3 out of 4 stars
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Ambrose Hope Greenback, a frog, is born and raised in the kindly, close-knit community of the Round Pond. Under the loving guidance of his parents, Ambrose grows up with a strong sense of values and a desire for adventure. After he loses his parents in two sudden tragedies, Ambrose leaves the pond and heads across the sea to the metropolis of Coralis. Planning to join his relatives, Uncle Caleb and Cousin Cecil, Ambrose hopes to make a fortune as his wealthy uncle has. However, Ambrose soon discovers that vices and dangers loom within the bustling city, and Cecil pulls an unwilling Ambrose into a risky scheme. Also, Ambrose is quick to become enamored with the alluring Madam Cosimo Cosette, who is rumored to be the last of the mermaids in Ambrose and the Mermaid: An Underwater Fable by the late author Don Good.
Twenty-three years after the passing of this author, someone found the manuscript of this novel intact. It is not a fable in the sense of a short tale, as this story is nearly four hundred pages long. Yet, it is a fable in the depiction of animal characters whose collective story conveys moral lessons.
This tale includes much more than Ambrose’s coming of age. In fact, despite the book’s title, as the plot develops and more characters in Coralis enter the story, Ambrose fades out of the lead, and the other major characters essentially take over. Their involvement and the city’s conditions expand the novel into one of intrigue, crime, urban culture and entertainment, politics, romance, social unrest, and the threat of civil war. Nevertheless, the author writes with such an accessible, tactful, and wholesome style that the story is appropriate for a wide range of readers, from middle grade to adult. The author purposely wields melodrama with heart and humor, and many readers may find comfort in the novel’s old-fashioned feel.
Now, while the book has various scenes of action, the pace is rather slow in a number of other areas. There are times when the author’s compounding details become superfluous in relation to the plot, or the characters’ thoughts seem to stretch past the point of revealing needed information. On a more technical note, the book has a moderate amount of errors. Letter case inconsistencies, verb tense confusion, and incorrect or missing punctuation are issues throughout the novel.
Overall, this is an imaginative and inspiring tale that can appeal to readers both young and old. However, the errors detract from the novel’s readability somewhat. Therefore, I give Ambrose and the Mermaid: An Underwater Fable a rating of 3 out of 4 stars. I’d recommend it to readers who can appreciate a classic style of fiction where meaningful messages come through animal characters. Even so, because children are more likely to still be learning proper grammar and punctuation, the book should be closely reedited especially for younger readers within the intended general audience. Also, American readers should be advised that this novel is written in British English, which differs in spelling and punctuation from American English.
Ambrose and the Mermaid
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