Saddening and Maddening: A Review of MONSTROUS BEAUTY by Elizabeth Fama

Monstrous Beauty
Elizabeth Fama
304 pages
Publisher: Macmillan
Release Date: September 4th, 2012
Source: ARC from Publisher
Rating: LOVED

Fierce, seductive mermaid Syrenka falls in love with Ezra, a young naturalist. When she abandons her life underwater for a chance at happiness on land, she is unaware that this decision comes with horrific and deadly consequences.

Almost one hundred forty years later, seventeen-year-old Hester meets a mysterious stranger named Ezra and feels overwhelmingly, inexplicably drawn to him. For generations, love has resulted in death for the women in her family. Is it an undiagnosed genetic defect . . . or a curse? With Ezra’s help, Hester investigates her family’s strange, sad history. The answers she seeks are waiting in the graveyard, the crypt, and at the bottom of the ocean—but powerful forces will do anything to keep her from uncovering her connection to Syrenka and to the tragedy of so long ago.

   I’m a sucker for mermaids – whether they be vicious or hilarious.

   Lush, descriptive prose line the pages of Monstrous Beauty, a dark and beautiful twist on the age-old mermaid tale. Soulful, breathtaking, gripping – Elizabeth Fama’s latest is a must read.

   Seventeen year old Hester is cursed, and just like her mother, her grandmother, and her great grandmother, she’ll die just days after she gives birth to a child. Hester’s determined not to fall in love, but she’s determined to figure out what’s wrong. Her search uncovers more than a curse.

   Ghosts, mermaids, and century-long curses – Monstrous Beauty combines so much in one book. Each chapter alternates between the past (1872) and the present, giving us a glimpses of both. Elizabeth Fama reveals bits and pieces that will leave you desperately fitting together clues that will ultimately complete the puzzle. It was saddening. And maddening. And as we flip between past and present, you’ll realize just how deeply Hester is entwined with Syrenka – an immortal mermaid who wanted nothing more than to be human.

   While Monstrous Beauty is a mermaid novel, it’s also so much more. The story moved fast at times and dangerously slow at others. But one thing I noticed more than anything throughout the novel was the haze-like atmosphere. As I read word after word, everything got hazier and hazier, as if I was looking at everything through a cloud of fog – and I loved it all the more because of it.

   Monstrous Beauty exceeded my expectations. It was just what I was looking for, though I didn’t realize it. I loved it. From start to finish. It’s an oddly engrossing story to say the least – so if you’re looking for something utterly unique, pick it up!

Find Elizabeth on Twitter | Website | Goodreads


Hafsah Faizal is a YA author, designer, and blogger. Her designs have graced the sites of New York Times bestselling authors, bloggers, and more. She resides in Texas, with her family.

August 16, 2012



  1. Reply

    Little Miss Becky

    August 17, 2012

    So glad to hear this one is good! I have it, need to read it soon—and now I'm really looking forward to it! Great review!

  2. Reply

    Jesse Burgoyne

    August 17, 2012

    I'm glad to hear you liked it. I received an ARC of it, but after reading the first few pages wasn't quite sure what to expect. I don't usually enjoy mermaid books (The Little Mermaid scared the crap out of me as a kid) so I didn't know if I'd enjoy this at all. But your review leaves me hoping I'll feel the same way you did about it.

  3. Reply


    August 17, 2012

    OK now I need to read this one! I love pretty much anything mermaid & this one sounds really good. Great review!

  4. Reply


    August 17, 2012

    i can't wait for monstrous beauty. great review

  5. Reply

    Melissas Eclectic Bookshelf

    August 17, 2012


    • Reply

      Melissas Eclectic Bookshelf

      August 17, 2012

      Oops…sorry about the caps!

  6. Reply

    Mary @ BookSwarm

    August 17, 2012

    This sounds really interesting–I like how the curse follows the family through the family tree. And it's definitely a bad curse, too (love? no siree bob! Death to you!).

  7. Reply


    August 17, 2012

    I absolutely need to get my hands on this book. It sounds just like what I'm needing in a book right now. Absolutely haunting.

  8. Reply


    August 18, 2012

    Awesome review!! I am going to be reading this one really soon. I have a few books before it, but I am super excited to get to it.

  9. Reply

    Shanna Roberson

    September 9, 2012

    Sounds good! I've added it to my TBR list. :)

  10. Reply

    Christina K.

    October 1, 2012

    This sounds so original for a mermaid tale. Also it's great the writing style itself mimics the novel:)

    Great review:)

  11. Reply

    Jaime Lester

    November 23, 2012

    I have not really had the best of luck with mermaid novels, or really any books that deal with underwater worlds. The one that I have read that I enjoyed was Lies Beneath. Usually I don't even try to read them because I get so frustrated. SO frustrated. But this one, no matter how much I have tried not to let it, has interested me. I think I might just have to read it and see if this one can be my turning point. Thanks for the review!

  12. Reply


    December 6, 2012

    While I sometimes have a hard time with mermaids, this one sounds intriguing, because of the mystery and the battle with love. And I do love a good romance!

  13. Reply

    Alyssa Susanna

    January 24, 2013

    Wow, I've seen a ton of negative reviews for this one! By negative, I mean poor ratings. Interesting that you loved it! I may give it a second chance. Great review!

  14. Reply


    January 29, 2013

    I've only read a few mermaid ones. I'll have to give this one a try. It sounds very interesting.