Author: Sarah Porter
Genre: YA Paranormal, Mermaids, Coming of Age
Publication Date: July 2, 2013
Source: print ARC via Amazon Vine
Synopsis: Mermaids have been sinking ships and drowning humans for centuries, and now the government is determined to put an end to the mermaid problem—by slaughtering all of them. Luce, a mermaid with exceptionally threatening abilities, becomes their number-one target, hunted as she flees down the coast toward San Francisco.
There she finds hundreds of mermaids living in exile under the docks of the bay. These are the Twice Lost: once-human girls lost first when a trauma turned them into mermaids, and lost a second time when they broke mermaid law and were rejected by their tribes. Luce is stunned when they elect her as their leader. But she won’t be their queen. She’ll be their general. And they will become the Twice Lost Army—because this is war.
☆: 3.5/5 stars – The novel drags on almost endlessly, but the ending helps redeem it
YA novels with mermaids as the focus tend to be dark due to all the legends associated with them, but the Lost Voices trilogy stands out as an especially dark take on them. Sure, it takes siren lore and slapped it onto mermaids, but not every series will have people pulled up in nets by helicopters, shot, and/or eaten by sharks who swarm after they smell blood. Coming off a strong second book, The Twice Lost is weaker than it needs to be, but it’s still good. It just needs to trim off some of the excess length and POVs.
I think Luce is fifteen at this point and she’s got so much on her plate it’s ridiculous. She runs herself ragged warning the mermaids, leading them in the fight to keep from being massacred by the US government, and teaching the other mermaids how to control water with their song. That she takes all this up as easily as she does (albeit with hesitation) at such a young age is a little odd, but she’s a fully realized character to be respected. The mermaid army she takes control of is made up of a diverse cast (her two best lieutenants are Asian and African-American) and the lack of feminine drama among them is refreshing. Some books seem to think you can’t put a bunch of girls together without catfights happening, for some reason.
The freedom they’re desperately fighting for and the destructive pasts they’re trying their best to leave behind are very real, very well-written conflicts and their war doesn’t come without sacrifices. Mermaids die in all sorts of gruesome ways and Porter never shies away from it. Still, it’s easy to lose track of how necessary it all is when pacing slows to a crawl and very little happens for almost a hundred pages once the Twice Lost Army gets the blockade going.
The fourteen separate POV segments (give or take two because I may have missed one or two). About half of them can be cut because the information they offer isn’t necessary or the bits of relevant information in them can be given to readers through one of the necessary POVs. The other half of the pacing problem is the war itself the mermaids are fighting by forming a blockade in San Francisco’s harbor. It’s necessary, yes, and real-life wars can drag on for even longer, but being force-fed every single detail doesn’t make for fun reading. A timeskip might have helped.
It also would have helped to have a lot less casual ableism. This is crazy, that’s crazy, he’s insane, she’s psychotic,… I can take it up to certain point due to how normalized it is in real life (unfortunately) and The Twice Lost went far beyond what I can take. When bad ideas/people are called crazy alongside someone who is genuinely mentally ill being called crazy in the same book, there’s a serious problem.
The novel’s ending is what saves it from being a three-star read and a disappointing end to an original, strongly written trilogy. The romance as it was developed and portrayed in Waking Storms sent a single, unmistakeable message and it’s so relieving to see Porter follow through on that message with Luce’s ultimate choice between land and sea and how everything works out. It’s about doing right by Luce, not giving it the same ending almost every other YA novel has. This is the second recent read that prioritizes the characters over the romance and it’s something I want to see much, much more of. Can this be the next big trend in YA, please?
As one of the most female-friendly YA series I can think of despite the horrible things the girls go through to become mermaids, the Lost Voices trilogy is worth a read despite all its pacing issues and unnecessary length in the latter two books. This reminds me I need to get a set of finished copies now…