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September 12

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Review: Hannah (Daughters of the Sea, Book 1) by Kathryn Lasky

by Ann-Katrina

Hannah Cover

Back Cover of Hannah

Hannah wants to be normal, but she’s not. The sea calls to her, and she can see a delicate tracing of scales on her legs. Billowing waves soothe her, but flat land makes her sick. She knows there’s something wild in her that’s different, wrong–and deeply thrilling.

Only one person seems to know who–or what–Hannah is. He’s a guest in the house where she works as a scullery girl, and his fascinated gaze follows her. She doesn’t understand his terrifying allure, or her longing. But even as the mystery deepens, Hannah is sure of one thing. A sea change is coming.

Three Quick Points About Hannah

  • Point 1: Deus ex machinas abound! Hannah’s problems were all too easily resolved.
  • Point 2: The intended audience must be precocious children or idyllic teens. In general, too superficial for an audience over 12 with words too laborious for an audience under 15.
  • Point 3: It’s the book equivalent of Chinese food.


Full Review of Hannah

Before reading the full review, please note that there may be some spoilers. I tried to keep it vague enough not to spoil the entire story, but be warned. If you’d rather not take any chances, skip the synopsis and go straight to the final thoughts.

Hannah Synopsis

This entire book could easily be summarized in one sentence: Hannah Albury, a 15 year old orphan who is drawn to the sea, becomes a scullery made for a prominent Bostonian family and while summering with them on the Maine coast, discovers that she’s a mermaid.

That’s pretty much it.

Final Thoughts On Hannah

Eager was I to read this book. I polished it off in an afternoon. It was rather enjoyable, but I had trouble deciphering the intended audience.

The story was overly simplified—think Saturday morning cartoons where we see that the evildoer is defeated by a laser beam and the hero exclaims, “Haha! I have defeated the evildoer with my laser beam!” and then the evildoer cries out, “Oh no, I’ve been defeated by a laser beam!”

In the first two chapters, Hannah explains that she feels ill if she even thinks about moving away from the sea, then to reinforce the image, she’s sent to Kansas by the headmistress of the orphanage, becomes deathly ill, and is sent back to Boston. When she arrives back in Boston, the headmistress is mysteriously gone and replaced with a sweetheart who sees Hannah’s potential and sets her up with a prominent Bostonian family. Anyone over the age of twelve would have recognized that deus ex machina, cementing my belief the book was intended for young readers.

What gave me pause was the audacious use of vocabulary—words such as lugubrious, conflagration, chiaroscuro, and gewgaw to name only a few. These are words one is more likely to find handed out to high school sophomores and juniors. It felt incongruous with the simple storyline.

I’d have believed the older teen/young adult target audience if the story had more depth of emotion and more developed sub-plots. For instance, the profound affection that Hannah and Stannish Wheeler have for one another stretches the imagination when all they’ve shared were a few flirtatious glances and a couple ambiguous discussions. It hinted that Hannah and Stannish were possibly connected in another life together, but it was never elaborated in the story and resulted in the emotional impact falling flat.

Another thread that seemed frayed was Lila Hawley, the eldest daughter, and her macabre connection to Jade, evil kitty minion. I loved the development there. Lila and her cat were effectively creepy and actually, I found myself wanting to know more about Lila than Hannah. But by the end of the story, I wondered what her purpose was in the overall story, other than to antagonize Hannah (and when she became too problematic, Lila was shipped away). I get the feeling we’ll see more of her in a later book, but it’s not a certainty.

This is a trend I’ve been seeing more of lately—books withholding logical closure or keeping the key relationships superficial in order to promote future installments of a series. A trend possibly due to the success of Harry Potter, Twilight, Percy Jackson, and others.

With those particular series, however, each book is a fully self-contained story where there is a strong plot set up, climax, and conclusion with a lead in to the next story designed to pique curiosity. I didn’t get that with Hannah. Barring her self-discovery at the end (which most people going into the story already know), nothing of substantial consequence happened—no strong plot set up, climax, or conclusion.

Hannah is not overtly bad—the writing is good, it presented a great overview of nineteenth century American aristocratic life, and breezed along nicely—but it was the book equivalent of Chinese food—tastes good going down, but an hour later, you’re hungry again.

Rating: Get it used [B-/C+] (?)

Hannah (Daughters of the Sea, Book 1) available on Amazon

Comments on Review: Hannah (Daughters of the Sea, Book 1) by Kathryn Lasky

  1. # Sunday Sketch 0.6: Hannah Albury from Hannah by Kathryn Lasky - Today, I Read… wrote on September 27, 2009 at 8:34 am:

    [...] the story had a few shortcomings, I did enjoy the subject matter—mermaids. The moment I started reading it, I wanted to draw [...]

  2. # Daisy Walle wrote on August 25, 2011 at 6:31 pm:

    I LLLLOOOOOVVVEEEE THIS BOOK BECAUSE IT’S FILLED WITH MYSTERIS AND LOTS OF FANTASY!!! THE AUTHER ALWAYS MAKES YOU WONDER……..<3

  3. # Daisy Walle wrote on August 25, 2011 at 6:33 pm:

    MERMAIDS!!!!<3

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