This is a good, clean old-fashioned fairy tale type of story, not an edgy commercial novel. The era is the 1870's and the heroine, Clara, matches her era rather than being an anachronism. She and her sister,Maren, are foundlings cared for by an old healer who took them in, and both love the same boy, their "almost-brother" O'Neill, a foundling who visits them with his adoptive father once a year. The story is rich with magic and mythical creatures but also reads as historical and is genuinely original in its treatment of mermaids and dragons. The plot centers around Clara and O'Neill's attempt to take Maren to the sea before she dies as she is transforming into a mermaid.
The pacing has been criticized as slow, but a fast pace would be totally out of place with the era and setting. The main criticism I have is that the reader learns in the end more of the origins of O'Neill and Clara, but not why Maren's merman father sent her to the human world, though since the focus is on Clara and O'Neill's quest I can live with the mystery.
Overall, I was really taken in by Clara's character, and her narration of the story. She is a modest, loving sister with conflicted feelings about her attraction to O'Neill and I love this type of character, one who thinks she is weak but is ultimately strong. Great voice makes for a light-hearted fun read.
This was the 2014 YA winner of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. I downloaded this to my Kindle for free in February but this lovely story would be worth every penny of the paperback price.