Princess Margrethe has been hidden away while her kingdom is at war. One gloomy, windswept morning, as she stands in a convent garden overlooking the icy sea, she witnesses a miracle: a glittering mermaid emerging from the waves, a nearly drowned man in her arms. By the time Margrethe reaches the shore, the mermaid has disappeared in to the sea. As Margrethe nurses the handsome stranger back to health, she learns that not only is he a prince, he is also the son of her father’s greatest rival. Sure that the mermaid brought this man to her for a reason, Margrethe devises a plan to bring peace to her kingdom. Meanwhile, the mermaid princess Lenia longs to return to the human man she carried to safety. She is willing to trade her home, her voice, and even her health for legs and a chance to win his heart.
Review: Turgeon’s retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s beloved classic, The Little Mermaid, is darker and possibly more foreboding than the original tale. When two women vie for the heart of one man, it’s pretty obvious there is going to be heartache and misery. After rescuing a human from the sea, mermaid Princess Lenia falls hard for Prince Christopher. She is willing to give up her beautiful voice and endure the constant pain caused by her new legs in order to pursue him on dry land. Meanwhile, Princess Margrethe has also set her sights on the handsome prince in hopes of uniting their two warring kingdoms.
Unlike the original fairytale, Turgeon’s brooding retelling gives a voice to both women, giving us a tragic tale of destiny and desire that shatters our heart in pieces. Lenia is an optimist, completely enchanted with fragile humanity. She yearns to have a soul that will live forever instead of just turning into sea foam when she dies in the sea. Though she is warned that nothing good can come out of humans, she desires above all else to explore the upper world.
Like Lenia, Princess Margrethe of the Northern Kingdom is also sheltered, living in a convent disguised as a nun to ensure her security from her warring kingdom. Margrethe keeps to herself and her destiny has been preordained: to become the next best ruler. As she lives amongst the peasants, she realizes how the poor status her people are living in and vows that she will make everything better when she has the throne.
Turgeon follows the outline of Christian’s fairytale pretty well for the most part. The chapters are divided by Lenia and Margarethe’s point of view in alternating chapters. I felt myself torn between the two female characters who share many similarities. I wanted both of them to be happy. What I couldn’t understand is why they both loved the womanizing prince so much. If I could find a flaw in the book, it would be the flat, uninteresting prince who actually has very little page time. Nonetheless I found Mermaid to be a compulsive read. I wanted to know how all of the three characters will collide in the book’s climax. It kept me guessing who if anyone will live happily ever after. Mermaid is definitely a dark tale meant for adults and not exactly a cozy bedtime story. Readers interested in fairytale retellings should definitely pick this one up and will find it hard to put the book down once they begin reading it.
Readalikes: The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Anderson, The Mermaid’s Maddness by John C. Hines, Sirena by Donna Jo Napoli