Monstrous Beauty - Elizabeth Fama
TW: Rape. It’s a hard to read myth perpetuating depiction (stranger overcome with uncontrollable lust with lots of victim blaming), which permeates the entire story. It’s necessary to the plot as surprise twist, to make other attractions non-icky and show how the victim suffered then sacrificed to get what she wanted like a superhero rape backstory.

Recommended: Mermaid, mythology, YA fans. Well-written and dark tastes recommended that’s not dumbed down by assuming teenagers can or should only read twee melodramas and can’t handle mature subject matter. It’s better if you don’t think about it much and enjoy the ride for what it is: a haunting, gripping tale beautifully told with possibly ship-wrecking blights.


Well written and atmospheric
Returns to classic mermaid mythology
Dark & twisted
Solid, compelling characters
Engaging Story


Plot Holes
Mystery killing blurb
Foresaw most events
Awful depiction of rape

I don’t remember the first time Monstrous Beauty wound up on my radar though it’s been extremely well spread and hyped. I do remember lots of “this is the mermaid book I’ve been looking for” and similar praise. I can’t say the same but this dark, twisted YA tale is certainly right up my alley.

For me, mermaids have always been beautiful and dangerous so I’ve been looking for something fresh like moving past the gorgeous white girl top half and whale tail. Really, Monstrous Beauty returns to classic mermaid mythology everyone’s seemingly forgotten after Disney’s Little Mermaid.

However, I’ll certainly never forget meeting the awesome Mickey from Book Sharks when she gave it to me in a big bag of books to clear off her to-read shelf. Thank you again.

Ideally, I’d have read it right then and reviewed it right away. Alas, ‘twas not meant to be. Monstrous Beauty was waiting to be read on my shelf for so long, I’d forgotten what it’s supposed to be about. This worked out for because it added mystery, which the blurb completely kills with its first words: In 1872.

Without knowing the date, it’s a rather surreal experience wondering where they cross and collide that I thoroughly enjoyed. So I’ve no idea how it reads while knowing that beforehand. It may be a story killer because I was able to piece things together before Hester throughout the entire story anyways.

As gripping as the story is, it’s not without faults. There’s several plot holes noticeable while reading. For instance, why would anyone assume their child is dead when there’s clearly another option, which they were worried about just a second ago? I’m sorry but how does that make sense? This isn’t the only occasion of such gaps either.

Beyond that, at round the halfway mark there’s mind-boggling action via domino effect straight out of Hamlet. My first thought was that someone pissed off the DM badly to get the party wiped (lol), which I doubt was the intended reaction. It just came off as so outrageous yet I couldn’t look away.

Characters are sensational despite their awkward lapses described above. I really enjoyed their point of view, especially Hester’s and found them compelling. It’s so well-written and atmospheric; I couldn’t help but overlook the immersion breaking moments and breathlessly continue when that’s usually a deal breaker. It’s rhythmic, beautiful and haunting. I fully enjoyed it even though most turn of events were obvious; it’s all about the journey.