Columbine: This is the background to the series: Back in the mists of time, Neptune, the King of the Merfolk, fell in love with and married a mortal. Because it ended badly, the tempestuous monarch forbade all relations between merpeople and humans, insisting that any humans who had contact with them should be given a memory drug to make them forget. The ban has done little to lessen the attraction between the two peoples – on the contrary, young merpeople find the “forbidden love” especially romantic.

Over thirteen years before The Tail of Emily Windsnap starts, a couple of boats had got lost and capsized during a regatta yacht race. Some mermen helped the humans to land, and somehow, despite the rules, this was the beginning of a series of meetings which led to love and marriage for one couple, Jake, a merman poet, and Penny, a girl from the seaside town of Brightport. The illegal marriage could not be kept secret, and Neptune was furious. Jake was thrown into underwater prison and Penny heavily and repeatedly dosed with the drug.

These books are about their daughter Emily, who is quite unaware of her heritage.

Sometimes when there is a first person narrator, that person seems to know or understand about lots of other things that are going on and be extra-specially perceptive. But not Emily Windsnap. As Emily speaks through the books, her preoccupation with her own interests and worries narrows the focus of the fantasy. This perhaps adds to the books’ strong appeal, explaining why young readers have said it is like being there yourself.

There are several ingenious and improbable parallels between the undersea and land societies, with courts, and prisons, and especially, of course, “Mermaid School”, which is quite entertaining, with its classes in Shipwreck Studies with Geography Reef Trips, Diving & Dance, Beauty & Deportment, Siren Stories &c. I also liked the young mermaid’s bedroom with a big pink sponge instead of a cushion! But there are also some brief but haunting descriptions of the beautiful underwater world.

The other characters, although interesting, are rather sketchily drawn, all through Emily’s eyes. Emily is impulsive and insecure, with strong opinions about people. It was amusing to see Emily herself through Mandy’s eyes in the second book! Emily’s more foolhardy actions can be hard to understand – I found myself crying “No, don’t do that!” quite a few times – and sometimes have awful consequences. But on the whole she is pretty lucky! All three books end in hopeful reconciliations.

The books in the series are:
The Tail of Emily Windsnap
Emily Windsnap and the Monster from the Deep
Emily Windsnap and the Castle in the Mist