Thursday, May 3, 2012

Review: Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama

Title: Monstrous Beauty
Author: Elizabeth Fama
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Release Date: September 4, 2012
ISBN-10: 0374373663
ISBN-13: 978-0374373665
Source: Publisher through NetGalley
Goodreads   Amazon

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.(Goodreads)

Every mermaid story I’ve read before Monstrous Beauty, with the exception of the original Little Mermaid, has been extra fluffy reads. Thankfully, Monstrous Beauty is not your typical mermaid tale. The depth of the storyline and characters, paired with Elizabeth Fama’s beautiful writing was so refreshing. 

One hundred forty years ago, fisherman who lived their lives on the sea knew the truth. Yes, there are Mermaids. But many thought of these beautiful creatures as demon sirens, wanting to lure any man into their clutches to kill them.

She had tempted him with unholy magic. She had deliberately cast a fog around his conscience-he, a good man and a God-fearing Christian! She had made him want her-she, a beast, and a monstrosity of nature! She would not trick him the way she had tricked others for hundreds of years.

Syrenka is a beautiful mermaid who is forever curious about those who live on land, but she knows that her beauty can enchant and even has the power to kill. She carries that burden with her. When Syrenka meets Ezra she is cautious with him, not wanting him to get hurt as others have. I could not help but love Syrenka.  I wanted Syrenka to be able to have love and keep it, to be able to live a full life. But because of others perceiving her as horrible, things happen that alter the life she will have and every woman of her line for years after.

Ezra is a Naturalist who is on a mission to discover the Myths of the ocean. When he meats Syrenka she agrees to answer his questions about her kind and their world. I loved the build of Syrenka and Ezra’s relationship. The tragic and heartbreaking events that happened to get Ezra and Syrenka together on land bind the two together in a strong and loving relationship, but it also holds their fate throughout the rest of their lives. 

I really enjoyed switching from past to present throughout Monstrous Beauty. This story is so complex each character is an integral part of the story's puzzle.

Hester is like any other cursed teenage girl… Yep, that’s right Hester is cursed, every woman in her family for as long as she remembers has died after giving birth. So, what has she decided in order to live a long and happy life? Never act on any love she may find. Right! That will work. Enter mysterious guy from the beach. Hester has never told anyone about her fears of love, but she ends up spilling her guts to this stranger. (It is easier to talk to someone you don’t know sometimes.) Guess what the guys name is, go ahead guess… OK, I’ll tell you. His name is Ezra.

That’s right this is not just a mermaid story there are ghosts too!
And that makes it so much more awesome!!!

I loved Hester and Ezra’s blooming relationship. Ezra is supportive of Hester looking into her past to find out where the curse originated. And Hester feels like she can finally open up and love someone.

As Hester gets closer to finding out the truth of why the women of her family are cursed she discovers things she never dreamed possible. 

You’ll never believe the things I’ve seen tonight. Pastor. I hardly believe them myself.

If you are going into this looking for your run-of-the-mill YA romance, go read something else. If you are looking a novel that is wonderfully written, totally new, and that just may make you cry, (Because it is that good!) read Monstrous Beauty. Yes, the wait is a little long…but it is so worth it.

Happy reading,

Loved it! I want to know about everything this author writes.

Recommended For

Older teen and up: For violence (Those mermaids can get scary.) I don’t remember much language, but there is a not to graphic rape scene.


  1. I have this one in my pile to read for August and I love the cover, but haven't read too many mermaid stories that I liked. I'm glad this one is different and I'm now really excited to read it :) Great Review!

  2. Wait, that's the same Ezra? Ghosts? Scary mermaids? Well, they might even be close to the orinal mermaid myth! I must read this!

    *Eyes her recently sorted-out TBR pile* Ah, sometimes you just can't help it, can you? *Adds yet another title*

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. What The Historian did for vampires, Monstrous Beauty does for mermaids. K, I can't really say that as I haven't read this one yet. But the whole time I was reading your review I kept thinking of The Historian and how it took the myth and made it shine!

  4. Whoa, I have this to read on my reader but yours is the first real review I've read of this book. I think this may move up on my reading list so I get to it sooner. Great review! :)

  5. YAY a five-moon review !! I really have to pick up a copy of this one .. I don't cry often when I read books but I have the feeling this one will definitely do the trick, lol !Thanks for bringing this book to my attention Rebecca !


Thanks so much for the comment love!