Book Review: Lost Voices by Sarah Porter

7656222Title: Lost Voices
Author: Sarah Porter
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Publication date: 07/04/2011
Rating: 3 stars
Advanced Review copy provided by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Fourteen-year-old Luce has had a tough life, but she reaches the depths of despair when she is assaulted and left on the cliffs outside of her grim, gray Alaskan fishing village. She expects to die when she tumbles into the icy waves below, but instead undergoes an astonishing transformation and becomes a mermaid.

A tribe of mermaids finds Luce and welcomes her in—all of them, like her, lost girls who surrendered their humanity in the darkest moments of their lives. Luce is thrilled with her new life until she discovers the catch: the mermaids feel an uncontrollable desire to drown seafarers, using their enchanted voices to lure ships into the rocks. Luce’s own remarkable singing talent makes her important to the tribe—she may even have a shot at becoming their queen. However, her struggle to retain her humanity puts her at odds with her new friends. Will Luce be pressured into committing mass murder?

The first book in a trilogy, Lost Voices is a captivating and wildly original tale about finding a voice, the healing power of friendship, and the strength it takes to forgive.

I must admit that I already read a lot of positive reviews about this novel before I actually started reading it. Now I’m not usually one to agree with the majority – I like being a rebel – but for this novel, I can’t help but agree. Atleast up till some point. I really liked this novel, and it pulled me in with an uncomperable force. However, there are some minor flaws I would like to discuss too.

Luce – short for Lucette – is living with her uncle ever since her father dissapeared while working on a ship at sea. Neither the ship, nor her father ever returned. Convinced her father is still alive, Luce tries desperately to hang on until his return, but that isn’t exactly easy. Her uncle is a brutal man who spends more time drunk than sober, and cannot live with the fact Luce’s mother fell for his own brother rather than for him. When his behavior escalates one night, Luce finds herself utterly and completely abandoned. Before she realises it, she is changing – changing into a mermaid. She jumps off a cliff, right into the ocean, and starts singing to a ship. Unaware of the fact her voice is the reason the ship is going straight to Davy Jones’ locker, Luce barely makes it out alive. She gets rescued by another mermaid, who happens to be the queen of the tribe that came to Luce’s aid. Now she must start a new alive, with her new mermaid friends. Although she feels at home for the first time in many, many years; her remarkable singing talent and the arrival of other new mermaids, might ruin her chances of ever truely finding a home.

I cannot help but praise the descrpitive, detailed writing style of Sarah Porter. Her descriptions are vivid, and pull you right into the story. It was easy for me as a reader to imagine the underwater surroundings, the mermaids’ cave, and everything else mentioned in the book. I was also very fond of the first two or three chapters – the one Luce spent while still being human. Then, the annoyance began.

First of all, I was annoyed by Luce. She seemed perfectly fine, an understandable and likable character while she was still human; but as soon as she went into mermaid-phase, I couldn’t grasp her anymore. She had these crazy mood shifts I couldn’t relate to, and I started liking her less and less. This became better once Anais came into the picture though, from that point on, I started liking Luce again. Maybe this had to do with Anais’ anything-but-likable personality and the way Luce was portrayed directly opposite of the wicked mermaid; I wouldn’t really know. I like to know what’s going through the protagonist’s mind, and I like to understand why they think a certain way. With Luce, I had trouble understanding her way of thinking. She was weak-willed and silent at first, like I expected from an often abused girl, but I had high hopes she would turn into an independent, strong-willed protagonist with actual leadership-qualities. No such luck.

So, what else annoyed me endlessly? All of the useless events. So why exactly did Luce meet Tessa? Why are we introduced to Gum, when he doesn’t appear in the rest of the story? What about the Larvae, ever thought about doing something about those? At the start I had the feeling that Luce would be the change this mermaid tribe needed so much – that she would somehow be able to make them more humane in their actions, and maybe protecting the larvae would be her first step towards that. However, Luce only tries to save the Larvae once, then decides she did enough for the little baby-mermaids who I couldn’t help but feel sorry for, and focuses more on life within the tribe. I can’t grasp how girls who have been put through so much injustice throughout their human life, could simply disregard other, smaller children with the same kind of injustice. It didn’t make sense to me, and in fact, it enangered me.

While I was constantly cheering for Luce to get up and finally do something, she stayed a passive player throughout the whole story, focused more on her own acception without her new family than on the faith of others. She is so focused on having Catarine as her friends, whereas she does not see other, more plausible and accepting friendsihps, for example with Miriam. Don’t get me wrong, I think Catarine was probably my favorite character throughout the story – I was dying to know more about her past- and I wanted her and Luce to be friends, but it became clear quite soon that all Catarine does is take, without giving anything back. A friendship with this kind of people isn’t healthy, and I was hoping for Luce to realise that along the way. Or atleast to stop relating her own self-worth with Catarine’s acceptance of her. I wanted Luce to grow as a character, but she did little of that kind.

Practically all the mermaids’ personalities annoyed me. Except for Catarine – which may sound strange, and I’ve read reviewers thinking she was the most annoying character of them all – but I could actually relate to her in a way I couldn’t relate to the others. I hated Samantha, and somewhere along the way I wanted her to get killed by a bunch of orcas. At first, I thought I could like Dana and Rachel, but then they ended up being the same shallow, spineless creatures as the rest of them. Anais was probably the worst, but to be honest, that tribe didn’t need a lot to change from a bunch of somewhat tolerable people into the most annoying, terrible and greedy creatures that ever walked this earth.

What also annoyed me beyond belief, was the way the mermaids’ personalities all seemed to blend together. None of them really had an outspoken, different personality. Except maybe Miriam. But she hardly gets enough recognition throughout the novel. I also had high hopes of one of the orphan girls to have leadership potential, especially considering the way Jenna and Dana acted while they were still human. Again, dissapointment. As soon as they turned into mermaids, they lost every single personality trait that made them unique and outstanding.

There were many useless events in Lost Voices. Personally I thought that the arrival of the 14 new orphan girls could have easily been let out too – what did those girls really bring to the story? Just more annoying mermaids, more of the same, flat, dull personalities. Perhaps it would have been better had the author focused on the original tribe, and developed the personalities of those mermaids some more, rather than keep introducing new but pointless and generic characters. These useless events also confused me quite a lot. For instance, when the perspective changed from Luce to the orphan girls, I was terribly confused and had to reread the first pages of the chapter several time to actually understand what was going on. Sometimes it felt like the story had no real way to go, as if it was just a bunch of chapters drawn together without any real purpose.

I know I sound a bit tough for this book, but I do have to admit that despite all of that, I did enjoy reading Lost Voices. The cliffhanger at the end, made me curious and I’m definately going to read the next novel. Considering it’s a debut novel, I think Sarah Porter did a pretty good job, however I’m hoping for more character-development, more different personalities and an actual solid plot in the second novel in the series. Plus, I would love the reappareance of old characters like Gum, Luce’s dad, and maybe Tessa. And no matter how many things I point out that may be wrong with the plot and characters; truth is that I did read this one in two reading sessions, unable to step away from my computer until I finished reading it. So there must be something about Lost Voices that kept me fascinated.


  1. “All of the useless events.” Agreed, I also liked it a lot then…my interest started fading. I’d probably would have rated it higher if it wasn’t for the useless events. But I think the author and the series have a lot of potential ^.^
    Following you back bb :0) and thanks for stopping by my blog 🙂


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