Main character is Alva, a teenager with chronic pain who lives on an island in the archipelago outside of Orust (Swedish west coast) with her mother.
Her late father was a fisherman, and on his side Alva's family has lived on the island since it was first populated in the 1300s or so.
The mermaid part of the world is a hidden realm with gates in the ocean.
Mermaids and humans cannot have children together, but no matter what animal the mermaid's second part is, they are compatible.
Generally they live in larger family units, and there is a certain societal expectation of like-to-like: mackerel with mackerel, salmon with salmon, bobtailed squid with bobtailed squid.
The true ruler of this mermaid realm is the ocean deity Ran, and it is named for her as Ranrike.
She is rarely seen, and even the most powerful mermaids don't dare approach her without important cause.
Even among some humans (mainly those living close to the ocean) she is still spoken of, and it is said that a drowned person whose body is not recovered has been taken to her realm.
Guthrun is the most powerful mermaid in Ranrike. The term 'witch' doesn't quite cover her role, but hints at the power in her tentacles.
She is old and part warty bobtailed squid, and while society, as mentioned above, favours like-to-like ... she has never lacked lovers, and many are of her line, whether children, grand-children or further away.
In the human world, Alva's mother is Fatemah, a 2nd generation Afro-Swedish woman whose parents emigrated from Eritrea.
She grew up in Stockholm, and then fell for a charming man from the west coast and moved with him to his island.
Her husband, Alexander, was a fisherman and she raised bees and worked as a translator since she speaks several languages fluently.
Gylla is one of Guthrun's grand-daughters, a mackerel-tailed mermaid who once saw Alva swimming and fell head over tail for her.
If anyone knew how close Gylla is to reveal Ranrike to a human she'd likely be in a lot of trouble, but as long as Alva doesn't realise that the "harbour seal" she keeps seeing is a mermaid, both of their worlds are safe.
Brief description of death, grief
The comparison I make for this is "Little Mermaid meets Orpheus", where the "Orpheus" part is related to Alva's brother Mikael.
While Alexander's body was found, Mikael's wasn't, so when Alva's paternal grandfather Robert (who lost his own father to the ocean in the 50s) spoke of Ran, the ocean wife who took the drowned ... Alva latched onto that idea.
Does Ran have her brother? And would she release him if asked?
Mermaids can breathe air for short periods of time naturally, though humans can't breathe the water in their realm (as is probably expected).
For longer periods of breathing air, or water for humans, there are spells that can help. They're fairly simple charms that even someone as untrained as Gylla (who's inherited the magic of her grand-mother) can pull off, but without extensive training they take effort and have shorter duration.
Alva hasn't started driving lessons yet, since the island is car free, and while she can bike the island is also bike free.
Her paternal grandparents live in the house her grandfather grew up in, and she lives in another older house once owned by a relative.
Neither of her father's siblings live on the island full time, but his younger brother has a summer cottage.
The island's full population triples during the summers.
Gylla's parents are both atlantic mackerel, like she is, and they live with her maternal grandfather's clan. Most inheritance are on the mother's side, but Gylla's mother is in a special position since *her* mother is Guthrun, the witch, so instead she joined her father's clan.
Alva loves to draw, sail and swim. She will often sail out on the ocean, where she is far away from people, bring lunch, sketchpad and stuff for swimming, just so she can enjoy the days as they come and go.
While Alva is really good at swimming, that's about the only type of phys ed she likes. Partly because the water is so much nicer to her joints and allows her to move, even when it's fairly cold.
While Alva likes it on the island, with the ocean and closeness to her grandparents, sometimes she finds herself slightly jealous at how her cousin's family are better off than hers.
Her uncle works as a lawyer and her aunt-in-law is a clothes designer, and they live in Stockholm and have a lot of disposable income.
The fishing boat that Alexander, Alva's father, owned is currently rented out to another fishing firm, since Alva's too young to use it, and because it needs a bit of a crew to work as a fishing boat.
It smells far too much of fish and shrimp to be used for anything that's not fishing.
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