• Book Review: 'The Mermaid Stair' by Maggie Secara


    Maggie Secara's fantasy The Mermaid Stair, the third standalone book in the Harper Errant series, fuses elements of fairy tale, urban fantasy, historical fantasy, and time-travel to tell a unique story set in 1593 and 2013. The fae folk of England's rivers, lakes, and streams are disappearing, and it's up to Ben Harper and Raven in their quest to track down and stop the "bitter man bent on their destruction". For more background info, check out the interview with Secara.

    And that notorious man is Silence Carew, a river-hating half-fae who seeks for The Mermaid Stair, but what exactly is it? The king of Faerie best describes it:

    It is a playground for the Atami, as I think you can tell. Their refuge from the mortal world. When springs dry up, or a river is paved over or polluted beyond help, this is where their nymphs come to bide the time until they find a new home, or the world changes
    There's something Huckleberry Finn-esque about the protagonist, Ben Harper. The first part of the book (which is about a 100-pages long) takes us to an adventurous path where Harper and Raven travel across treacherous waters. Secara's poetic prose and tantalizing imagery paint picturesque vistas that remind me of the gorgeous view of Rivendell from Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. The descriptions of nature are magnificent, often personified to create a vivacious atmosphere. But the visuals of colorful tranquility aren't the only stimuli that make The Mermaid Stair a wonder, but also its music; the rhythm of Secara's writings flow poetically, setting its Shakesperean and Elizabethean tones and carry the narrative with music. Even the fragments of poetry, songs, and quotes charm.

    The main conflict of chasing down Silence Carew doesn't trigger until the second act; whereas the first part's narrative feels less plot-structured, more exploration and wandering, this middle point is when the chase excites. The investigation of the villain becomes more intriguing as the adventurers unravel the truths of magic and the world of Fae. Themes of beauty, trust, compassion, and change revolve the story. And Issa's backstory involving charms and heartbreaks are surprisingly moving. Here's an inspiring quote:

    They would have told her that a hard heart saves a man from heartbreak, and from compassion too, but not from anger, fear, or resentment; or the fire; or the knife. Or from a world that tells him he has no soul
    If you love poetic tales about faeries and mermaids and charms, you'd most-likely find The Mermaid Stair an enchantment worth reading.
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