Review: Monstrous Beauty

Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama

Fierce, seductive mermaid Syrenka falls in love with Ezra, a young naturalist. When she abandons her life underwater for a chance at happiness on land, she is unaware that this decision comes with horrific and deadly consequences.

Almost one hundred forty years later, seventeen-year-old Hester meets a mysterious stranger named Ezra and feels overwhelmingly, inexplicably drawn to him. For generations, love has resulted in death for the women in her family. Is it an undiagnosed genetic defect . . . or a curse? With Ezra’s help, Hester investigates her family’s strange, sad history. The answers she seeks are waiting in the graveyard, the crypt, and at the bottom of the ocean—but powerful forces will do anything to keep her from uncovering her connection to Syrenka and to the tragedy of so long ago.

(Description from Goodreads)

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Wow. This book had me constantly on the edge of my seat. Multiple times I found my heart racing and I found my eyes tearing up. It was so…marvelous. This book was nonstop action, which is impressive for a book that’s over 300 pages long. This book is actually in 3rd person, as it switches back and forth between Hester’s life and Syrenka’s life. The two are 140 years apart, but they have a connection that spans over many generations.

This book is dark and twisted filled with curses, murder, legends, and 140 years worth of history.  This is my first mermaid related book I read, and I must say, this interpretation of mermaids was not what I was expecting or used to (granted, the only actually mermaid story I know is the Disney version of The Little Mermaid…well, I know the true story of The Little Mermaid, but it’s too dang depressing.) There were definitely some moments that left me wondering whether or not I was still reading a YA novel. However, those moments didn’t cloud my judgment on this book.

I wasn’t sure how I felt at first about the whole switching back and forth almost every chapter between Hester’s life and Syrenka’s life. For the first few chapters, I kept finding myself confused as to what was happening and what had already happened. However, once I got into the style of this book, I was able to keep track of what was going on (it also didn’t hurt that for the times it was during Syrenka’s time, it said at the top of the page what year it was.

There was SO MUCH that went into this book. I can’t really say too much without giving away extremely important information, so I’m going to try to make this as concise as possible.

Hester’s main search is trying to figure out what is going on with the women in her family. All the women in her family have died within days of having a baby, including Hester’s own mother. One night, she meets Ezra (I am in love with that name), a guy she immediately feels she has a connection with. After some talk, she mentions her “curse,” which seems to grab the interest of Ezra. From there, it all spirals out of control (or perhaps it spirals into control, depending on how you look at it.) Hester has always been the quite, good person, but once the events that led up to the finale start to take place, she does whatever she can to find out the truth, including lying and stealing.

I will give you a word of warning though: fluff is NOT a concept in this book. The mermaids in this book are freaky and do rather awful things, like eat human organs. Also, there is quite a bit of murder in this book. And not just watered down murder, I mean full on, graphic as all get out murder. I found myself cringing and recoiling from the book at certain murder points, but of course I couldn’t tear myself away from reading more. But, just be forewarned that this book is dark, twisted, and in no ways fluff filled.

Almost every single character in this book made me feel bad for them. There were a few that didn’t (for obvious reasons) but I’d say I felt bad for around 3/4s of the characters in this book. There were so many heartbreaking moments for these characters, there was no way I couldn’t feel bad for them.  I will admit that during the first half of the book, I found the characters to be a little…flat. But the last half of the book really managed to bring them to life and made up for the flatness in the first half. I will say that Syrenka’s side of the story was far more compelling than Hester’s (though Hester’s story really picked up towards the last few chapters.)

All in all, I LOVED this book. Holy moly, I’m still stunned by it. Not very many books leave me feeling that way, but this one did.

Also, here are some alternative covers for the book; the first one is the original cover and the second is the German cover (I think!) Both are so stunning.



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