Between the Land and the Sea book coverAfter spending much of her life following her father and his work to developing countries, Marina is unhappy when he decides that his latest destination will be too dangerous, instead arranging for her to spend the year with her aunt and cousin in a seaside town. Although attending school for the first time is daunting, Marina quickly begins to enjoy life with her cousin, Cruz, his best friend, Megan – and, of course, Ethan, the hottest guy in town. But there is something in the past that Marina doesn’t know about, a birth right that has something to do with the ocean… and the creatures that live in it.

Between The Land And The Sea is the perfect book for YA readers who enjoy paranormal fiction but are getting a little sick of vampires, shifters, demons and angels. There have been a few books published recently that focus on mermaids, but the market is nowhere near the kind of saturation-point that has been reached in hot-vampire circles. Mermaids have always appealed to me because they combine the Disney innocence of The Little Mermaid with the power and fear of the ancient Sirens, and Derrolyn Anderson has done a great job of combining both of those popular images in this first instalment of the Marina’s Tales series.

Although Between The Land And The Sea involves a lot of scene-setting and character-introducing and is, by no means, all action from start to finish, Anderson’s pacing is such that the reader is nonetheless tugged from one chapter to the next. Just as Marina is enticed towards the sea, so the reader is drawn into the book through a combination of likeable characters and the mystery of Marina’s experiences. Anderson is a master of the slow reveal, feeding information to her audience at just the right pace to hold the reader’s interest.

Marina is a likeable protagonist, even if she is probably a little too perfect for most readers to be able to identify with. I think that her travel-heavy upbringing was an inspired character choice on the part of the author, because it gives her the self-awareness and adaptability necessary to swiftly incorporate each new revelation about the mermaids and her connection to them into her world view.

Ethan is just as likeable as the sexy surfer who Marina falls for at first sight. Although his looks make him the most popular boy in school, his appeal is not a shallow one, as he is depicted as being hard-working, ambitious, down-to-earth and caring as well. By the end of the book, a few of my questions about Ethan remained unanswered, but I am sure we will learn more about him later in the series.

I also enjoyed Cruz and, in particular, the fact that Anderson allows him to be a talented fashion designer without feeling the need to make him stereotypically camp – or even to make an issue of his sexuality (one way or the other) at all. Indeed, I think that gender is dealt with very well in Between The Land And The Sea, whether in terms of Cruz’s interest in fashion and manner of dressing or the representation of the mermaids as both protectors and physically powerful beings.

My only real issue with the novel was the fact that a lot of the main characters were a little too-good-to-be-true, meaning that I found it difficult to identify with any of them. Marina is beautiful, smart, talented and spoilt rotten by her honorary aunt. Cruz is an exceptionally talented designer, while Megan’s abilities lie in the field of music. Even Ethan is fantastically good looking and a talented surfer. (And as for Marina’s father and the prize he wins in the latter half of the book…) In some ways, the mermaids feel more realistic than the humans! But I know these things come down to personal taste and, while I might prefer my characters to be a little more ordinary, I know there are a lot of readers out there who enjoy the fantasy of characters who go beyond the lives that most of us will live.

Between The Land And The Sea is an enjoyable and entertaining novel with an exciting plot and a strong sense of location that leaves the reader feeling as though they’ll need to brush sand off their clothes once they’re done. I shall definitely be checking out more of Derrolyn Anderson’s work.

(I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.)