Oh boy. I’m sorry, I tried really hard to find something to like about this book, but I couldn’t.
Before I began reading, I had no idea how the author was going to pull this book off. Until now my experience of mermaids in fiction has been limited to Hans Christian Andersen (the real Little Mermaid, not the Disney monstrosity with the singing fish!), and while I think the theme works well in folklore and fairytales, I can’t say the same thing for a contemporary paranormal book. Or, at least not with this contemporary paranormal book.
MaryJanice Davidson’s writing can be funny. Her first few Queen Betsy Undead books were light, fluffy, entertaining reads. But I need more after a while, some progression, and this mermaid series is a step back instead of forward. Fred the Mermaid is simply Betsy on steroids, with the characters acting about as mature as the average eight year old. I wanted more from this book than hyperactive characters yelling at each other, and I wanted better world-building than what I was given (which was basically nothing). Davidson thrives on characters and dialogue, and while in this book they’re not my style, that’s something. But it can’t be your whole book – a complete work of fiction also needs a plot and some atmosphere, and there was none of that here. I finished Sleeping with the Fishes feeling as though I’d just spent a few hours in a room full of shrieking thirteen year olds. I’ve been thirteen once, and I didn’t appreciate revisiting that maturity level!
Fredrika Bimm is just too ‘cute’. She regularly uses words such as ‘yucky’ and she shrieks a lot. Then she contradicts the stereotype with endless cursing. She has blue hair (though the characters argue whether or not it’s green), insists on being called ‘Fred’, and she drove me crazy with how self-absorbed and ‘different’ she is and how proud she is of it. She was trying far too hard, and I didn’t like her at all.
The secondary characters ranged from irritating (Madison, the cheerleading, dolphin-loving bimbo stereotype), to clichéd (Jonas, the possibly gay best friend), to the downright weird (Prince Artur the merman who is Fred’s love interest, and who has cherry-coloured eyes and pointy teeth).
The whole mermaid concept is basically not explained at all. I can’t decide if that’s better or worse than having the transformation into fish-form described in great detail. What I do know is that saying something along the lines of, “She jumped into the water and grew a tail” isn’t anywhere near enough explanation to be satisfying world-building for me.
In there somewhere is mystery involving illegal dumping in the harbour, but it takes a definite backseat to the antics of the screaming, yelling, swearing cast of crazy characters, and appeared only to be there as an afterthought. Perhaps if the characters had been toned down and the plot given some decent page time, this would have been a better book.
MaryJanice Davidson was onto a good thing with her Undead vampire series, but that series is petering out as the concept is recycled again and again. There’s not enough growth with ideas, and essentially Sleeping with the Fishes is just Betsy as a mermaid. I need some fresher concepts, and I need more than a string of one-liners to keep me entertained.
I did not enjoy this book, and was constantly infuriated by the immature, selfish and just plain weird characters. The plot is thin and may as well not be there, and I could not find any way to identify with the protagonist. If you want to read a book by MaryJanice Davidson, try her earlier Undead books, and give this series a miss.
BOOKS IN SERIES ORDER
- Sleeping with the Fishes
- Fishing without a Net
- Fish Out of Water
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