thin so I was able to sit down and read it in one sitting, so it’s one of those books that you don’t have to invest a lot of time into it. Also, the book is not extremely memorable, but if you are looking for a light fun read, I would recommend you give this one a try.

Notable Scene:

He didn’t even recognize her!

She rose to her feet, pushing her hair back behind her ears, waiting for it to dawn on him.

He stepped closer. His eyes filled with sudden shock. Oh, thank the waters!

“Esmerine?” he said, slowly replacing his hat on the back of his head.

“Yes, It’s me.” A flutter rushed from her stomach to her throat. Oh dear oh dear. Alander. He was real. She didn’t know what else to say. She hadn’t realized how different they’d be now. Of course she hadn’t really expected to find a boy, but she also hadn’t realized she’d find a man of Sormesen with a hat to doff and a necktie. His cropped bangs clung to his forehead in the heat. He was taller than her by a good half a fin, where they had once been nearly the same height. He came very close to her, close enough that she smelled the smoke and fire of the human world on his clothes.

FTC Advisory: Bloomsbury provided me with a copy of Between the Sea and Sky. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review. ( )
  DarkFaerieTales | Mar 31, 2014 |
I found Dolamore's debut “Magic Under Glass” to be a charming and creative book that could have benefited from some tighter plotting and characterisation. It certainly sparked my interest for her next book, a standalone mermaid story, especially after Dolamore mentioned how she wrote the book to the scores of Studio Ghibli films (indeed, I noted in my earlier review how her creative worlds would be ideal for Hayao Miyizaki's next film.) While the mermaid craze never quite took off the way that many bloggers and publishers thought it would, there is still a gap in the market for a strong mermaid YA to join the myriad of vampires, werewolves, angels and other assorted creatures of mythology already so well known to readerrs. Unfortunately this book did not meet my excpectations.

I found that many of the same problems I had with Dolamore's previous novel appeared in “Between the Sea and the Sky”. Wonderfully imaginative elements of world-building, including the mermaid-siren hierarchy, the relations between each of the species and the world of the winged creatures, the Fandarsee, were introduced to us but never fully developed. In “Magic Under Glass”, Dolamore introduced the strands of political and cultural complexities that I was desperate to know more about, yet such elements never came to fruition, and the exact same thing happens here. While there were moments of vivid descriptive scenes throughout her consistently strong prose, I never felt fully immersed in the world-building. To be honest, much of it felt very underdeveloped. I have a feeling this book may be marketed to a younger, more middle-grade audience. The prose and story-telling feels more suited to pre-teen readers, although it's very readable for all ages. I did find that the frequent dumping of exposition began to grate extremely quickly, especially since this is such a short book with very little action and a highly predictable plot.

I did not find Esmerine to be as interesting or well developed as Nimira in “Magic Under Glass.” The idea of the young beautiful mermaid dissatisfied with her lot in life and yearning for more on the surface is nothing new. In fact, it's a staple of the great mermaid tales going back as far as Hans Christian Andersen, maybe even further. I can understand the harking back to influential tales but so little is developed from that point onwards that it can't help but feel stagnant and unsatisfying. This applies to pretty much every supporting character in the book, although nobody is ever really given any real time to shine or become more three-dimensional. Of course, this doesn't bode well for the romantic element, which felt too heavily reliant on the childhood friends trope to explain Esmerine and Alandare's relationship. One part of the book that really left me scratching my head was the depiction of humans. While mermaids and the Fandarsee are granted some variety of characterisation, pretty much every human is seen as selfish, rude or extremely ignorant of other species aside from themselves. They seem to view all others as a side-show novelty. I could understand this possibly for one or two characters from more isolated parts of the country, but these interactions and knowledge of other creatures are well known, so it didn't make much sense to have every human act like a fool when in the presence of a mermaid (whom they are especially susceptible to falling under their charms) or Fandarsee.

While “Between the Sea and the Sky” possesses much of the charm and imagination of Dolamore's debut work, the same flaws are also still present and overwhelm the positive elements. Wonderfully creative elements and ideas are introduced but left to flounder instead of being given their deserved attention, while the characters and romantic element are pretty stock for the genre for the most part. The readability of its prose and short length make it ideally suited to younger readers, although the book itself is not without merit for readers of all ages. Once again, it's an ideal framework for a Ghibli film, but also hints are Dolamore's possible strengths as a short story writer.

2.5/5. ( )
  Ceilidhann | Sep 20, 2013 |
Thinner worldbuilding and characterization than I expect from Dolamore. Maybe I'm just cranky for some reason, it's totally possible, but this doesn't feel finished. My understanding of why Alander appeals to Esmerine as a partner is intellectual more than emotional; I have no sense whatsoever of Dosia's character; I can't figure out how this world works. I want to love this, I do — Dolamore's summary: "the story of a mermaid and a winged boy who were childhood friends that met again later in life" sounds amazing, but this book does not fulfill the promise of the premise. I'm calling this a sophomore slump and waiting for Magic Under Stone. ( )
  cricketbats | Mar 31, 2013 |
Between the Sea and Sky by Jaclyn Dolamore calls to mind and old proverb: "A bird may love a fish, but where would they build a home together?" Mermaid Esmerine has taken a vow to be a siren, one of the magical protectors of the sea. She looks forward to joining her older sister Dosia in this calling . . . but shortly after Esmerine takes her vow, Dosia disappears. Was she taken captive by humans when she ventured too close to the human world -- or did she join them of her own free will? Esmerine uses her siren magic to effect a painful transformation to a human form. She travels to the seaside town where Dosia was last seen, only to learn that Dosia's new husband has taken her to his home in the mountains. In the town, Esmerine seeks out her old friend Alander, one of the Fandarsee or winged people. Alander has grown up into a stuffy, bookish young man, but his strong sense of duty and his nostalgic fondness for Esmerine leads him to help her in her quest to find, and if necessary, rescue, Dosia. They face dangers along the journey that draw them closer together, and as they realize that their childhood friendship is blossoming into something more, they each must think about the challenges and hardships that a relationship between them would have to overcome.

There are relatively few mermaid books on the young adult market (compared to, say, vampires, werewolves, zombies, angels, elves, dragons, or ghosts), and even fewer that are well-written. This is one of those rare mermaid stories that strikes the right balance. Part of the success of the book, in my opinion, is due to the setting -- a world like ours, but not quite ours. I also love the Fandarsee, who are much more fascinating than the merfolk to me.

My only real issue with the book is how casually Esmerine takes her vow to be a siren -- it's almost set up as a made-to-be-broken sort of promise (sirens are generally fascinated with the human world, and there seems to be a high rate of attrition as they abandon the under-sea world for human husbands), and I felt all the way through that both Esmerine and Dosia seemed to take the promises that they had made very lightly. I also thought that the pacing was almost too quick in places. That's a rare complaint for me, especially with fantasy books, but I thought a bit more time could have been taken at the beginning to establish the setting and the relationships between Esmerine and her family. All in all, though, I found this an enjoyable read, and would recommend it to readers who like this sort of light fantasy. ( )
  foggidawn | Feb 28, 2012 |
Evoking the classic fairytale feel of Hans Christian Andersen, Jaclyn Dolamore has woven a beautiful tale about a fish who loved a bird. Esmerine, a mermaid on the cusp of adulthood, anxiously awaits her siren’s initiation. For as long as she can remember, Esmerine and her sister Dosia have dreamed about being sirens together and a life beyond the confines of the sea. However, after Esmerine’s siren ceremony, Dosia goes missing. Esmerine, terrified that her sister has been lured to the human world to an existence of pain and misery, leaves behind sea and family determined to find Dosia and save her. Along the way, Esmerine stumbles upon an old childhood friend, the winged man, Alander. Parted by circumstances beyond their control so many years before, Esmerine and Alander have never forgotten one another, and their friendship begins evolving into something more. Can there be a happily ever after for a love that exists between the sea and sky?

As with her lovely debut, Magic Under Glass, Dolamore has once again demonstrated her incredible ability to craft beautiful fairytale worlds and characters. Mermaids who can transform their fins to legs. A race of winged people who harness the magic of the wind. Humans from exotic lands unknown. Medieval towns, cities on cliffs and craggy rocks where sirens sing to passing ships. A mysterious history,only hinted at, filled with ancient beings, knights and oracles. All these things combine to create a fantastic, dimensional canvas onto which Dolamore paints her story.

Both main characters surprised me as they were somewhat different than what I was expecting, and pleasantly so. Esmerine was not at all what I imagined a siren to be – wild, free-spirited and perhaps a little impetuous or reckless. That description would more accurately be applied to Dosia. Instead Esmerine is cautious, mindful of consequences, responsible, and rather mature for her sixteen years. She adores the world of written stories ever since introduced to books by a much younger Alander who taught her to read. Because of her friendship with Alander, she’s endured the stigma from her fellow Mer of being that “odd” girl who associated with “that winged boy.”

Alander was an interesting male lead. Bookish, serious, intense and straight-laced, he was a unique change from the alpha-male heroes that so often populate young adult romances. With his rigid ideals of the man he should be and bearing the weight of his father’s disapproval, Alander is much different than the boy Esmerine once knew and watching his character develop as his friendship with her rekindles is one of my favorite parts of the story. I also love the descriptions of him and the Fandarsee, the winged people – what they looked like, their society and how their wings worked. It felt like a very creative, original concept.

The romance. It’s probably quite apparent by now that every book I pick up has some kind of romantic storyline. And this book is no exception. I just adore the concept of two totally different creatures falling in love with each other. Not only does their love face opposition by outside forces but because of what they are, it’s also completely impractical. But when is passion or love ever practical? It’s this wide gulf that separates them from being together – the crucial problem you don’t know if they’ll be able to find a way past – that drove this story for me.

While I loved the characters, the world and the romance of Between the Sea and Sky, at times the story fell just a little bit flat. At times it felt more like a middle grade novel than young adult, but it could be that this book is supposed to fall somewhere in between. At times the story seemed a bit rushed with not enough detail and depth for my liking, but then other times it felt like the pacing was really slow. I also had some issues with the conclusion that I’m not going to share here, for obvious reasons. But despite these detractors, I really enjoyed Esmerine and Alander’s story and being immersed in their world.

Overall, In Between the Sea and Sky, Dolamore has created an enchanting, beautiful fairytale about the things that would separate and the love that binds. ( )
  danisnell | Feb 3, 2012 |
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Esmerine, a mermaid, grows close to her childhood playmate Alander, a winged man, when they join forces to find her sister Dosia, who has reportedly eloped with a human despite the sisters' vow to always keep the sea and its people first in their hearts.… (more)

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