“So he rolled on down and rolled on down where the mermaids sang while their lovers drowned…” – K.Z. Snow
If you can, picture a realm where steampunk meets a real-world industrial revolution, a place where those who wear the brand of Mongrel on their person are segregated in the village of Taintwell, a place so near yet so far from the purely human denizens of Purinton, a place that isn’t divided by the haves and have nots as much as it is by the ares and are nots, and you’ll have a rough idea of what you’re in for when you enter this world.
Things have changed a bit in Taintwell and Purinton since Fan, Will, Clancy Marrowbone and Simon Bentcross saved their world from the frightful things Mechanical Circus owner Alphonse Hunzinger and a few corrupt Purinton politicians had planned; though things for Clancy could be better. His departure from Taintwell at the end of Mongrel should have marked the beginning of his pattern of extended absence for the ever-wandering vampire, but less than two years later, he’s back, following an irresistible siren song that only his heart can hear.
Simon is the man Clancy can’t seem to stay away from in spite of the vampire’s history as the non-committal sort. He’s come back to Taintwell to satisfy an unnamed need, but ends up finding an ocean’s worth of trouble in the process when he discovers Jordy Hawkes washed up on the beach, barely alive amongst a tangle of fishermen’s nets.
Jordy and Clancy have a history, one that connects them closely enough that Clancy’s compassion for the man extends to wanting to help him escape from whomever it is that means to do him harm—though Jordy is most definitely not the same man Clancy had known when he visited him as a prisoner on Floating Brick Island so many years before. Time and circumstance and a clockwork inventor have all served to remake Jordy into something other, something no one has ever seen before, and someone dangerous to the human population, not to mention to Clancy himself.
It’s difficult to say whether I loved Merman every bit as much as I did Mongrel. The sequel was two years and some change in the making, so there’s some distance there. I admit to being pretty blown away by the world K.Z. Snow created when she first introduced the mongrel Dog King Fanule Perfidor and his human lover Will Marchman, and I also admit that I’m a fan of steampunk and Alt U and fantasy, so that, coupled with the fact that I’m also a fan of the author, is pretty much the perfect storm. I can say for certain that I really liked Merman for the way the author blended the mermaid/siren song/vampire legends together, then threw in the clockwork mechanics of a steampunk meets the industrialized world; not to mention the building of a romance between the vampire and his human, one that was nearly derailed by a bewitching spell that snared Clancy in a deceptive web. Add to that the opportunity to revisit a world and characters that had totally charmed me from the start, and I’d say it’s a very near thing.
K.Z. Snow is always a go-to author for me, and I’ve never been disappointed yet. This is a historically futuristic world, or maybe it’s a futuristically historical world, but whichever it is, it’s visionary and brimming with imagination and wonderment, as well as a cast of characters drawn with the all the colors in the box of creative crayons. There’s an HFN ending in this one that I can only hope means there will be more to come.
If you love fantasy and have read Mongrel, I’d say Merman is a don’t miss.
Reviewed by: Lisa