The Forbidden Sea - Sheila A. Nielson

Forbidden Sea by Sheila A. Nielson is a more of a coming of age story than anything else, don’t let the mermaid on the cover fool you. I read it for the Mermaid Summer Reading Challenge, but quickly found myself wondering when the mermaid was going to show up again. I enjoyed the medieval setting as a break from all the modern day mermaid stories that I’ve been reading, but wished that more time had been spent on the cool other culture and less on the daily goings-on of the townspeople.

Note: I borrowed Forbidden Sea from the library.


Forbidden Sea by Sheila Nielson 
Published by Scholastic Press on July 1st, 2010
Genres: FantasyYA 
Length: 304 pages
How I got my copy: Borrowed
IndieBound - Book Depository - Goodreads
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A mermaid haunts Adrianne's dreams . . . is she coming to warn her, save her, or drag her down into the depths of the briny sea forever?

When Adrianne comes face-to-face with the mermaid of Windwaithe Island, of whom she has heard terrible stories all her life, she is convinced the mermaid means to take her younger sister. Adrianne, fierce-willed and courageous, is determined to protect her sister from the mermaid, and her family from starvation. However, the mermaid continues to haunt Adrianne in her dreams and with her song. -- Goodreads 



  • The mermaid lore and world in Forbidden Sea was wonderful to read about once it finally showed up. The merpeople’s living arrangements and history made sense and the whole human breathing underwater was internally consistent. Just what I look for in a fantasy!
  • While there was potential for a love triangle, it was completely bypassed, proving that YA doesn’t actually need love triangles to function ;-).
  • I enjoyed a number of the secondary characters and the depth that was given to them. If it wasn’t for the layers building up with Auntie and Cecily, I would have been even less entertained.


  •  Some books save the world overly dramatically; Forbidden Sea is not one of those books. At the end of the story, I realized that basically nothing actually changed from the beginning except for one improvement that doesn’t even get mentioned in the wrap-up.
  • The first 2/3 of Forbidden Sea were quite slow. There is a cool opening scene with the mermaid, and then it’s all about the sad lives of peasants for a while….
  • Speaking of sad lives, you know how sometimes an MC is just too tragic? Adri is in a horrible situation both financially and socially, but she continues to nobly suffer to help her family (who don’t really appreciate her). She was just too noble in too horrible of a situation to be believed.
  • During the boring 2/3 another plot line with horses and a job unfolds, but gets shoved aside for mermaid story time. I wasn’t happy with the lack of conclusion or the detour (even though horses are cool).


I frequently found myself with a puzzled expression while reading Forbidden Sea, since I just couldn’t care about the events as much as I apparently was supposed to. There was a rich world of merpeople to explore and Forbidden Sea would have been much more fun to read if that storyline had been the focus throughout. If Forbidden Sea hadn’t been so short, I definitely wouldn’t have finished it unfortunately.