Book Review: Rebecca Mascull's Song of the Sea Maid*

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*I was fortunate to receive an eARC of this book before release via NetGalley and Hodder & Stoughton. Thank you!*

'In the 18th century, Dawnay Price is an anomaly. An educated foundling, a woman of science in a time when such things are unheard-of, she overcomes her origins to become a natural philosopher.
Against the conventions of the day, and to the alarm of her male contemporaries, she sets sail to Portugal to develop her theories. There she makes some startling discoveries - not only in an ancient cave whose secrets hint at a previously undiscovered civilisation, but also in her own heart. The siren call of science is powerful, but as war approaches she finds herself pulled in another direction by feelings she cannot control.'

Read that description, see that cover, and then tell me you're not interested in this book. I was hooked before I even read the first page, and when I had read the first page, I knew there was no turning back. We are introduced to an orphan, unnamed and happy with her brother, roaming the streets of London. It's the 1700s and the world is full of disease, ruled by religion, and suspicious of anybody interested in 'new' ideas. After a fast-paced introduction, our orphan is now named Dawnay Price and living in a home for children, designed to educate them so they can be send out into the world as apprentices. She is brotherless and scared. For girls in the home, they are to become maids or fulfill other domestic roles, but Dawnay becomes inquisitive, eager to learn to write as well as read, and finds the natural world fascinating. It is a this point our story begins as Dawnay strives to become the natural philosopher her heart, and head, wants her to be.

Song of the Sea Maid is beautifully written. In her endnotes for the novel, Rebecca writes about how she was inspired by and used the style of eighteenth-century prose in her construction of the narrative. She uses '&c' instead of 'etc'. spells 'Menorca' as 'Minorca', and other such period quirks, which I really enjoyed and was surprised I did actually pick up on as I read through the text. Researching the book after reading I also came across a Pinterest board she made whist writing the book, using images of fishing villages, naval battles, and uniforms to help increase the accuracy of her world she harked back to. Fortunately she chose to omit the annoying prose styling of the time of capitalising a huge amount of words in the middle of sentences! 

As you can probably tell at this point, I adored this book. Dawnay Price is possibly one of my favourite characters I've ever read and I loved seeing her journey from ignorant (in the sweetest way possible) orphan girl to woman of science. Her story isn't always a happy one, but that's what makes it such a believable tale. I yearned for Dawnay to have her happy ending and to become the natural philosopher that she wanted to be because, by the end, she felt like a friend to me. Her narrative voice was humorous, emotional, rational, strong, and scared all at once, which it was made her feel real to me. I'm very much looking forward to reading Rebecca's debut The Visitors now as her writing was such a comfort to me over the duration of reading this novel.

Song of the Sea Maid is released on June 18th 2015 and I would recommend it to anyone looking for an amazing female character, loves stories set in the depths of nature, or suffers from a bit of wunderlust. You can almost feel the sun shining through the pages. Five stars from me!

M x

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