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Princess Margrethe is sent to an abbey for her protection, as it’s rumored that the armies of the Southern kingdom are about to attack. Walking the cliffs one day, she sees a mermaid in the sea below, and she’s holding an unconscious man. This moment imprints on her mind and affects her forever.
Lenia, youngest daughter of the sea queen, makes her single allowed trip to the surface of the ocean on her eighteenth birthday. A savage storm wrecks a nearby ship, and Lenia impulsively saves a man’s life. Taking him to the nearest land, she leaves him on the beach, but cannot forget him, even after she returns below the waves.
Both women have fallen in love with this stranger, feeling that destiny has brought them together. And each will make sacrifices for this love. Both will leave home and family to bind themselves to this man. Margrethe is hoping to change many lives, but Lenia is hoping to gain an immortal soul.
This novel bridges an important gap left in the original fairy tale, one that’s not even touched upon in the Disney movie. While the little mermaid is the obvious focus, there are two other people in this story: the prince and the princess. Each has their own love to express and their own trials brought about by their love. There are no villains here, no antagonists—just three people learning the costs and glories of love.
The details about Lenia go beyond the well known vignettes of giving up her voice and gaining legs so as to live above the waves. Readers get to see the undersea kingdom in vivid detail and to get to know her sisters. Talking about the legend near the story’s end, it says “no one ever talked about what the mermaid left behind.” In this book, the mermaid’s life and story is rounded out in a way that makes her an even more poignant character.
What I loved most in this book was the great affection that all three characters show for each other, even when it doesn’t seem logical. Margrethe and Lenia are in direct competition, but when it comes down to it, they end up supporting and empathizing with each other. The prince is caught between two women, but he tries very hard to do what’s right, and even when he stumbles a bit in this aim, he’s still fundamentally a good man.
Even with all the love displayed, this novel does touch on the darker side of the tale; Lenia goes through excruciating pain to effect her transformation; the mermaids use drowned human bodies as playthings; the prince is an avid huntsman who glories in the kill. It’s not out of place; rather, it’s a fitting homage to the fairy tales that have become classics, the ones with blood and death and hard choices. Nothing is easy here, and nothing can be taken for granted. But such is real life, and life’s mirror in this retelling is stark and honest.
Mermaid is a novel of depth and sharp-edged honesty. It evokes the beauty of classic tales and honors their dark corners. This book is a worthy addition to any fantasy collection.
This book was provided by the publisher.