Once upon a time there was a beautiful Princess and she met a handsome Prince. When danger came to the kingdom, the daring Prince saved the fair Princess. They fell deeply in love and got married. And they all lived happily ever after…or not.
Ever wonder what really happened after the happy couple rode into the sunset? Or better yet, what dirty secrets did the Disney Princess stories leave out? Maybe The Little Mermaid lost more than her voice. Maybe her beloved prince wasn’t such a nice guy. And maybe Princesses were meant to kick ass.
In the spirit of adventure, friendship and (of course) girl power, Jim C. Hines has written “The Mermaid’s Madness,” a twist on the old Disney classic. The true story of “The Little Mermaid” is told through the eyes of fellow princesses Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella. The tale begins after the movie has ended, but instead of a marriage, Ariel, referred to in the book as Lirea, has killed her Prince. Angry and confused, she begins to hear voices. Returning to the sea, she gathers the tribes of Merfolk and declares war on the humans.
Hines certainly gets points for his alternative depiction of the Princesses. Magical powers like singing or talking to animals, which were originally considered feminine, save the day. The gifts that the fairies bestowed on Sleeping Beauty make her undefeatable (not to mention that she is a martial arts expert). Snow White is a powerful sorceress, drawing strength from the magic mirror. And Cinderella, now married to the Prince of Lorindar, controls the sharks and sea-creatures for protection. Basically they are the Charlie’s Angels of fairytales. Rather than the type of Princess every little girl wants to grow-up to be, we have the strong Queens that women want to be.
While “The Mermaid’s Madness” is fun to read, it’s not exceptionally well written. The themes of the book are adult oriented, but the writing style seems geared toward teenagers. The sentences stay relatively simple throughout, as does the dialogue. Though a lot of the conversation is witty and amusing, it can also become repetitive. Each character has a main motivation, which they constantly talk about. You could play a drinking game with the number of times Morveren (Ursella in the movie) mentions saving her granddaughter.
However, what Hines lacks in writing skill he makes up for in creativity. Developing an entire culture for the Merfolk, he describes the royal hierarchy, mating habits, migration seasons and sea magic. Expanding into the fairy world, he adds Captain Hephyra to the mix. The fairy’s tree was cut down to make the Queen’s vessel, forever bonding Hephyra to the ship. Strong and sultry, she can sense the passionate desires of others, which causes a bit of a stir. The ship is truly fascinating because it is created of a still-living tree. To keep it thriving, the crew stores fertilizer in the lower decks. All these little magical details create an intriguing fantasy world.