Samantha Stone and the Mermaid's Quest is a rather strange book that I've only previously read through twice. It's pretty much a fantasy adventure story about a 10-year-old girl who gets caught up in an adventure that's over her head, as she ends up in a fantasy world.
Or to quote the book's own summary: ''A ten-year-old girl, who lives with her mother in New Orleans, travels to a parallel universe where she must battle the evil Draegor for the Light of Aerynon."
It's an odd book with a bizarre mixture of things it does really well, and elements that are amateurish in their design. The narration keeps changing its style. The pacing ranges from slow to uberfast. And it has some other elements that I'll get to later as I start covering the book in detail.
It wasn't vanity published however, but instead was published legit by a small publisher I'm unfamiliar with, a "Hollywood Books International". Whereas a vanity publisher would publish anything while selling it for a high price and leaving the onus on the writer to get their book out there, Hollywood Books International saw the value in this story by one B. B. Hunt and published it themselves. Unfortunately, while the book is the first of a planned series, Samantha Stone and the Emerald Dagger is unlikely to ever arrive, considering the original book was published in 2008.
I know nothing about the author. And the book fascinates me so much that I wish I knew more of the story behind it, how it got published, and what the writer was like. "B. B. Hunt" is all I can go by.
So with that limited backstory, let's begin reading!
Chapter 1: Mardi Gras
We begin with borderline Purple Prose describing first New Orleans, then Samantha herself.
Talk about flowery. That's a bit much of an opening description, and we get a lot more of that... at least for the first one-third of the book before the author changes his mind.
We're told that Samantha "didn't look like one of those perfect, pretty, little girls, but somehow she was pretty just the same." It feels like it's the setup for something, but no character is referred to as "pretty" or even described by others for their looks at any point in the story, so I'm not sure what that description is for. The early parts of the book feel like the author is trying to find his footing, and that flowery description is the best way to do it. But as you'll see later on, he has some issues with consistency of style, which is one of the fascinatingly amateurish things about this book.
I'm not here to riff on this book like I did with The Adventures of Archie Reynolds. That book was actually bad, not just odd. And comedically bad, as opposed to curiously odd. (And if you haven't read my liveblog of that one, go check it out!)
But I will point out some of the strange idiosyncrasies with the writing as the book goes along. And with the story as well. This is a strange book, as you'll see over time.
Anyway, Samantha's description indicates that she has "richly brown" skin, which implies that she's a racial minority - black? Latina? We get so few non-white heroes that it's a cool bit of character variety.
The first action Samantha performs is to climb a tree, and fall down from missing a tree branch. And we get the first example of the author directly addressing the audience.
The author will address the readers quite a few more times, before later dropping the habit altogether. It's a bit strange, but not necessarily bad, just odd.
Samantha's mom jokingly calls her Stumbly Bumbly while she asks if she's okay, and Samantha says that she only bruised her pride bone. Her mom asks where the "pride bone" is, and Samantha points to her head, as her mom thinks, "What a clever little girl I raised."
As Samantha climbs the trees and makes daredevil moves, it becomes clear to me that this hero is a bit of a tomboy.
"Animus," her mom suddenly says.
"What I mean is, don't give up."
That was an odd exchange. Meanwhile, our narrator becomes quite the Lemony Narrator, describing events in odd cartoon detail. We're told that Samantha's mom is talking to a man named Mr. Pickleworth while playing cards, and...
What on earth??? Pickleworth? His head gets hit by accident and it knocks him forward, causing him to look like a bobblehead doll? And his name his Pickleworth? And... look like a bobblehead doll?
I am very happy when the story begins to use these types of odd similes less and less, and becomes less Lemony.
Oh yeah, Mr. Pickleworth is not important to the story. Say goodbye to this non-character. He'll be mentioned only a few more times, and that's about it.
Mardi Gras is described in detail, and the book then goes on to describe Elizabeth Stone. And we're now told that Samantha and Elizabeth's skin colors are "rich and brown, suggesting foreign, perhaps Caribbean island, descent."
Whoa, talk about in your face foreshadowing!
Also, we are told that Elizabeth is apparently a palm reader, and she reads Mr. Pickleworth's palms a lot.
And that's the first chapter. Not setting anything up, just introducing us to Samantha, briefly letting us know that her skin color and appearance apparently suggest a foreign, otherworldly look, and she climbs trees a lot, implying she may be tomboyish and action-oriented. Cool.
Let's see what happens next.
Chapter 2: Pirate's Alley
Here, I'll just cover the basics of what happens in this chapter, since it's not much, but it's more foreshadowing for what's to come.
While walking through New Orleans during Mardi Gras, Sam is accosted by a mime, who suddenly makes butterfly-like wings out of plastic balloons, hangs them on some string, and puts them on her. He then makes a crown out of plastic balloons and puts it on her head. Sam doesn't object to this, and keeps going.
A little later, someone with a similar appearance to Samantha's mom, 60-year-old Madame Brigitte, shows up along with her parrot Malachi, who the narrator tells us we'll learn more about later.
Brigitte walks straight to Elizabeth (Samantha's mom) and says, "At last, you have come."
Elizabeth and Samantha look at each other as if this lady's crazy. So Brigitte says, "I see. It's not yet time."
She then gives Samantha an amulet called the Amulet of Gwenyth, and tells her it will help to unleash her powers, help her to find her balance, and help her to expand. Samantha says that maybe her mom should have the amulet, but Brigitte insists that it's for Samantha instead.
Samantha checks it out and notices it has a silver mermaid embossed on it.