Daughters of the Sea: Hannah, by Kathryn Lasky

Kathryn Lasky's Daughters of the Sea: Hannah is a stitched-together Frankenstein's monster of a story—an Upstairs, Downstairs domestic drama featuring a mermaid, an evil debutante, and a potentially demonic cat. I realize that sounds insane, but to the author's credit, it slides down more smoothly than you'd think.

When 15-year-old orphan Hannah Albury gets a job as a scullery maid working for the wealthy Hawley family in 1899 Boston, she hopes no one will notice her oddities—the scale-like patterns on her legs, or the salty residue left behind when she takes a bath. Hannah is obsessed with the idea of living by the sea, and hopes to work hard enough to secure a position at the Hawleys' summer house in Maine. Hannah's single-minded focus on the ocean is shaken, however, when she meets Stannish Wheeler, the handsome young artist hired to paint a portrait of the eldest Hawley daughter—a girl prone to fits of inexplicable anger, and always accompanied by her weirdly intelligent and menacing cat.

Of the various storytelling elements in Lasky's story, the servant/employer rivalry storyline had the most potential. Daughters of the Sea: Hannah has the bones of a promising historical romance about a love triangle involving members of three distinct classes: a servant, an heiress, and a young man hovering somewhere between the two. In contrast, the book's fantasy elements are poorly explained, illogical, and mostly serve as an excuse to shove the story along until it reaches an abrupt and unsatisfying cliffhanger ending. It's a tribute to Lasky's skill as a storyteller that I read with as much interest as I did, but here's hoping her future stories feature plots that are at least half as intriguing as her characters.

Review based on publisher-provided copy.
Posted by: Julianka


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