Book Reviews

Review: “Sea Spell,” Jennifer Donnelly

July 5, 2016
Review: “Sea Spell,” Jennifer DonnellySea Spellby Jennifer Donnelly
Series: Waterfire Saga #4
Published by Disney Hyperion on June, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Mermaids / Selkies
Pages: 320
Book Depository | Bookworld | Booktopia

Six mermaids battle to save their hidden world.

Serafina and the other mer have discovered that Orfeo, one of the six founders of Atlantis, is trying to unleash an ancient monster from its icy prison. Astrid, his descendent is summoned to Orfeo's stronghold where she must attempt to take his black pearl talisman. Meanwhile, Ava tracks another talisman in the swamps of the Mississippi. To get it she will have to face the murderous Okwa Naholo spirits.

Serafina, Becca, Ling, Neela ready themselves for war. In an epic final double battle, the Black Fin resistance must stop the Voleneros from taking over the mer realms and end Orfeo's plan to take the fate of the gods into his own hands. Can they prevent the destruction of their world?


Sea Spell was an exhilarating finale to Jennifer Donnelly’s Waterfire Saga. I loved experiencing everything come full circle, with memorable characters from throughout the series once again making an appearance for the mers final battle against Orfeo and Abbadon.

 “In this realm, evil has vanquished love.”

This series has just been an utter delight to read. After a teeny slow start with the first book, I haven’t been able to put these books down. Jennifer Donnelly always brings it with her novels, and The Waterfire Saga is no different. Everything has been exquisitely crafted; from the clothing to the kingdoms, the races and the dialect. I simply cannot sing this series praises enough!

Sea Spell ties everything up nicely. Sure, there are a few things that are left hanging on the wind, but it’s nothing that you’ll be ripping your eyes out over after the last page is turned. I found that for once I was pleased with how things had ended, and that all my questions had been answered.

We finally get more of Ava in this book – the mermaid that has been quite distant for the other three books. While her quest for her talisman wasn’t as thrilling as the others, her journey and relationship with the freshwater queen still made it a highlight of Sea Spell. I became increasingly affectionate toward her piranha, Baby, as well as the myth and lore surrounding the freshwaters Ava had to navigate. There really was some great material here.

Astrid is once again a major player in Sea Spell. While I had my worries for her in Dark Tide regarding her loyalty, Sea Spell brought them to the forefront. I was never sure if Astrid was going to succumb to Orfeo’s promises or not, which made everything so suspenseful. I would have liked to see more of her relationship with Des in this book, but other than that, I have no complaints.

It’s no surprise that Sera, once again, also has the majority of page time in this final instalment. With an army behind her, and the help of her friends, she’s ready to either reclaim Cerulea or head south to Abbadon. I loved the dynamics of the group, as well as the goblin allies, and found that there was never a dull moment. The characters in this series have really grown and I think that’s what it was all about.

 “Seated atop the creature was a mermaid. She carried a crossbow. A sword hung from her hip. Her coppery hair, cut short, was angled over her forehead and cheekbones. Her green eyes blazed with fury.”

The battle for Cerulea was epic. It was thrilling, suspenseful and I was never sure what was going to happen. Old allies returned, and old enemies became friends. I became wistful and nostalgic at many points in the book when someone from Deep Blue or Rogue Wave made a re-appearance in order to fight the good fight. There were some happy reunions, too! I loved seeing everyone come together, particularly Lena the Catfish Lady with her army of kitties, and even Alitheia, the bronze spider used to declare a mer of Merrow’s blood.

I was worried that the ending would be rushed or anti-climactic, but it was satisfying. The effort to destroy Orfeo and Abbadon was a long-winded one, but worthwhile. There was another fantastic battle scene here in where the goblin’s kraken was summoned in ‘a great time of need’. Jennifer Donnelly really utilised the cast of characters she had been busily crafting and even hinting at since book one.

 “So, besides Ava being lost in a swamp full of homicidal maniacs, and Astrid swimming off to meet the king of homicidal maniacs, what other insurmountable problems are we facing tonight?”
– Sera

The epilogue was just ‘okay’, but as everything else had gotten such a stellar ending, I didn’t seem to mind. I wish Becca, Ling and Ava had stayed on in Miromara, at least for a final scene of the girls all together. I was a bit let down that their fates were glossed over after spending so much time with them.

This isn’t a series where the romances are a highlight. I’ve said that before, and Sea Spell reaffirms it. There was never a relationship within The Waterfire Saga that I completely got behind, or felt was developed enough. That’s okay though, because there is so much more to this series to keep you occupied. The main theme of The Waterfire Saga is ‘love’ – but ‘love’ that comes in all forms – be it sisters, friends, allies, brothers…

What a wonderful reading journey this has been for me! I have been apprehensive about mermaid stories for a while now, struggling to find one I can really love (I love mermaids, I really do – but most YA seems to do them such injustice) and I’m so happy to finally say that I’ve found one I can firmly place on my ‘favourites’ shelf. I urge you to pick up The Waterfire Saga and give it a go.

I just wish I had more to read!

About Jennifer Donnelly

Jennifer Donnelly grew up in New York State, in Lewis and Westchester counties, and attended the University of Rochester where she majored in English Literature and European History. Jennifer lives in New York's Hudson Valley with her husband, daughter, and three rescue dogs.


  • Reply Makena Quick September 30, 2016 at 12:43 pm

    I absolutely adored this astonishingly intriguing finale of this beautiful series! Though the action was quite brutal, I was on the edge of my seat throughout all of this book, I probably would not had survived long enough if I hadn’t read it so fast! So amazing, couldn’t put it down! I give this Waterfire Saga give huge stars!

  • Reply Alise July 5, 2016 at 2:32 pm

    I have yet to read this final book but I have enjoyed the rest of the books in the series and can’t wait to see how it all wraps up-those quotes are great! Nice review :)
    Alise recently posted…Review: Ivory and Bone by Julie EshbaughMy Profile

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