Columbine: The Tail of Emily Windsnap is the first in the series about a young half-mermaid.

Do you find it hard to believe that a 12-year old human girl has never been completely immersed in water? [Robin: I have known some sailors like that…] Emily Windsnap, who narrates her own story, explains that her mother, despite living on a boat(!) in a town called Brightport, is nervous of water and has refused to let her learn to swim, and that she has never had a bath because there is only room for a shower in their cramped living quarters. Unluckily, as it turns out…

When attending swimming lessons with the rest of her class at her new school, Emily has a shock when her legs start seizing up in the water. In the light of this experience it seems extremely rash of non-swimmer Emily to jump into the harbour water later that day when no one is around, but after an initial panic: “OK, so my legs had joined together. And fine, now they had disappeared completely. So what? It was good. It was… right” In this surprising fashion Emily learns she is a mermaid – or rather, a semi-mer, with a tail in the water and legs on land.

She is thrilled to meet a full mermaid, Shona Silkfin, out in the bay and to learn of a whole colony of merpeople quite close by – even a mermaid school! Shona soon becomes her best friend, which is nice because Emily has had trouble making friends at her new land school. They explore the underwater world together, including a mysterious wreck. Shona even smuggles her into mermaid school, introducing her as a visiting cousin.

Emily still has troubles on land, however, as she now has to get out of swimming lessons somehow, and her former friend Mandy seems determined to make her life miserable. She is also wondering about her absent father and why her mother cannot remember him.

When Emily finally meets her father (I was again a little staggered at the rashness of her action), she finds that he feels deserted too, and likens himself to the forsaken merman whose poem he has on his wall (unfairly, but then you have too much time to fret in a cell).

Emily’s determination to reunite her family leads to a confrontation with the equally obstinate King Neptune. The entrance of Neptune is one of the most thrilling moments of the book.

The next book is Emily Windsnap and the Monster from the Deep.

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