Book Review: Mermother by Elizabeth Jane Wolfe

mermotherTitle: Mermother: An Account of What Happened in the Sea 

Author: by Elizabeth Jane Wolfe

Publisher: Createspace

Release Date: March 27th, 2013


Book Summary:

A young woman explores the ancient mysteries of the sea in an unforgettable adventure of friendship and family. Escaping from an abusive past, she finds solace in an underwater world full of beauty, wealth, and power. Discover how her life is transformed as she struggles to find true love in a world that forbids it. This novel has been published as a fundraiser for the International Ocean Institute.



Mermother is a fascinating re-imaging of mermaid lore that never shies away from difficult questions of myth or biology. I found it a highly refreshing read and am eagerly awaiting the sequel.

The story follows 25-year old Briony, knocked from a boat by her abusive boyfriend, who awakens in a tide-pool and is greeted by a lovely girl named Sylvie, who soon reveals herself to be a mer (not mermaid – mer). After the initial shock, Briony decides she’s lucky to have met a mer, and to have had her life saved by one, so she accepts Sylvie’s invitation to stay in the sea with her a while. Little does Briony know that in doing so, she will transform her body into that of a mermother, a human woman who has been biologically altered to give birth to mers, rather than humans.

I don’t read much adult fiction (I find it difficult to connect to the characters, who tend to be unemotional and mostly concerned with casual sex), but Briony was a heroine who didn’t herself seem comfortable with adulthood. She mentions that she feels younger than she is, because she hasn’t done anything with her life (a line that certainly resonated with me). If anything, I’d probably classify this as New Adult. I think it can appeal to a wide audience. Obviously there is implied sexual content, as the premise of the books is tied to the reproduction of mers, but the subject is handled tastefully and in a fade-to-black manner. Also, the one curse word contained in the book is immediately apologized for by the person who uttered it, which I found amusing.

Briony is one of those characters who may frustrate some readers, as she begins the story seemingly weak, but I for one enjoyed watching her transformation as she comes to accept and embrace her new life in the sea – even so far as to teach herself to breathe underwater, a concept that is beautifully explained and described. Readers will also be frustrated with Sylvie, but that is essentially her character – she is proudly vain and “loves being a snob” but clearly cares for Briony and comes to see her as more than a means to an end. More frightening than frustrating is Sylvie’s sister Delphine, a powerful mer terrifyingly skilled at the three tenets of mer life: grammatica (language), corruptia (seduction), and homicidia (murder – or necessary killing, depending on the viewpoint.) Briony refuses to accept that killing is ever necessary, even if only done to “evil” men, especially when the mers seem to brand all men evil so easily, and I appreciated Briony’s stubbornness on this point.

By far the most intriguing character is Trayo, Sylvie and Delphine’s brother, a tragic mistake of nature, because all mers are supposed to be female. There is immediate attraction between Trayo and Briony but also severe obstacles to any sort of relationship – especially anatomical ones. Hats off to Ms. Wolfe for this angle, which I hope is explored further in future installments. You can certainly have romance without sex, and I’ve no doubt it will make for an interesting story arc.

However, Sylvie firmly insists that Briony forget Trayo, as well as her abusive ex, and go about finding someone to father a new mer. Sylvie wants to choose a qualified candidate whom Briony can seduce easily and quickly: Briony wants to fall in love. This causes tension, especially after she selects a man who suspects her true identity. I never warmed to Damian the way I did to Trayo, but he is an interesting character.

The only reason my rating is not a five is because I felt that there was too much “tell” and not enough “show” in places where more detail would have been helpful. The book is all about the wonder of the sea, and I wish I’d been better able to smell the ocean breeze and hear the waves crashing as I read. This certainly didn’t stop me from enjoying the story, however.

This first book seemed to end rather abruptly, but likely that is just because I desperately want more!

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Content: Mild violence, one swear word and implied sexual situations

Source: Received from author in exchange for an honest review.

Purchase: Amazon


  1. Thank you for such a detailed and refreshing review. I would never have discovered this story. It’s going on my list of to reads for sure.