19.06.2018 / Titan Books / Fantasy Re-Imagining / Paperback / 336pp / 978-1785655708
Target Audience: Readers who love re-imaginings of many different designs. A classic story given a healthy dash of magic and brought to a modern audience.
About The Mermaid
Once there was a fisherman who lived on a cold and rocky coast and was never able to convince any woman to come away and live in that forbidding place with him. One evening he pulled up his net and found a woman in it. A woman with black hair and eyes as grey as a stormy sea and a gleaming fish’s tail instead of legs.
The storm in her eyes rolled into his heart. She stopped her thrashing and crashing at his voice, though she did not understand his words. But her eyes had seen inside of him, and his loneliness caught her more surely than the net. So she stayed with him, and loved him, though he grew old, and she did not.
Remarks of this strange and unusual woman travelled from village to village and town to town, until they reached the ears of a man whose business was in the selling of the strange and unusual.
His name was P.T. Barnum, and he’d been looking for a mermaid.
Christina Henry once again brings us a captivating novel that gives a fresh and amazing perspectives on tales, legends and folklore of the past. This time around in it is PT Barnum’s famous humbug the Feejee Mermaid and it is a wondrous read. I enjoyed reading Lost Boy so much that I was happy to put aside my indifference to mermaids to read Christina Henry’s latest efforts. I am seriously glad I did as The Mermaid is brilliant and it shows once again that Christina Henry’s glorious imagination knows no bounds. Her re-imaginings are taking fairy tales and magical stories to another level and The Mermaid feels like a progression in the genre instead of a bog standard re-hash. CH is daring to tell her own stories in a way that easily stops the reader in their tracks and re-invigorates their own sense of wonder.
This is a story of love, of discovery, of magic and of the good and bad sides of humanity. The narrative follows Amelia, a mermaid who escapes her sea life and finds love on dry land. Marrying a sailor after they connect over the deep lonliness they both harboured and their love of the sea. Jack appreciates her wonder, respects it. After Jack is lost at sea, Amelia remains as a lonely widow who never ages, waiting for her husband to return. Word spreads about this mysterious ageless mermaid; all the way to New York City where PT Barnum is waiting to make money on such a wonder. Sending Levi, his right-hand man, to secure this ‘mermaid’, as everyone far from believes she is real. Levi soon finds out the truth and, after much thought, Amelia agrees to share her secret with the world. PT Barnum has finally secured a true money maker and he will do anything to keep her contained. But with past decisions looming over him, he will have to play this just right. Amelia is certainly no push-over and is ready to give the greatest showman a run for his money.
I don’t usually enjoy magical stories but The Mermaid was captivating to say the least. I appreciated the fact that CH didn’t dance around Amelia’s mermaid magic, the reader is thrown in the deep end from the very beginning (I could have included so many more puns in this review but I restrained myself). I don’t really like it when there is a frustrating build-up so CH got me on board straight away. I liked the fact there are elements of truth included and clear influences but this is still very much Christina Henry’s own story. The pacing in the novel is so incredibly fast that it was a bit of a shame to miss out on certain aspects of Amelia’s earlier story. Though saying that I thought the speed of the narrative actually suited the story as CH wanted there to be obvious tension between all the characters which she got spot on.
I thought Amelia was a fantastic character that represented so many great things such as equality, humanity and appreciation of the world around us. Her interactions with humanity make her angry because we are often ignorant or blind to others and it made the underlying writing very potent and thought-provoking. I thought this iteration of PT Barnum was well suited for the story and the gentlemanly presence of Levi was much needed to break through the tension between Amelia and PT. Amelia’s journey is one to behold and CH absolutely nailed her portrayal of a mermaid. I was in awe of her transformations and the dynamics of her abilities and especially of the way CH depicted humanity’s reaction to her existence. I was a tad peeved that there wasn’t more insights into her otherworldliness and that it boiled down to ‘that is the nature of the magic’ but it wouldn’t have worked if CH had been more transparent so I can live with that.
I would say this is a read for all ages but it does have some darker edges. Amelia is not your stereotypical mermaid (I am not going to elaborate) and yet she is still a natural beauty and CH likes to give alternative views on important themes in her novels and that is abundantly clear here. Themes such as independence, animal treatment, identity, possessiveness, femininity, worldly views, pandemonium, grief, religion and true love. Amelia defies the norm in every regard and she was extremely profound in her thoughts which I found refreshing and enjoyable. The Mermaid is a continuation of Christina Henry’s hot streak in the line of re-imaginings and it comes highly recommended from me. Remarkable characters, a tense yet beautiful and unforgettable narrative and meaningful themes make this a must read. I can’t wait to see what CH has up her sleeve for us next but count me in.
About Christina Henry
CHRISTINA HENRY is the author of the CHRONICLES OF ALICE duology, ALICE and RED QUEEN, a dark and twisted take on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, as well as LOST BOY: THE TRUE STORY OF CAPTAIN HOOK, an origin story of Captain Hook from Peter Pan.
She is also the author of the national bestselling BLACK WINGS series (BLACK WINGS, BLACK NIGHT, BLACK HOWL, BLACK LAMENT, BLACK CITY, BLACK HEART and BLACK SPRING) featuring Agent of Death Madeline Black and her popcorn-loving gargoyle Beezle.
ALICE was chosen as one of Amazon’s Best Books of the Year in Science Fiction and Fantasy for 2015. It was also a Goodreads Choice Award nominee in Horror and one of Barnes & Noble’s Bestselling Science Fiction and Fantasy novels of 2015.
She enjoys running long distances, reading anything she can get her hands on and watching movies with samurai, zombies and/or subtitles in her spare time. She lives in Chicago with her husband and son.