Lost Voices by Sarah Porter
July 4, 2011; Harcourt Children's Books
Fourteen-year-old Luce has had a tough life, but she reaches the depths of despair when she is assaulted and left on the cliffs outside of a grim, gray Alaskan fishing village. She expects to die when she tumbles into the icy waves below, but instead undergoes an astonishing transformation and becomes a mermaid. A tribe of mermaids finds Luce and welcomes her in—all of them, like her, lost girls who surrendered their humanity in the darkest moments of their lives. Luce is thrilled with her new life until she discovers the catch: the mermaids feel an uncontrollable desire to drown seafarers, using their enchanted voices to lure ships into the rocks. Luce possesses an extraordinary singing talent, which makes her important to the tribe—she may even have a shot at becoming their queen. However her struggle to retain her humanity puts her at odds with her new friends. Will Luce be pressured into committing mass murder? (courtesy of Goodreads)
Lost Voices is my third mermaid/siren novel. I'm really enjoying this genre. Mermaids are such versatile paranormal creatures. They can be cute, fun-loving human-fish; breathtaking beauties; or evil man-killing monsters. The characters in Lost Voices basically fall into the third category.
The mermaids in Lost Voices are young girls who have had horrible lives - sexual, physical, and/or emotional abuse. Some horrible trauma flips the switch to magically change them from human to mermaids. It's an odd concept and not explained well at first, but by the end of the book, I felt that I understood the basics pretty well. Not surprisingly, many of these girls are bitter towards humans, especially men.
And then you have Luce. She lived a happy life with her father, even if he was poor and a criminal. Then he disappeared leaving her with her abusive uncle. When he tried to rape her one night, the switch flipped and she was suddenly in the ocean with a new life as a mermaid.
Luce is now unbelievably powerful. With her voice alone, she can lead dozens of men to their deaths. The other mermaids try to convince her that this is a good thing - humans are useless, evil creatures - but Luce isn't sure. She's known both love and hate.
Lost Voices is more than just a killing spree. The mermaids are a fascinating group of girls. Their culture promotes love and loyalty and forbids hurting one another. In practice, things are a bit more complicated, but I love the idea that abused girls now have a supportive girl-power group they can always rely upon.
This book was a mixed bag for me. On the up side, the book is well-written and the mythology is fascinating. I liked Luce, sympathized with her, and understood her character well enough to relate to her. On the down side, I felt the plot floundered (purposeful fish misspelling). More and more mermaids were created and more and more killing occurred. It felt directionless. Perhaps it will make more sense in the later books. Also, Catarina, the leader of the mermaids, was really inconsistent. She loved Luce and then she hated Luce. I partially came to understand the mood swings, but not entirely.
The biggest issue with Lost Voices is neither a down nor an up...it just is. This book is dark. There is carnage without purpose, there is emotional cruelty, horrible treatment of children, and no happy ending. I admire the author for being willing to go so dark when few modern fairy tales do so. Still, as a sucker for happy endings, the book is rather hard to take. The darkness is something a reader should be aware of before picking up the book.
Rating: 3 / 5