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I work with children's books and one of the best parts of the job is the fact that I get to read them! This book was Helen Dunmore's first for teens, though she has written several for the adult market, and her skill as an experienced writer really shows. Ingo is the first of a series of four (so far) and the only one I have read. While fantasy for younger readers is now a huge and fast growing genre there is very little that I have seen which features mer-people, especially for older readers, and as a great fan of Hans Christian Anderson's tragic and beautiful 'Little Mermaid' I find this a great shame so when I first saw this one I just had to take a look! I would recommend it for younger teens, though I enjoyed it very much so older readers with a love of fantasy would probably be just as captivated. The following is a review first written for Waterstones.com.
Brought up in an idyllic part of Cornwall, where summer days are spent sailing, swimming and surfing Sapphire and her brother Conor have always felt a natural affinity for the sea. Despite their mother's seemingly irrational fear they have always loved to accompany their father on his boat, the Peggy Gordon. His knowledge of the sea and the area mean that they have always been aware of the dangers of the tides and respect the sea as much as they love it. So when their father doesn't return from sailing one calm night Sapphy and Conor find it difficult to believe that he might have got into trouble.
It seems, however, that they must suspect the worst when the Peggy Gordon is found upside down, wedged on rocks at the bottom of a cliff a few weeks later. The possibility that their father still lives seems remote but with no sign of a body Sapphy and Conor do not stop believing that, one day, he might return. They make a pact that nobody will convince them otherwise.
The rumours that start to circulate about his possible whereabouts are easy to ignore until somebody remembers an old legend, told to Sapphy years before by her father. The story was of a man who shared his name, Matthew Trehallow, who disappeared one night and never returned. It was said that he had fallen in love with a mermaid and been taken by her deep into her underwater world. It seems to be no more than a fairy tale yet Sapphy is unable to dismiss it from her mind, especially when Conor fails to return home a few weeks later after being seen talking to a strange girl on the beach. In her search for him Sapphy finds herself exploring a new reality, a world both strange and beautiful; alluring and dangerous; difficult to enter and, Sapphy soon finds, even more difficult to escape.
Like the insistent lure of the tide Helen Dunmore's Ingo will pull you deeper and deeper into the story of the world that Sapphy finds herself exploring. A captivating read, perfect for younger teens, or anyone who likes to escape the real world for a while.