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Half-human, half-fish, Sirena and her sisters are mermaids destined for immortality, if only they can get men to love them. Possessed of beautiful voices, their siren song has the power to command that love, yet it also draws men to their deaths; their ships are broken apart on the reef just off the sisters' island home and they drown, or they die of thirst for lack of fresh water. Sirena, a mermaid with a conscience, finds her sisters' actions so deplorable that she abandons them and swims to Lemnos --- a far off island --- to live by herself. And when she discovers an injured young man on the beach, she resists the impulse to charm him with song and instead saves his life.

Philoctetes, a young soldier and confidant of the god Hercules, has been abandoned on the isle by his shipmates who are bound for Troy. While he is passed out in pain, Sirena secretly tends a wound that will not heal --- a serpent's bite inflicted at the bidding of Hera, queen of the gods --- and provides him with food. When she finally allows him to see her, the two fall in love, mate, and Sirena gains immortality. But after 10 long and blissful years together, Philoctetes shipmates return for him; it seems that only he can avenge the death of Achilles and secure a victory for Greece. Sirena must decide whether to let him go to Troy and fulfill his destiny or keep him with her.

A study of love, honor, and what it means to be immortal, Napoli has fashioned a love story of mythic proportions. Here, readers will recognize the events of Homer's ILIAD, as Napoli adapts, combines and expands on classical stories and mythology, weaving a tale that is both complex and compelling.

Reviewed by Tammy L. Currier on October 1, 1998

by Donna Jo Napoli

  • Publication Date: October 1, 1998
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic
  • ISBN-10: 0590383884
  • ISBN-13: 9780590383882