by Helen Dunmore
Series: Ingo #1
319 pages, Fantasy
Reviewed by Bethany

An excellent, fascinating novel, but some biased morals.


Sapphire and Conor adore their convivial lifestyle in their Cornish cottage with their parents, exploring coves and venturing into the briny waters every day. Life is seemingly a beautiful folly, until, on one perilous night, Sapphire's father does not return from his vessel; the boat is found without him, and no one knows his whereabouts. Thus, he is assumed dead. The curious thing is that no body has washed up, so Sapphire and Conor seize this and are secretly adamant that he still lives.

But from their supposed loss, Sapphy and Conor's mirthful life begins to dwindle. Conor conceives a new routine that excludes his sister: absconding for hours at a time to meet with an ethereal figure of a girl, who is later found by Sapphy to be one of the Mer people. This discovery entails greater discoveries, of Ingo, territory of the Mer people, and their aversion to the human world.

Sapphire and her brother are abruptly thrown into an acquaintance with the world of Ingo that is both beautiful and terrifying and which does not only render a perpetual yearning to be in the sea, but also clues to their Father's destination.


The Mer people's contempt for the humans is not always justified, and perhaps a little biased to the author's opinion. Sapphire is quite stubborn and the character Faro is a little boastful and arrogant. But these attributes aren't terrible impediments; they aren't approved by anyone and such behavior earns its reward in this book.

Spiritual Content

Ingo is seemingly a magical place; there is a funeral in a Church, but with little mention of God; "Granny Carne"'s (a sort of elder woman in the town who has lived for an unnaturally long time) conduct is similar to that of a witch's, in her mannerisms and articulation.


When Sapphire is first taken beneath the "skin" of Earth and Ingo, there is a burning about her waist and she finds it arduous to breathe without holding the wrist of a Mer person.

When a girl at school says Sapphire's father is dead, Sapphire strikes her. Sapphire's mother's boyfriend is attacked by seals when diving; he is beaten by their tails and pummeled unconscious.

Drug and Alcohol Content


Sexual Content

Mild "chemistry" if you like, between Conor and Elvira, but there is no more than an embrace mentioned. Sapphire's mother affiliates herself with a boyfriend, who is an Australian diver, but there are no sexual implications, not even a hug, they just seem to think a lot of each other.

Crude or Profane Language or Content



A lovely story, but it's more of an introduction to the series and you might not find yourself satisfied with reading this book alone, for the other three yarns supplement it beautifully. The Mer are delivered very differently from conventional mermaids, with seal tails, which gives the novel a little bit of pizazz, and I recommend it to any young folklore lover.

Fun Score: 4
Values Score: 3.5
Written for Age: 11-12

Review Rating:

Average rating: 5 stars
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