More like a 3.5! i thought the mythology and characters were fun and it picked up steam as it went along.
This book is why we need more #ownvoices reviewers and for publishing houses to prioritize giving ARCs to ownvoices readers.
While I enjoyed reading this book, the nuances of intersectionality between being a Black girl and this fantasy landscape would have been lost on me without reading own-voices reviews.
All that to say, I cannot speak to the experience of reading this as a Black woman (I am White). I am hesitant to even share my thoughts because I know I will have missed some of the nuances of this book. So, what I will say is this, if a book that explores coming into your own, finding your voice, a relationship between sisters and how this intersects with being Black in a White city AND with a unique mythos in the background sound interesting, you will enjoy this. I did.
Another point I wanted to address is what expectations to have going into this book. I have heard this described as a tale about mermaids. This is not true. Also, you are thrown into the world and a lot of the book is figuring out how this world works, while getting to know these sisters. It took several chapters to get a handle of what is going on, but after that, it flowed. One more thing is that (to me) this felt more of a character-driven novel. While there were definitely things that happened and moved the plot, they were not always expounded upon and the focus was always more on the sisters and it's effect on them.
Thank you to Macmillan and Netgalley for this digital advanced readers copy.
I think I set myself up for failure with this book. I thought I was going to be about black mermaids and to a certain point it is. Just not the way I was expecting. I can still appreciate how relevant and heavy the topics of discussion were, especially for people of color. But if I were to look at this as a fantasy book the rating would not be good. You were thrown into this world were magical creatures exist but that’s about it. I was lost most of the time and couldn’t discern the “voices” of the two characters until I was far long. I’m going to wait to get a physical copy of this and try it again.
At less than 300 pages, this felt incredibly long to read and I think that was because the story is trying to tackle a lot of themes, which made the pacing quite stagnant at times. I felt like the world-building (or lack of) really let me down.
I was expecting this epic fantasy with mermaids and that's not what this book delivers. Magic lives amongst the real world - which is fine - but there's almost no background information provided. There's all of these mythical beings elokos, sprites, gargoyles (Ah, Gargy. You'll be missed) that are totally left up to the reader to make up their own understanding of. The elokos in particular, were a rather large part of the story (secondary to sirens) and it was never really explained what they were?
What I did get from A Song Below Water was a story with an incredible sisterhood bond, strong social commentary on racism, police brutality and social injustice, and basically an amazing feminist read with our two black sisters finding their voices in a marginalised community.
“Black and female and a siren is just layers upon layers of trauma. Tav’s so good at breaking it down, but she rarely does unless it’s just her and me.
One time I said she’s too young to deal with this, and she said we don’t get to be.”
This book fell flat for me.
There wasn’t enough magic...
There wasn’t enough truth...
The magical realism did not live up.
The themes the author seemed to want to discuss got watered down with magic, and the magic got lost in the themes...
Either this needed to be longer, or revised a few more times to tighten up the details...
I will say there are great moments in this story - the characters are much needed voices in today’s books, but again the two MCs were too easy to confuse and needed to be more different from each other...
I am sure there are many readers who will get swept up in the concept and enjoy the story, but for me, this was not a good read.
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