I can’t remember the last time I was this excited to learn that a book was coming out. Waking the Merrow, Heather Rigney’s first book in the Merrow Trilogy, blew me away, keeping me reading whenever I could or wishing I had the book in my hand when I wasn’t. There was a cliffhanger that had me yearning for the next book, which came over a year later. I anxiously checked my mailbox every day, almost giving up hope, but it finally arrived in December. I tore into it, and barely stopped reading. Hunting the Merrow was well worth the wait.
Everyday anti-hero/alcoholic Evie McFagan starts herself off in a crisis, torn between listening to her husband, who was threatening to leave her, or going to check in on her older brother, who sent her a letter about his new squeeze, Nomia (you need to read Waking the Merrow before tackling this treasure). She goes with the latter, a poor decision that sets her into the dilemma that follows her throughout the story. Though her relationship with her brother had deteriorated and they lost touch years ago, she felt the need to protect him from the woman who tortured her and was now going after her family.
While following Evie’s present day story, Hunting the Merrow also serves as an origin story. We learn of Nomia’s past, starting years before her birth. Reading her story makes her out to be a sympathetic character, even giving me a slight bit of guilt for the malice I felt toward her in the first book. Though she learned that she liked killing people, it started as a survival method to help protect her family. Readers are also told the story of the Wasserschutz — The Water Protectors — a family of men throughout history who would hunt perceived evil mermaids. “For generations, our people cleared the earth of the freaks that threaten the lives of humanity.” These stories all connect, colliding into what will undoubtedly be a thrilling, page-turner of a ending in the next installment.
About halfway through the book, I started to realize that there was not going to be a conclusion at the end of this story. A lot of layers were being introduced that were becoming too big to get resolved in the small number of pages that were left. This left me a bit anxious, as I am eager to see how this all plays out. I was fine once I made peace with the fact that this is book 2 in a trilogy, but I have a tendency to be impatient and I check my email daily in hopes that the author magically finished the third installment so I can get my fix.
My one beef with the book isn’t much of a beef at all. Evie McFagan has become one of my favorite literary characters. She is an alcoholic fuck-up who tries to do the right thing, but usually ends up making the situation worse. She’s a loving and caring person, but her processing is slightly off, which gets her into scenarios that she ultimately can’t handle. This is something I can relate to, as I’m sure most people can. Her first person voice is funny and intriguing, and I can’t get enough of it. The multiple origin stories threw me off ever so slightly, as, while I enjoyed reading about them and felt that they were an important part of the story, they weren’t in Evie’s voice. I know that’s just me being selfish, but that happens to people sometimes (just ask Evie).
Rigney has published another gem with Hunting the Merrow. She is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. Her writing is spellbinding and has a fantastic flow. There are no slow parts, with each page full of action and/or humor. While she packed a lot of story into these 368 pages, I still found myself hoping the book wouldn’t end. Each character has true human traits, complete with flaws and strengths, and her use of Rhode Island locations makes me use Google maps to get a better visual. Plus, I can’t thank her enough for introducing the world to Evie McFagan.