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Reviewed by Liz Konkel for Readers' Favorite
Sink by M.E. Rhines is the first book in the Mermaid Royalty series. Pauline has finally turned sixteen, allowing her to take part in her sister's merling shower, but this isn't the joyous occasion she expected it to be. Her mother rules over their mermaid city of Atargatis as a tyrant, showing no mercy to those that go against her. When she discovers what happens to the human men they harbor, Pauline is horrified by the truth. Her rebellious claims attract her mother's wrath. As punishment, she's forced to go on a hunt to retrieve humans from a shipwreck, but Pauline sees this as an opportunity to thwart her mother's plans and save the survivors. She doesn't expect to be drawn to one. Unable to fight back the song of the sea, Pauline kisses him and sparks a chain of events she isn't prepared for. She knows her mother will kill him if he's found, but the only way to save him is to uncover the truth of her family's history and the startling secrets her mother has worked to bury.
What opens with a stunning image of a mermaid party, with singing and music, turns into a dark scene of murder. M.E. Rhines pulls from mermaid folklore, spinning the darker elements with humor and lighthearted romance. The mermaids are clearly reminiscent of sirens that sink ships, but most of the darkness is due to Pauline's mother. She's a tyrant queen that has convinced this small kingdom they're the last ones of their kind, and has several secrets. The queen is clearly the wicked witch fondly found in fairy tales. As the story progresses, Pauline discovers all these secrets her mother has buried, and the world opens up in unexpected ways. Pauline has a genuine personality, a bit naive and young, but she puts others before herself and has an honest bravery. It's her will that makes her a strong heroine.
Sink has a fairytale style to it with several elements and characters. There's the sea witch, the villain, the love story, and the potential for happily ever after. The focus is primarily on the fight against the queen, but the love story plays an important role. It's appreciated that, though her new found romance with Eddie gives her the last break that she needs to fight back, he's not what started her rebellion. From the beginning, she's spoken out against the queen and found horror in her mother's reign over the kingdom. Sink has a unique portrayal of mermaids that is reminiscent of fairytales and lore with surprising twists, dark secrets, and first love.