This book had been on my TBR for years – I believe since I was on tumblr and it was in one of those “read more queer books” rec lists. So… at least 4-5 years. I’d never gotten around to it, and I can’t even remember when/how I got it since it’s pretty hard to get indie books in paper here normally… But I made it part of my “read mermaid books for Mermay” self challenge. Granted, I read like 3 mermaid books and I finished 2 in June instead, so the experiment itself was a failure, but I still made a dent in my pile so… no complaints.
A mermaid’s supernatural beauty serves one purpose: to lure a sailor to his death.
The Massacre is supposed to bring peace to Eriana Kwai. Every year, the island sends its warriors to battle these hostile sea demons. Every year, the warriors fail to return. Desperate for survival, the island must decide on a new strategy. Now, the fate of Eriana Kwai lies in the hands of twenty battle-trained girls and their resistance to a mermaid’s allure.
Eighteen-year-old Meela has already lost her brother to the Massacre, and she has lived with a secret that’s haunted her since childhood. For any hope of survival, she must overcome the demons of her past and become a ruthless mermaid killer.
For the first time, Eriana Kwai’s Massacre warriors are female, and Meela must fight for her people’s freedom on the Pacific Ocean’s deadliest battleground.
TWs for the book (and this review to some extent): child abuse, child death, gore
Someone said horror mermaids? I gotta say it’s a concept I enjoyed since I read Into the Deep by Mira Grant, and so mermaids+horror themes+queer stuff attracts me like bees to honey. This one is more on the YA side but Warner didn’t shy away from depicting some gruesome scenes anyways. It’s a massacre, after all.
The romance itself, while a big part of the story, wasn’t the Main Thing. The main themes were definitely ones of survival, with a side serving of “what makes us monsters” which I really enjoy in books like that. There was some cattishness among the girls, which I think is fair. Put twenty 16 year olds on a boat and sending them to their deaths, while they all think they have the best strategy and the best way to rule over the others. Give them lethal weapons. Put them in the path of even more lethal creatures… shit’s going to happen. The novel deals a bit with the trauma of the situation, though I think it dealt more with the loss of others prior to the trip, than with what PTSD-inducing nightmare the trip itself is, but you can see some of the characters fraying at the seams and to me that was pretty realistic.
I also enjoyed that it had a more nuanced approached to mermaids as monsters than a clear-cut monster-hunter, us-versus-them narrative. Are the humans truly justified in going into their territory to kill as many as possible? is killing a child mermaid ok?
I tend not to go too much towards YA these days but it was still an enjoyable read and I’d recommend it for a good ol’ case of friends to enemies to lovers as well. There was less romance than I expected but it was still pretty cute, and the worldbuilding made it well worth it!