Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama {Jenna’s Review}

Posted 26 June, 2013 by Jenna / 10 Comments

Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama {Jenna’s Review}Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama
Genres: Legends, Myths, Fables, Love & Romance, Paranormal, Young Adult
Pages: 295
Format: ARC
Source: Gifted

Fierce, seductive mermaid Syrenka falls in love with Ezra, a young naturalist. When she abandons her life underwater for a chance at happiness on land, she is unaware that this decision comes with horrific and deadly consequences.

Almost one hundred forty years later, seventeen-year-old Hester meets a mysterious stranger named Ezra and feels overwhelmingly, inexplicably drawn to him. For generations, love has resulted in death for the women in her family. Is it an undiagnosed genetic defect . . . or a curse? With Ezra’s help, Hester investigates her family’s strange, sad history. The answers she seeks are waiting in the graveyard, the crypt, and at the bottom of the ocean—but powerful forces will do anything to keep her from uncovering her connection to Syrenka and to the tragedy of so long ago.

Hauntingly eerie tale of love & magic

My Thoughts on Monstrous Beauty

This story is still giving me goosebumps! I’m a fan of a good historical fiction – and when an author adds in some intrigue and mystery, as well, it only heightens my appreciation – if it’s done right. And this was done very right.

The story begins with a simple statement of fact: “Syrenka wanted Pukanokick.” Odd names, I know. This book is full of them; at a certain point, I stopped trying to pronounce the name in my head and just accepted the word as a combination of letters that signified a given or surname. Syrenka is a mermaid; a shockingly, enticingly beautiful sea creature who has been watching a young man. When they finally meet and speak, the end result is disastrous – though unintentional. The disaster scars Syrenka, and she shies away from view for over 300 years.

Until the day she sees Ezra. Or, rather, the day Ezra sees Syrenka and calls out to her. Their attraction is as undeniable and fast as it is tragic. A series of grisly events leads Syrenka to life on land and into Ezra’s arms. Though only for a short time.

Syrenka and Ezra’s love takes root in 1872 and is told throughout half of the novel. For the other half, the story is set in modern day and focuses on Hester Goodwin, a teenager who has made a promise to herself that she will never let herself fall in love, marry, or have children. For the last five generations of her family, women have married and given birth only to die within days. The deaths are all seemingly inexplicable and Hester, who has lost her own mother this way, knows that she can never find love.

Until the day she sees Ezra. Or, rather, until the day Ezra sees her. Sound familiar? I know, but it’s not quite the same thing. See, Hester is the only one who can see Ezra in the modern day portions of the story. And he’s not the only one Hester is talking to that no one else can hear or see. Just what is going on leads a practical young skeptic into a world of magic, love, mystery, folk lore, and danger. A lot of danger.

I really enjoyed this book. There were a few quirks that threw me off, such as the narrative referring to Hester’s father by his first name before really linking him as her father. I had to go back a few pages and kind of piece the relationship together, so that took me out of the story for a bit. But I was quickly pulled back in. The mystery at the heart of the story was captivating. It was fun to find out a piece of the puzzle from the narrative of the events in 1872 and then come back to modern day in order to see how Hester discovers the information, and how the discoveries are going to impact her future and her decisions.

At times, the darkness of the story gets to the point of being almost overwhelmingly grisly, but those spots are quick glimpses and not so deeply dark as to put me off entirely. I think the author created a highly original, very vivid world for her novel and did a good job of creating true, well-rounded characters to inhabit her world. This is definitely a story that will stay with me for some time to come.


Filed under: ESR: 8, Fantasy, Review: Jenna,


10 Responses to “Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama {Jenna’s Review}”

  1. While I don’t know if this book is for me, it does sound like an interesting, dark story! (The modern teen’s name is “Hester”??? Is she Southern? Because if that’s not a family name, her parents have no excuse for burdening her with that name!)

    • Jenna

      NO! She and her family are in the New England area. Not even the good grace to be Southern with a name like Hester, poor girl.

  2. I was just talking about this book with a friend the other day. Or rather, she was telling me how I much I need to read it. I love dark stories, and mermaids definitely have a sinister side in fairy tales. I had no clue it was a historical setting!

    • Jenna

      I agree with your friend – you should read it! I was pleasantly surprised. It took a little bit for me to get really into it, but it’s a haunting story!

  3. I remember how dark this one was and it sucked me in quickly. I do remember really liking the past storyline much more than the present. I didn’t find Hester really that interesting.

    • Jenna

      I agree – I liked the past storyline more. Hester sometimes seemed more like a plot device than a character.

  4. So glad this one worked so well for you Jenna! It wasn’t quite the book for me, I think it was way darker than I was expecting (not sure why I was expecting a lighter read given the title, but for some reason mermaids=light in my head), so when that certain awful thing happens to her in the beginning I was really caught off guard. It was beautifully written though and definitely a haunting, memorable read!

    • Jenna

      It was rather dark, I agree. I was a little taken aback by that, as well. But, overall, it worked out well in my mind. I’m glad you enjoyed the style, though!

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