Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Length: 295 pages
Subjects: Mermaids, Gore, Death, Romance,
How I obtained the book: Library, hardcover
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.
I don’t know what happened with me and Monstrous Beauty. We just didn’t click at all. I understand why people like the book but I just don’t feel it. Yes, the book is beautifully written but it’s also just kinda… boring. Nothing really happens in the book except for different people feeling bad for themselves and people getting torn up.
While I understand the allure of the book, of the writing, I can’t help but notice all the flaws and faults. The beautiful words and imagery are masking some pretty big faults like the fact that the book for the most part isn’t really well executed.
The flow of the book was very poor and clunky, and the book moved at such a slow pace that it had trouble holding my attention. It tried to do something special with two different POVs that seem different but come together but it failed mostly due to the fact that the transitions were poorly done.
Beautiful writing is great but it doesn’t make up for having an otherwise pretty average novel. The writing sort of convinces you that Monstrous Beauty is a really amazing book, all around. But the truth is the only thing really spectacular about Monstrous Beauty is the writing.
There were two main characters, the first of which is Syrenka the killer mermaid. She’s absolutely awesome, for the most part. I really loved her chapters because they were full of mermaid badassery. Who doesn’t like dark mermaids anyway? While her romance was really weak, surprisingly it didn’t detract too much from her POV.
What made Syrenka truly awesome was how she was a very real character. Under all her beauty and mystery is a truly flawed character with very human characteristics. Syrenka wasn’t the all perfect character. I don’t know how to describe her. She was magical and ethereal without being ‘perfect’.
The second character is Hester. She’s a human with a ‘mysterious family curse’, which to an extent was interesting. I guess. Compared to Syrenka, her chapters were incredibly lackluster. While Hester wasn’t a bad character, she was a very emotionless character that left it hard to really root for her.
Hester’s chapters had none of the deep, dark beauty of Syrenka’s. You go from a chapter written with the most beautiful language, something that can only be described as sensuous, to a chapter written like an average book. It makes sense that I didn’t love her chapters. Maybe I would have appreciated them more if they weren’t after Syrenka’s but that’s just not something you can change.
Monstrous Beauty was a very gritty and dark mermaid story with rape, murder, and gore. It’s definitely not for the weak of heart. I really loved the brutality of the story. Fama definitely spent most of her efforts on plot execution instead of other things.
While personally I can’t say I liked Monstrous Beauty, I can’t say that I don’t recommend it you read it because it’s a very unique experience that everyone should have at some point.