A pretty good recreation by Clue of the cover of Speak the Ocean. Photo by Kate Ota 2021
This week I read Speak the Ocean by Rebecca Enzor. I’d seen her on Twitter before, but what got me to read her book was her interview on Queries, Qualms, and Quirks, a podcast by Sarah Nicolas. That interview gave me a better idea of what the book was about and I realized it would be a great comp title for my WIP!
Speak the Ocean is a dual POV adult contemporary fantasy novel about human Finn and mermaid Erie. Finn works at Oceanica, basically a mermaid-themed Sea World complete with mermaid shows ala Shamu. Erie is a mermaid princess in the Seadom where Mer have been disappearing for years and no one knows why. Of course, the reader knows why: Oceanica has been hunting them for their shows and research. Mer are very poorly treated at Oceanica. They also tend to be very dangerous, as evidenced by the opening scene where Finn has to euthanize one who killed their trainer. When Mer die, they turn into sea foam, like the classic versions of The Little Mermaid (pre-Disney). However, Erie is captured next and Finn is made her trainer, his first opportunity to train instead of just cleaning tanks. His assistant is Jen, who has a much more tender heart than other employees and she advocates for treating Erie better than other Mer, a strategy which leads to Finn bonding with Erie. Eventually Finn faces a choice: keep Erie trapped forever and boost his career at the expense of a sentient creature, or somehow free Erie.
It’s a little bit Black Fish, a little Free Willy, and a Little Mermaid. While I thought most of the events were predictable (possibly because I’ve been studying plot so much recently) there were still moments of surprise. I tried to read this only on my commute, but I just had to finish it at home yesterday. I thought it was well balanced between the POVs and Enzor did a great job of writing from Erie’s POV without the reader being as confused as Erie was about the world around her. I also liked that the stakes were extremely personal, not world-ending, which feels a bit rare in fantasy at the moment.
On the downside, Erie’s POV did cause some problems for me because her narration used words that she then was confused about hearing from the humans. Yes, I realize she was thinking in ocean words, not air words, but it still threw me off at first. I was also confused about how Finn actually felt about Erie. I wasn’t sure if he really loved her romantically or like how you love a pet. Especially confusing because of his fraught relationship with Jen.
Overall, I recommend this book for anyone who loves mermaids, contemporary fantasy, or even scientific ethics problems, like Jurassic Park. There’s a smattering of romance, too. It’s not for you if you can’t handle blood or on the page sex scenes.
Have you read Speak the Ocean? What did you think? Let’s discuss!