Author: Sonia Faruqi
Title: The Oyster Thief
Publisher: Pegasus Books
Synopsis: Coralline is a shy mermaid in the Atlantic Ocean whose idyllic life is ruined by an oil spill that gravely sickens her little brother. Desperate to save him, she embarks on a quest to find a legendary elixir.
She encounters a human man, Izar, who’s left his life on land behind to find a cure for his dying father. He doesn’t tell her that his family runs Ocean Dominion, an enemy corporation whose ships plunder her waters daily.
Fate pushes the two of them together, even though their worlds are at odds. Accompanied by a colorful troupe of animals, Coralline and Izar travel through coral reefs and seabed cities, trailed by murderous adversaries and warring ships. Their secrets threaten to tear them apart, while a growing attraction adds to the danger. Ultimately, each of them faces an impossible choice. Should Coralline remain with the world she knows, including her fiancé, or should she relinquish everything for a stranger who might betray her? And Izar holds a secret of his own—one that might cause him to lose Coralline forever.
Having never read a book involving mermaids, I was dubious about The Oyster Thief. I was expecting it to be either atrocious or brilliant.
I wish it was one or the other!
The plot was better than I was expecting. There was some depth to it and complicated relationships that drove the story. I remained half-engaged throughout, even though it was longer than I anticipated.
I had so many issues though. I thought I was perhaps too old, and that if I was ten years younger, it would be an entertaining read. But that highlighted the problems further!
Descriptions and cliches
I felt the under-the-sea world was basically our own. The author has done research into different types of algae and plants found in the ocean. Whenever the world was a too similar to our own, there was a long description about the different vegetation that could be found with various uses – although I imagine the names and uses were fictional. You shouldn’t notice descriptions like that and it drew my attention every time.
There were also quite a few cliché moments. For example, the main character, Corraline, happens to see an “oyster thief” and marvels at its ability to float freely through the ocean. But, of course, she just happens to see the creature only once in the entire book, exactly at the moment where she is having a crisis about her own freedom.
The main problem were the characters though. The main ones, Corraline and Izar, weren’t too bad. Corraline is shallow; she saves Izar’s life and is only happy that she has made a medical breakthrough – she doesn’t seem to care about his life. Izar was stronger – he actually shows development from the beginning and end and has the most to overcome as he straddles the human and underwater worlds.
Strange, he’d never stopped to contemplate his breathing before – how deftly lungs moved, how miraculous it all was – his life, life itself.
Corraline’s mother, however, is an atrocious character. She only allows Corraline to eat their equivalent of lettuce on the run up to her wedding, claiming she will only be beautiful if she is skinny to the brink of starvation. Imagine reading this as a teenager! What an awful image to present, especially as Corraline doesn’t fight it but goes with her mother’s wishes.
She also entirely blames her daughter for her son’s illness, despite the cause being the fault of humans. She would rather Corraline also died than took a risk saving her brother and it backfire. What sort of mother is this? She’s cruel, shallow and manipulative – and that’s just towards her own family.
Corraline’s muse, a hammer-head shark named Pavonis, also doesn’t score character points. He spends the majority of the book either attempting to persuade Corraline to let someone die, run away or actively kill them. When she tries to help, he accuses her of being sentimental. If he was human, he would be no better than a violent thug and considered a bad influence. His behaviour is inexcusable.
I can’t recommend this book – it pushes entirely the wrong sort of messages, especially for a younger audience.
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