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Reviewed by Donna Gielow McFarland for Readers' Favorite
Underneath: A Merfolk Tale (The Under Series Book 1) by M.N. Arzú is a mermaid tale like no other. This deservedly award-winning novel begins as a half-drowned merman with a deep gash in his tail washes up on the coast of Maine. The comatose merman is rushed to ER where surgeon Gwen Gaston takes him under her protection and the medical staff try to figure out what to do with him. Meanwhile, the family of the merman, Christopher Brooks, son of billionaire Julian Brooks, is desperate to get him back without blowing their cover. It’s not long before the United Nations gets involved and the merman is moved to a secure location. Merfolk have politics, too, and Julian is not allowed his vote on the council -- he's just supposed to be patient and wait for a decision. The U.S. military gets involved, a video goes viral, and the whole world -- including a very tenacious reporter -- soon learns about the mysterious being. Some in power see the existence of merfolk as a threat (and take action accordingly), protesters try to “Save the Mermaid” and the family and a doctor who truly care try to figure out how to navigate the system to save Chris. It’s not an easy task.
I found Underneath: A Merfolk Tale to be very enjoyable, expertly written and extremely believable, except for the merman part, of course. But if a merman were really to wash ashore, this is exactly the sort of thing that would happen. The story reminded me of an old movie where an extraterrestrial comes to earth and is discovered by a child, except this story is for YA and adults (not because of the subject matter, but because of the complexity of the plot). Underneath: A Merfolk Tale gets more and more exciting as the plot thickens and M.N. Arzú is very good at dropping hints to gradually show a fuller picture of the merfolk society. There were times I was confused about the backstory, but Underneath is the first book in The Under Series so I expect it all makes sense in the end. I really enjoyed the bits of humor and layers of mystery. Underneath comes to a satisfying conclusion, but the story is far from over and the rest of the series is definitely going on my reading list. Highly recommended for lovers of science fiction, fantasy, mystery and good stories in general. I expect to some day see M.N. Arzú’s name on a national best-sellers list.