Zara Zyon and a Maelstrom of Secrets by Melissa Ann Peters
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Zara Zyon & A Maelstrom Of Secrets is an advanced middle grade fantasy read.
Zara is a mermaid who is hiding on land from Empress Atillix Viren and her Infernal Order, who are wreaking havoc in the sea, and now advancing to the land.
Members of the four non-human realms hide themselves in everyday human form: Aquatians, ocean dwellers like Zara, Aireons, Terraneans and Fireites. One day Zara’s treasured shell bracelet shatters and cuts her hand, and she immediately fears that enemies of her realm will smell it and try to capture her. Attempting to hide the evidence, she washes the bracelet pieces down a drain, but a short while later they magically return. Zara decides that the bracelet is endowed with a curse which has unknowingly, attached itself to her person. Several attempts to break the curse fail. Meanwhile, Zara has an invisible stalker, revealed only by the ‘squeak’, of his sneakers. Definitely one from another realm, but is he friend or foe?
The story mixes early teen romance, fighting an evil empress, doing right by the environment and being a good role model to others. These are impressive themes to want to include and I was intrigued as to how the author would approach these ideas and make them her own. For instance, a strong curse in an item of jewellery will always make me think of Harry Potter. Teenage mermaids send my mind to the TV series H2O. I did find myself making comparisons whilst reading this book, but I understand that although these ideas are made famous by such giants as the Harry Potter series, they are not exclusive to them.
The writing is easy to read and is suitable for the age range. However, for me, there was room to tighten and polish the writing; I felt it could have done with another draft or two and the removal of unnecessary dialogue ‘tags’, and using a wider range of dialogue techniques which might help differentiate between character voices. Also, lines like ‘the girls ran at a fast steady pace’, need a little more sorting with the help of a good editor.
I liked the idea of a girl wanting the freedom to be herself, and this theme has great potential, but for me, the ideas in this book felt rushed and under developed.
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Zara Zyon took a deep breath in and smelt her own blood. If she could smell it, the creatures of all four Realms could too, and they would know what she was not— a human. Her dead grandmother’s voice rang in her ears.
“Never ever bleed above the sea, your blood leaves a trace which will cause a chase.”
The scent of her blue blood would travel as far as one-hundred-and-ten tails in every direction. The soles of her shoes ticked against the floor as her legs shook under the desk. Silas Novic sat next to her and his usual friendly smile was missing. His stare caused a chill to shoot up her spine.
Zara didn’t know how she was going to change her life and keep everyone she loved safe, but she knew in her heart she had to stay and survive.
“Scales, skin, and a tail, I just want the freedom to be myself.”
About the author
I’m from Welland, Ontario, Canada, and I’m thirty-nine. I’m a recent graduate from the University of Toronto, Creative Writing Certificate Program. I live with my sister, our big dog, and a small bunny. I lived in Toronto Canada for many years. I drove the coast of California once (flipping a loonie to make the majority of my decisions) and it made me extremely happy. I moved to Halifax for a year because I flipped that same coin. I love NYC and New York State as a whole, not just because we’re neighbours (ours is Canadian spelling). I take my shoes off when I come into the house. I try to be as vegan as possible, without getting too angry or annoyed with the rest of the world or myself. I think sharks are super cool. I’m a great cook, except I can’t bake, and am clueless at cooking meat. I’m not perfect, and have made a terrific amount of mistakes in my life; I’m ok with all of them because I learned from all of them. I believe if I stop learning I will die, or just spontaneously combust. I am a geek and I am ok with that too. In life it is never too late to go after something you want; if you have the drive to do it then you need to do it. Talking to strangers and meeting new people, makes me happy. I write by accident and I write on purpose. Fear has no value in my life. Random thoughts keep me up at night until I get them on paper. And some stories I just have to tell. Editing is exciting to me. When I get lost in my writing I fall in love all over again. I like to listen, I listen a lot. Good dialogue is my favorite thing in life, on paper and in speech, it warms my soul.