In Breakwater, Catherine Jones Payne tells a watery tale of merfolk, naiads, and intrigue in the ocean city of Thessalonike. Jade, a young aristocrat, catches her fiancé in the murder of a lowly refugee girl. Her decision to expose him unleashes pent-up rivalries between the rulers and subjects of Thessalonike. But despite allusions to mythology and classical Greece, Breakwater is never epic. Jade, a teenage mermaid who variously giggles and sobs, anchors this tale to contemporary ambiance. Undercurrents of racial conflict, immigration, and political instability strike a counterpoint but don’t displace the dominant tone. A clear sense of morality, unsupported by religion, suffuses the story. Readers looking for a quick, pleasant read rather than alien worlds will find that this book swims well.
Best for: Younger teens and those who enjoy contemporary fiction and sweet romance as well as fantasy.
Discern: Non-graphic violence, one questionable word, and repeated defiance of parental authority in serious matters.