“The sea is a fickle witch. She is just as likely to bestow a kiss as to steal the breath from your lips.”
Evie, Anna, and Prince Nik are childhood friends, but Anna tragically drowns in an accident, and Evie is still haunted by her death years later. However, when Anna suddenly returns from the dead, Evie is determined to protect her friend’s life and happiness at whatever cost.
***Genre: Retelling, Fantasy, Magical realism, Historical fiction
***Thank you to Edelweiss for sending an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions stated here are solely my own and have not been influenced in any way.
Alas, I am once again at a standstill with another conflicted review. I must disclaim that while I personally did not regret my decision to read this book, it is still one that makes me hesitant to recommend as a fully satisfying retelling.
But first off, the positives. The overarching premise of the book is quite compelling on the whole. The author’s tone, pacing, and flow merges nicely to create a cohesive outlet for the story to forge ahead, and the atmospheric story-telling presents an ominous sense of dread and impending doom that immersed me in the narrative right away.
Furthermore, characters are surprisingly self-aware and level-headed. Too often it is with romantic conflicts in YA that I tend to emerge irritable and peeved, yet the initial setup of platonic relationships, natural banter, and likable protagonists prevented any unnecessary drama from occurring, and I was relatively absorbed in their plights.
On top of this, though I was aware going in that this was a Little Mermaid retelling from the perspective of the sea witch, it was still dismaying to see the outcome of this story regardless. The author spins a tragic and poignant tale to reel in the feels, and it left me feeling somber, melancholy, and contemplative for hours after finishing it.
In other words, this book delivered a tonally satisfying narrative.
Unfortunately, there are a few missteps here that prevent this book from being a fully satisfying retelling, one of which is plot/suspense. Characters are in constant state of flashback and rumination, and while I personally did not object to this, characters tended to slip back into the same circle of musings that rendered their concerns repetitive and meandering, and I felt the author was flogging a dead horse by the end.
Furthermore, there is a lack of progression at crucial moments in the story. As much effort the author puts into reflecting the arguably obsessive inner turmoil of these characters (particularly Evie), she fails to deliver a diverse range of emotions, whether it be shock, betrayal, or sadness: emotions are touched only in passing, and that made character developments appear more rash and reactionary than they actually were.
Lastly, although I greatly enjoyed the atmospheric nature of this book, it felt rather unbalanced due to its lack of substantial dialogue or action to ground the reader in the present. The action was disproportionate to the lengthy introspection of these characters, so it was difficult to find myself grounded in the present as the author constantly either dredged up the past or foreshadowed the imminent future.
Bottom line, this book ultimately feels like a solid first draft or a complex middle-grade novel. It is focused, reflective, and atmospheric, yet because the author strikes only minimal plot developments and emotions to get her story across, I came out of this book feeling satisfied, but not satisfied if that makes any sense.
“It did not do make waves.”
Recommended? If you have time to kill.
To be clear, is this a book that the masses will enjoy? Arguably yes, arguably no. This book appealed to me as I enjoy nihilistic morals and self-aware characters, but it did objectively feel repetitive as the same suspense was re-tread one time too many.
In that, this book might be worth a read if you enjoy quick and wistful retellings (it is ominous, feels-inducing, and a nicely conclusive standalone), but perhaps not if you have too many books on your TBR. Recommended for fans of Heartless by Marissa Meyer.
Final thoughts: Simplistic, but atmospheric
As much as I felt this book lacked meat, I think it would’ve made for a 5-star read had it been twice its length. It offered a nice sense of atmosphere and complexity that immersed you in these characters, yet the context (plot, action, dialogue) was bypassed so lightly that it read more like a simplistic fable than a full retelling.
But because this book enveloped me in a nice sense of melancholy, I give it 3 stars. There’s an atmospheric consistency that despite the lack of meat, the characters are likable and the sense of finality will leave you satisfied: this book has its flaws, but it is surprisingly quiet and pensive for YA, and I can respect that.
My rating: 3 stars