Review: Florence by Ciye Cho

Florence by Ciye ChoSeventeen-year-old Florence Waverley is out of her depth. Literally. Kidnapped and taken below the waves to the mer world of Niemela, she is the ultimate gift for merman Prince Kiren: a human familiar tied to his side. But nothing is what it seems amid the beauty and danger of a dark ocean.

Every Niemelan has a role to play, from the mermaids who weave towers out of kelp to the warriors who fight sea monsters. But in trying to survive, Florence will end up in the middle of a war between the mer and the Darkness. A conflict that will push her between two brothers: Kiren, the charmer inexplicably drawn to both her and the monsters; and Rolan, the loner who has been pushing her away since the day they met. But in order to take a stand–and find out where she belongs–Florence will have to risk it all: her life, her heart… and her very soul.

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Review

I’ve never really been interested in mermaids. Mermaid tales and myths haven’t been something to hold my attention for very long, but after reading The Undrowned Child and now Ciye Cho’s Florence, I’m starting to reconsider. I’m not only seeing mermaids in a whole different light, but I’m beginning to enjoy them. I’m not curious about where mermaids come from in general (dugongs, it’s just too easy), but I find my interest piqued when it comes to Cho’s mermaids, their origins, and their culture. I want more mermaids!

It’s probably easy to tell right now that I’m quite taken with Florence. I have lost sleep over this book. Much. Needed. Sleep. One night I woke up with a low blood sugar and, even though I find it hard to focus during them, low blood sugars aren’t a pleasant experience, and it was 3am, I found myself contemplating it as an opportunity. I decided no matter how my blood sugar was making me feel I would squeeze in a chapter. An hour later I went to bed. It can take as little as ten minutes to recover from a blood sugar and yet I was going back to sleep at 4am… what does that tell you?

From the first line until the last I was entertained. After a forced interval from reading, whether it was a break of an hour or a day off with other plans, I found myself instantly engaged whenever I came back to the story. The characters, on top of the imagery, made this effortless to do. The main character, Florence, is easy to relate to. She’s the outcast, but she doesn’t wear on one’s nerves. I think there is a fine line between a character being a relatable, likeable outcast and going to the point of being needy and frustrating. Florence is definitely not the latter. She has a very clear, strong voice and her interactions with the rest of the characters are fun, exciting, and sometimes thrilling to read. I think all the characters are very well rounded, fleshed out, and distinct.

I’m not completely surprised by how vivid and colourful the world of Niemala, the home of Cho’s mermaids, is thanks to having read Shiewo, but I was still thoroughly impressed with the imagery. If someone came along and created a movie adaptation of Florence, it would be something I would decide to watch without hesitation and not just for the story. I’m sure Cho’s world of Niemala would make for a beautiful visual display. The colourful descriptions; sometimes it makes it seem as though the world is being painted as you read. The descriptions aren’t overcomplicated and yet there’s a vibrancy and lushness added to the scenery. Niemala is a place I want to visit.

It’s hard to make me forget I’m reading something someone has written. For the majority of Florence I found myself forgetting and I’m really quite grateful for that. When you lose that ability to forget and immerse most of the time, the stories that make you achieve that mix again hold a special place. Florence holds a special place for me and I’m so glad I didn’t let the idea of mermaids turn me away.

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