Book Review! Mermaid: A Twist on the Classic Tale by Carolyn Turgeon

Courtesy of

Courtesy of

I’ve already read another of this author’s novels, “Godmother. The Secret Cinderella Story”, which focuses on the fairy godmother from “Cinderella”. That book is DARK & I LOVE it! I generally always enjoy grown up books about fairy tales, “Beastly” & “Wicked” come to mind, but “Godmother…” is just beyond excellent. Not for the faint of heart, it’s pretty dark and sometimes confusing, but definitely worth reading. I loved “Godmother…” so much, I immediately put most of Turgeon’s other books on my list of books to read. “Mermaid…” intrigued me because I’ve always been fascinated by mermaid lore, and Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” is one of my favorite movies, Ariel is my 2nd favorite princess 🙂 (Belle is the first!) I started this book with really high expectations, but sadly they weren’t quite met…

Lenia, our little mermaid that longs to be part of the human world and have a soul. Unfortunately, she’s not even allowed to be on the surface, except on her 18th birthday. She breaks all the rules and saves a handsome sailor from drowning and of course, falls in love. She brings him to shore, but realizes that without legs, there’s not a whole heck of a lot she can do. Fortunately…or unfortunately, Lenia is able to mentally connect with a nearby girl and tells her to save the man. Lenia leaves, all the while thinking of ways to get back to her love.
Margrethe is the other woman, Princess of the North, keeping a secret identity and being hidden at a convent due to threats of war from the South Kingdom. After hearing Lenia’s mental message, she saves the man, who is revealed to be the Prince of the SOUTH, but oh well, she’s already in love with him.
Lenia, meanwhile, makes a deal with a sea witch…I’m sure you’ve heard this before…trading her fins and voice for legs. She must marry the prince because then he’ll give her part of his soul and she’ll become human. If he marries someone else, Lenia dies. She swims back to shore, the princes finds her and pretty quickly they become…uhm…close. This is where the book starts to take a more adult turn, womanhood’s being broken, sticky wet sheets, that sort of thing. The sex isn’t graphic, but you definitely know it happened. Lenia is stoked because her mom never warned her that nobody buys the cow when they can get the milk for free so she thinks sex means love/marriage, but the rest of the court is giggling because they know there’s no way the prince is gonna marry some random mute.
Margrethe, meanwhile, is also plotting how to get back to her love. She decides the best way to do that is to arrange a marriage with his family, thereby forcing their love and peace between the kingdoms – a true politician!
The prince is pissed that his father agrees to the marriage especially because LENIA IS PREGNANT! Margrethe has moved into the South Kingdom, and at first doesn’t recognize Lenia but finally does after spying on her while she talks to her mermaid sisters who have worked with the sea witch to come up with a plan to make Lenia a mermaid again. All she has to do is spill the Prince’s blood on her legs and she’ll be able to come home, good as new. Of course, Lenia refuses. With the wedding day upon her, Lenia is desperate to have her child see the light of day so she forces an early labor then heads to the ocean to die. Margrethe is horrified at the consequences of her actions and in an act of pure genius, spills SOME of her blood on Lenia’s legs because now that she and the prince are married, their blood and souls are connected. Lenia turns back into a mermaid, able to rejoin her family, while Christopher and Margrethe raise her daughter, start their own family and live happily ever after. THE END.

While I loved the way this book was written, this story just didn’t get as dark as I wanted it to. I think if I had read this first then followed with “Godmother…” I would have thought this was an excellent book, but because I was comparing the two, “Mermaid…” was just good. This book was more true to the “twist on the classic” format. It simply told the original Hans Christian Andersen version of “The Little Mermaid”, but with Turgeon’s spin, as opposed to “Godmother…” which told the story of completely different characters and changed pretty much everything except the basic idea of “Cinderella”. I plowed through this book waiting for her to reveal that the story was really set in modern times, or Margrethe and Lenia were the same person or something dark and twisted! Sadly, no. Don’t get me wrong, great story, great writing, just not what I was expecting.

Lenia was a sad character. She’s that dumb friend that has sex on every first date she goes on and can’t understand why she doesn’t have a boyfriend. However, the prince WAS sending her some pretty mixed signals. At first he’s like “You’re fine – let’s do this. Hey btw, there’s this other girl, she saved me, I dunno who she is, but I love her. You’re cool with that right?” but then almost overnight he started telling her he loved her and wanted to marry her, but oh whoopsie, his father won’t allow that. I’m not sure the prince was really outraged by his arranged marriage because he wanted to marry Lenia instead, or because he didn’t want to be told what to do. Also, I generally dislike when characters fall in love at first sight, especially if it’s one sided, but hey! – that’s fairy tales!

One of my favorite parts was when Margrethe has realized who Lenia is and she kind of confronts her about being in love with the prince. All along Margrethe thought Lenia brought the prince to her, as some sort of gift, or sign from God that she should love him and bring peace to the kingdom, so she doesn’t understand why Lenia is pregnant with his kid. I LOVED that Lenia quickly puts an end to that delusion and straight up just shakes her head in confusion like “Uh, no, I never said any of that, you were just supposed to save him because you had legs, then leave him alone”. Naturally, this makes Margrethe feel like a complete idiot because now she’s broken up this relationship and condemned her friend to death. I feel like in a typical story, Lenia would have been really self sacrificing and demure and said something like, “Oh yes, of course sweetie, I only wanted the best for you”, while holding back tears because she’s about to die because this other girl got the message wrong. Nothing I like better than characters who respond like real people!

The ending of this book was kind of disappointing because it ended with happiness (I know that sounds bizarre, but I was expecting it to be darker), but I did enjoy that Margrethe solved my ago old irritation with the plan that turns the Little Mermaid back into a mermaid by spilling the prince’s blood. Why does everyone always think it has to be ALL the blood? Perhaps in the original version she’s told she must “KILL the prince”? I’m not 100%, but I’ve always wondered why she couldn’t just take a little blood, which is exactly what Margrethe does, despite the fact that marriage in no way connects two people’s blood, but I understand it’s symbolism being taken literally.

I would be really interested to know if Turgeon believes the things she writes about marriage based on personal or religious beliefs, or if she just thought the idea of souls/blood connecting when two people are married sounded romantic. I appreciated that the daughter ended up being the soul that Lenia wanted so badly, referencing the idea that children we leave behind will always be a piece of us and therefore we live forever in our bloodlines. She may not have gotten that soul that would let her live forever in Heaven, but now she’ll always have a bloodline out there somewhere, children that will always have a connection to the sea, long after Lenia herself becomes part of it. DEEP. Hopefully that’s the idea I was supposed to take away from the story.

Overall rating: B

One thought on “Book Review! Mermaid: A Twist on the Classic Tale by Carolyn Turgeon

  1. Pingback: Sunday Book Club! The Reflections of Queen Snow White by David Meredith | Miss Al-Leigh

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