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

Mermaid: A Twist on the Classic Tale by Carolyn Turgeon
Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
Released: March 1st 2011
Format: Paperback (240 pages)
Source: My local library
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 into 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 the chance to win his heart...

A surprising take on the classic tale, Mermaid is the story of two women with everything to lose. It will make you think twice about the fairy tale you heard as a child, keeping you in suspense until the very last page.

Truly, a twist on the classic tale of Hans Christian Anderson's The Little Mermaid. I loved how Turgeon weaved a likeable personality into the princess who saw the prince on the beach after the mermaid rescued him. As a child, I used to hate the princess and sided with the mermaid completely, thinking it unfair that the prince should end up with the princess when it had been the mermaid who had saved him.

However, Turgeon takes all the elements of this classic fairy tale and binds them even more tightly together by adding in her own plot elements to enhance the story. The loose ends are tied up. The princess's backstory is fully fleshed out - there's more to her than meets the eye. There's a war added in, which raises the stakes. We get a glimpse of how it truly is under the sea. I found myself not knowing whether to side with Lenia the mermaid or Margrethe the princess, because they were both so real and each so worth rooting for. It was nothing like the (tragic) fairy tale I read as a child. The prince - he's another story altogether. You'll know what I mean when you read this book!

Turgeon's writing flows smoothly, conveying the beauty of the underwater world and also the palaces on land. I found it very amusing how Lenia always 'grabbed a fish and stuffed it into her mouth' when she was underwater. A pretty disgusting image, but understandable for the character of a mermaid. (And there's that debate on whether merfolk actually consume their fishy friends or not. But if they didn't eat fish, what would they eat then? Kelp?)

In Hans Christian Anderson's version, the mermaid is given a knife by her sisters to kill the prince so she can gain her tail back and continue living as a mermaid. You know what happens next. But how does Turgeon work her way through this and save the other of her main characters? I was totally amazed by how she managed to wrap up the tale so incredibly well. Everything just fit like a jigsaw puzzle in the ending and made total sense.

This is a must-read if you are a mermaid fanatic like me, or even if you're just one who would love an exciting and unique afternoon read of a wonderful retelling. Five starfish!

Carolyn TurgeonCarolyn Turgeon is the author of five novels: Rain Village (2006), Godmother: The Secret Cinderella Story (2009), Mermaid (2011), which is being developed for film by Sony Pictures, and The Next Full Moon (2012), her first and only book for middle-grade readers. Her latest novel, The Fairest of Them All, comes out in August 2013 from Touchstone/Simon & Schuster and is about Rapunzel growing up to be Snow White's stepmother. She lives in Pennsylvania and New York and teaches fiction writing at the University of Alaska at Anchorage's Low-Residency MFA program. She's currently at work on a new novel about Dante's Beatrice, set in thirteenth-century Florence.

Visit Carolyn at her website and mermaid blog. You can also find her on Twitter.

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