Thursday 11 February 2016

Reviewed: Song of the Sea Maid by Rebecca Mascull

Song of the Sea Maid is published in paperback by Hodder on February 11, 2016.

Thanks to Ruby at Hodder for sending me a copy of this book to review.

Song of the Sea Maid is Rebecca Mascull’s second novel, following The Visitors which was published back in 2014. The Visitors was simply stunning, a beautifully written and moving story, but Song of the Sea Maid was even better. I absorbed myself in this book right from the opening page, the opening line even, and what followed was a story almost poetic in prose but wholeheartedly accessible, with truly captivating and thought-provoking storytelling blessed with rich descriptions and a main character you can do nothing but root for as she faces drama, tragedy and a society that attempts to limit the life a woman can live and the things they could set out to achieve.

Rebecca continues the trend set in her debut novel The Visitors of writing brave and inspirational protagonists. Dawnay Price lives on the streets of London and along with her brother, they give and do anything to survive, including attempting to commit one act of theft that sees Dawnay separated from her family in heart-breaking fashion, moved to an orphanage and into this new life she’s never known. Dawnay was one of those characters I cared for instantly without automatically being able to point out the reasons why. I think the way we’re introduced to her is reason enough, because Song of the Sea Maid is character driven and I could think of nothing else I’d rather do than lose a couple of days to her vivid, wonderfully told story.

Dawnay isn’t crafted to be likeable through her personality – she’s stubborn, controversial and cynical in her views, strong-willed and hot-headed at times – but it is through how she stays true to herself, how she is willing to fight for her beliefs and hunt down the life she wants to live that makes her such an engaging and inspiring character. I loved Dawnay and following her story was wholly enjoyable and rewarding – the satisfaction of seeing such a strong-willed and determined female attempt to overcome the odds set in a time (the 18th century) where women face restrictions on paving their own path – enjoying a career, achieving their ambitions and discovering a life outside marriage and motherhood.

The narrative is written in first person in a way which allows us to really get to know Dawnay’s character. There are, of course, other characters who bear importance to the story as it is told but Dawnay is one of those unforgettable characters, the first and last name you’ll remember and a character that for me personally, won’t disappear now the final page has been turned. Through Dawnay’s inquisitive nature, Rebecca’s well-researched and full-of-depth story comes to life as all the questions I asked as a reader, Dawnay asked too and we get to reap the rewards of what felt like a phenomenally researched novel with its history and mythology, learning a little as we go along but not in an overpowering way.

The author’s writing style is highly compelling, taking a dramatic and quite feminist story, mixing it with humour, a love story and an intelligent protagonist so the tone remains uplifting and positive throughout. At times, I did expect Dawnay to have to face a little more adversity but at the same time, I’d become so protective of her fiercely independent character that I didn’t want her to have more obstacles to overcome, as much as she would have accepted and face the challenge with her typical spirit and bravery. And truthfully, when I finished reading Song of the Sea Maid I had nothing to complain about, except that it was over and I could barely find the words to justify how much I adored the novel.

With gorgeous description that effortlessly draws you into the prose, a surprising end and mostly the undeniably inspiring voice of a protagonist who loves to learn and who lives to learn, Song of the Sea Maid is an original, fascinating and fulfilling second novel from Rebecca Mascull, cleverly written and engaging – but you’ll miss it when it’s over.


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