CM . . .
. Volume XXII Number 12. . . .November 20, 2015
In this sequel to Kira’s Secret, Orysia Dawydiak continues to follow the story of Kira, a 13-year-old mermaid princess torn between her life in a small Canadian maritime village and her “merrow” people. Kira decides to travel to the hidden island of Hildaland where she first went in the previous book. It is a prison island for merrow and humans run by the evil finfolk. Kira wants to find her biological parents, the dethroned king and queen of the merrows, and save the prisoners. But, once she arrives there, she realizes she has no plan for rescuing the trapped individuals. She must escape the fortified prison island to return to her fishing village and mount a rescue mission with the aid of humans, landed merrows, and various friendly sea creatures.
The book cover is well-designed and plays well to the enduring appeal of mermaid stories in juvenile literature. However, the prose is often clumsy and seems to be in need of further polishing. At the start of the novel, readers are quickly told what happened in the previous novel with a few pages of rushed plot summary thinly disguised as a conversation. As a result of the awkward but detailed recap, new readers will have no problem jumping into this book without having read the first one. If readers are confused by the story, it is probably due to the dizzying pace at which the plot develops and the way that minor characters (especially those with names starting with “C”) pop in and out of the story without hints to remind the reader who they are.
Kira’s Quest is light on character development and heavy on plot. There are many issues and inconsistencies in character behaviour that are done for the sake of plot but don’t seem to line up well with the characters as they have been established. For instance, why would Mrs. Doyle – the best friend of Kira’s mother, a rational librarian, and a landed mermaid – agree to drive a 13-year-old girl to an isolated beach at night and leave her there without telling the child’s parents? Furthermore, after going to Haildaland in the previous book, and knowing it is a place from which no one has ever escaped, why would Kira decide to swim there by herself to mount a rescue mission for humans and merrows who are permanently stuck in human form? She knows before she sets out that the people she intends to rescue can’t swim across the ocean with her. By going to Hildaland alone, it only means she must escape the inescapable prison island herself first so she can go back and get help from adults with boats in her village.
The novel seems to be unsure about its target audience and wavers around a bit. The large amount of text per page, the YA-style cover art, and 155-page length of the novel, seem to imply the intended reader is around 10-13, which is the same age as the protagonist. However, the emphasis on plot at the expense of character development, and the believability of a regular girl who discovers she’s a mermaid princess and must save her lost parents with her helpful talking animal companions – without ever considering the ridiculousness of the situation – is something one would expect more in younger juvenile fiction.
Overall, with the continued interest in mermaids in children’s culture, Kira’s Quest is sure to find some readers who will get swept up in Kira’s adventures.
Beth Wilcox is a graduate of the MA in Children’s Literature program at the University of British Columbia and is a teacher-librarian in Prince George, BC.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.