Tavia and Effie’s world is ours with just a little myth-made-real on top. The Hart family murder-suicide and the murder very suspicious death of Sandra Bland are brought up, as are multiple fictional Black women whose murderers got away with it by claiming the women were sirens using their voices to control their killers. See, sirens are exclusively Black girls and women and sirenhood can’t be proven after death. Just claim she was a siren and everyone is on your side with no evidence necessary. Kinda like a Black person instantly being “no angel” after a police officer murders them.
And Tavia is a siren–one whose dad is so anti-siren she nearly killed herself trying to get rid of her voice, prompting the family’s move to Portland. She has a magical community of beloved elokos to hide among and an adoptive sister in Effie, but Tavia is still the only siren around. One of her alleged allies, an eloko named Naema, is basically Candace Owens as a magically charming teenage girl, complete with internalized misogynoir and a Highlander fallacy in her head.
But Tavia is only half the story. The other half is narrated by Effie and her side of things are more of a mystery compared to the magical contemporary angle Tavia’s storyline takes. Since some mischievous fairies turned her friends to stone when she was a kid, she’s been haunted by both the experience and the perverse infamy it brought her. People know who she is because of what happened. Now more people are turning to stone and she’s suffering blackouts. All Effie wants is to life her life and have a thing with Wallace, the cute lifeguard at the community pool she swims at.
WHAT LEFT ME WANTING:
A Song Below Water thrives on Tavia and Effie’s sisterhood. Though some of the novel’s mysteries have obvious answers (like who the gargoyle perched on their house is really protecting), others like Wallace’s role and what’s going on with Effie are genuine surprises. The story and writing are a bit disjointed at times, which occasionally made me need to reread previous sections to clarify what was happening.
I adored A Song Below Water and will happily recommend it. Marrow has also written a sequel/companion novel about Naema called A Chorus Rises, but I don’t know if I’ll read it. The novel will surely give Naema much-needed character development and better explain what being an eloko means in this universe, but I’d just see and hear a teenage Candace Owens the whole time. I just don’t think I’m strong enough right now.