Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Merrow - a review

Merrow by Ananda Braxton-Smith
Candlewick Press, 2016

Everything turns into a story the moment it's done. The facts of things do not store well.  They rot and fall apart. But the stories we tell last and even grow.
 The Marrey family has long lived on a remote cove on a remote island in a Northern Sea.  Twelve-year-old Neen Marrey has lived there all her life with her sour Auntie Ushag whose appetite for hard work and subsistence living leaves no room for the distant townsfolk's talk of the Others and the Otherwise.  Besides, most of the talk centers on the Marreys anyway, especially since Neen's father drowned and her mam disappeared.  Townsfolk say her mother was a merrow and returned to the sea. Even the Marreys only friends, Ma Slevin and her blind son, Scully, gifted with the Othersight, are filled with stories of the kraken, merrows, water horses, and the like.  And what of Neen herself - afflicted with the Scales?  Could her mother's merrow blood be running in her veins?

     "All right?" asked Scully.
     "I suppose so," I said.  I wanted to be by myself.  "Thank you."
     I couldn't sleep that night.  The sun going down made no difference.  For a long while, there wasn't enough air to breathe.  The weird blood swarmed in my chest, and I longed for morning.  Not only that, the story stuck to every part of me: to my body with its scales, my mind with its waves and silver flashes, and my soul with its homesickness.
     Scully Slevin is a true seer, and a honey-tongue with it.  He has a word hoard bigger than any wrecker's haul, and he sees things nobody else does. That needs no proof.  You only have to see him and hear him to know what he says is true.
     Proof is for those with no eyes or ears in their heads.

Merrow is a coming-of-age story steeped in old world folklore and swimming in the atmosphere of a bygone time when Old Irish legends still held purchase in the hearts and minds of the island's people. The lines between truth and legend, dreams and reality, Catholicism and Celtic ways, are be blurred in this haunting, wistful story.  Whether it is fanciful or realistic is for the reader to decide.

 First published in Australia in 2010, as part of the Secrets of Carrick series, Merrow is coming to the U.S. this fall.

(Advance Reader Copy provided by the publisher at my request)

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