Book Reviews

Review: “Waterfell,” Amalie Howard

May 11, 2014
Review: “Waterfell,” Amalie HowardWaterfellby Amalie Howard
Series: The Aquarathi #1
Published by Harlequin Teen on October, 2013
Genres: Aliens, Mermaids / Selkies
Pages: 360

The girl who would be queen.

Nerissa Marin hides among teens in her human form, waiting for the day she can claim her birthright—the undersea kingdom stolen from her the day her father was murdered. Blending in is her best weapon—until her father's betrayer confronts Nerissa and challenges her to a battle to the death on Nerissa's upcoming birthday—the day she comes of age.

Amid danger and the heartbreak of her missing mother, falling for a human boy is the last thing Nerissa should do. But Lo Seavon breaches her defenses and somehow becomes the only person she can count on to help her desperate search for her mother, a prisoner of Nerissa's mortal enemy. Is Lo the linchpin that might win Nerissa back her crown? Or will this mortal boy become the weakness that destroys her?

Amalie Howard’s Waterfell was such a pleasant surprise. Being on the constant search for the perfect YA mermaid story, I almost overlooked this one. Waterfell is a fantastically-written page turner with a unique spin on the YA mermaid genre. Offering us a strong protagonist, a genuine and likeable BFF relationship and a dash of sci-fi Waterfell is one of my favourite reads so far this year!

I hired this one out at the library because I’d heard some mixed things about it from other readers. While Waterfell had an intriguing premise, I worried that it would adhere to the overused YA plotline of ‘Supernatural Girl Falls For Mortal Boy While Attending High School’. There were some aspects of the book I groaned at slightly (more on that later), but for the most part Waterfell managed to stand on its own two feet and prove a page-turning read.

I really liked our main character, Nerissa. I’m not quite sure why she got me on board so quickly (she’s not exactly the NICEST protagonist), but she was such an honest and raw leading lady. Nerissa didn’t care what others thought about her or how she came across, she just did what was necessary. She’s a queen in training, after all!

Her friendship with Jenna was fantastic, too. I usually loathe the ‘BFF’ side relationships in YA novels, finding the best friend to be merely a throwaway secondary character, but the friendship between these two girls made the story a lot more interesting and genuine. It was also a central part of the book, which was a great change from the norm. Although there was a love interest, Nerissa and Jenna’s friendship came first.

Lo, the aforementioned love interest, was an interesting character, too. I wasn’t completely sold on him for a lot of the book (and I’m still not sure where I stand regarding him) but I think he and Nerissa work. Although she seems to hold the power in their relationship, Lo seems to bring her back down to earth. I am interested to see how the revelation in book one changes their relationship in book two, Oceanborn.

Nerissa’s fake/’sort-of’ brother, Speio, makes me feel some mixed emotions. I’m still trying to figure out just what he contributed to the story that made him an integral character. I felt that the last few chapters regarding him were an afterthought – in an effort to MAKE him ‘integral’. His relationship with Cara was just plain weird, too. I couldn’t figure out if he was really invested in it or was just trying to get back at Nerissa. That being said, I think he has the potential to add a lot to the future books in the series.

The Aquarathi (seriously, coolest name ever?) world and lore was fantastic. I went into this book thinking it was just going to be your run-of-the-mill mermaid/human story… but instead I got sea monsters from another planet. I was not expecting the alien side of things at all. The Aquarathi information wasn’t shoved down our throats all at once, either. Nerissa was a great narrator and let us learn about her world pieces at a time. There were no info-dumps within Amalie Howard’s Waterfell, which was great because they are such a pet peeve of mine.

Yes, this book is set on land and within the human world for 95% of its pages… and yes, the ‘villain’ doesn’t appear until the final few chapters… but the Aquarathi world and Nerissa’s heritage is at the forefront of the book 100%. By no means does Amalie Howard let you forget as a reader that this is a fantasy book. The ‘high school’ aspect of the book isn’t too heavy, either.

There wasn’t much I disliked about Waterfell, but I would be lying if I said it was a perfect read. For one thing, I felt that the ending was extremely rushed. There were a few times where I had to pause and re-read certain paragraphs or sentences to really get a grip on what was happening in the final showdown. Some things were easily explained away, too, such as the half-breeds being on the beach for Speio and not Nerissa. I felt that things like that were just unnecessary. Even though my copy of Waterfell is now closed and on my bedside, I’m trying to understand and process just how some of the plotlines were tied up.

I will be picking up Oceanborn when it comes out in July. I am eager to get back into Nerissa’s world and witness her transformation from Princess to Queen. I want to see how things with Lo evolve, see her reunited with Jenna and understand more about the genetic splicing and breeding experiments going on between Aquarathi and humans.

Recommended to: I’ve never read an Amalie Howard book before, and this was a great one to start with. Fans of mermaid stories will appreciate the unique twist she brings to the genre. I’ll be buying a copy of my own to keep!

About Amalie Howard

Amalie Howard grew up on a small Caribbean island where she spent most of her childhood with her nose buried in a book or being a tomboy running around barefoot, shimmying up mango trees and dreaming of adventure. 22 countries, surfing with sharks and several tattoos later, she has traded in bungee jumping in China for writing the adventures she imagines instead. She isn't entirely convinced which takes more guts. She currently resides in New York with her husband and three children.


  • Reply KKatie @ KKatiereads May 12, 2014 at 7:40 pm

    I feel you so much on being on a constant hunt for the perfect YA mermaid book. Now that I’ve read your great review I think my search is over. I love how you ticked off each of the things that take a mermaid book from great to meh.

    Great review! I’ve definitely added this to my TBR pile.
    KKatie @ KKatiereads recently posted…Sharing My Problem – Stacking The Shelves #9My Profile

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