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BOOK REVIEW: The Siren by Kiera Cass

| 10 February 2016 | Reply

BOOK REVIEW: The Siren by Kiera Cass

Harper Collins
February 2016
Paperback, $16.99
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell

Young Adult



For eighty years Kahlen has served the Ocean, singing people to a watery grave. Throughout her time as a siren she will remain a beautiful nineteen year old, impervious to age and injury, and is not allowed to let a human hear her voice unless she’s singing them into the Ocean.

And if anyone guessed that the Ocean was purposefully consuming some of the people She also helped sustain, it wouldn’t take the humans very long to figure out how to get their water without ever touching Her. If no one went into the water… How would we all live?
Obedience was imperative.

With only her three sisters and the Ocean to confide in, and with nothing else to occupy her time, Kahlen gathers together albums of the people she’s helped kill as a kind of memorial, and researches sirens.

I had found a wealth of art and more short stories than I would have imagined, and in general there was some truth to many of the pieces. In several places, the number of sirens was said to be two, in others five, and those were indeed our limits. It was almost an impossible job to do alone, but having too many at once increased our chance of exposure.

We read about the Slavic rusalki, who were the souls of women who drowned and haunted rivers and streams. The Latin undines lacked a soul but could obtain one through marriage to a mortal. Mermaids had their long hair and beautiful tails, naiads only lived in freshwater, and the Greeks had a slew of gods dedicated to nothing but water.

Kahlen is resigned to finishing her sentence in solitude…until she meets Akinli. Handsome, caring, and kind, Akinli is everything Kahlen ever dreamed of. And though she can’t talk to him, they soon forge a connection neither of them can deny… nor would Kahlen want to.

There wasn’t a good enough word for him. Decent implied that he only met the bare minimum of politeness in life. Kind didn’t cover the deep down affection he carried at all times for other people, even when he was sad. Even perfect wasn’t fair, because he was certainly flawed, and those shortcomings, that humanness, made me love him all the more.

Falling in love with a human breaks all of the Ocean’s rules, and if the Ocean discovers Kahlen’s feelings, she’ll be forced to leave Akinli for good. But for the first time in a lifetime of following the rules, Kahlen is determined to follow her heart.


All in all, this was a very quick read, finished in less than two days, and mostly enjoyable.

The first half was fast paced and interesting, and the second half devolved a little but was still easy to get through, and still drew this reader back.

Early discussions between Kahlen and Akinli were smile inducing, and the overall concept of the sirens was interesting. The idea that these women live for so long and are able to observe changes in society in that way that only immortals can, while never able to be a part of said society is always interesting. Add to that the fact that once they’ve fulfilled their obligations to the Ocean they won’t remember any of it, including their sisters, and it should have many depths to explore in terms of that special kind of loneliness, and the relationships between the sisters should be so very strong after all that time, but unfortunately it fell a little flat in a few areas.


The Characters:

There was little if any character development throughout the story. This reader found it hard to believe that these girls had spent a handful of years living together, let alone a handful of decades, that was how unaware of each other’s needs and habits they were. They felt more like a group of high-school friends than like a group of young women who had lived for upwards of fifty years together.


Yes, Akinli is Kahlen’s soul mate, and “he sees the real her” without her being able to speak and all that, but she had met him all of three times and talked with him via text across the space of a week before she decided that not being with him was the very end of the world. She had spent one day with him before she was ready to sacrifice a thousand lives for his, and was practically ready to end her own because she couldn’t be with him.
Yes, she is nineteen, and presumably has nineteen-year-old hormones, but she has been that age for eighty years. She’s not a teenager, at least not as we know it, and she should theoretically be a lot smarter about it than she is.

Special Snowflake:

Of all the special snowflake sirens the Ocean ever did know, Kahlen is the most special. Apparently, since the dawn of humankind and sirens, there has never been one who was obedient and loved the ocean like Kahlen did, and it was all a little eye-roll worthy.

Character Names:

To the reader, it feels like Cass has just selected a whole heap of names she likes the sound of, with very little research. This could be wrong, maybe a lot of research went into this, but some things stuck out as unusual.

A character not specifically described as Irish (but then, the way they spoke never was described, and we were lucky to even get a character’s hair-colour) but in possession of an Irish name had a daughter with a Jewish name. Akinli was jokingly explained away as a “family name” and was never revisited, and nor is Kahlen. We’re told that the locations where the girls were turned into sirens are always memorable for them, but we’re not told anything about where anyone but Padma and Miaka came from.

Silly Moments:

When the girls are carried great distances by the Ocean, She strips their earthly clothes away to replace them with gowns made out of salt particles.

They were gorgeous, coming out in every shade of Her – the purple of a patch of coral that human eyes had never passed, the green of kelp growing toward the light, the gold of burning sand at sunrise – and were never exactly the same thing twice.

Gowns. Made out of salt.

On top of that, the girls do seem possessive of their clothes, especially Elizabeth, and they always check to make sure no-one sees them as they enter the water… Would they not leave their human clothes at home?

But also, gowns. Made from salt.

Gowns made out of salt that affix themselves to the girls’ skin, but can be removed like a normal gown.



Essentially this is a fun read if you just go with the flow, but don’t expect brilliant characters, and be ready for a whole lot of cheese.



Category: Book Reviews, Other Reviews

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