Kade Finley, of the Scottish Isles, was raised on legends of the sea. His Gaffer, Toran Finley said, that beneath Muireall’s wind-swept cliffs, deep under the waves, there lived a legend as old as the Highlands themselves. Of Manannán Mac Lir, the sea god, and his beautiful sea maidens, the maighdean mhara, who swam the tides, luring sailors to their deaths.
But they’re not just legend.
Kade saw one on his ninth birthday. On that day, a fierce storm swallowed half the island, and his da, Aidan Finley, was never seen again.
It’s been nine years since Da disappeared, and Gaffer is dying.
Desperate to save him, Kade decides to capture a maighdean mhara, of whom the stories say will grant one wish if caught. But Admiral Gilbert Owen, commander of the island’s WWII naval base, complicates things. In his quest for power, the Admiral has enraged the maidens, making it dangerous to be human in maighdean mhara infested waters.
When an author creates something out of pure fiction, it has to be written with authority. The characters have to be believable. Most of all, any preconceptions one might have had about the story have to be discarded right from the outset.
The Sirens of Falkeld is the debut novel of Julie Tuovi, but you wouldn't know it from the writing. Here is a story that has rather incredible world building. The author really has a talent for describing literally everything in the book. The titular Sirens, of course, are nothing like the Disney mermaids. It's a risk to describe them as Miss Tuovi has done in her story, but the payoff is wonderful because the main Siren, Cora, is no airhead waif. She's actually something to be respected, and yes - something to be feared.
The style of the book is interesting given its shifting perspective, chapter to chapter. Our hero, Kade, is threatened with death more times than seems fair by the shifty, arrogant and pompous Admiral near the start of the story. Kade's perspective is quite formulaic so we can relate to him easily. Initially, he is not an overly complex character. But as the story advanced and he interacts with Cora, we get a glimpse of the man in this youngish-boy.
Cora seems too advanced, too wily, too clever and yes - too dangerous for Kade to interact with her.
But inbetween these wonderful character developments, we really are swept along by the author's engrossing story. Not once did I think 'this is a fluffy story about mermaids.'
"It's the very best kind of story, a wonderful mix of myth and legend that will pull you down to the depths of the sea and demand that you read it to the very end."
However, I did find the book a challenging read at times. The first third of the book takes a little while to find its 'sea legs', but once it does, it rewards readers with action, danger, romance and thrills.
This could be said of many a debut author's story, so it is no slight on the author, who has created an incredibly detailed and believable world. I like the authentic use of the Scottish language, it's well done and never grates.
One thing I really loved and rounded off the book just perfectly was the author's notes. I know, some of you will skip that part but I urge you to read it. The author is honest in her influences for her story, which I could see early on in the book. Thankfully The Sirens of Falkeld grows into its own very deep rewarding story.
It's the very best kind of story, a wonderful mix of myth and legend that will pull you down to the depths of the sea and demand that you read it to the very end.