If you’re anything at all like me, you probably can’t hear the words “the Little Mermaid” without immediately having a cartoon crab start singing “Under the Sea” in your head. But then again, if you’re anything at all like me, you’ll also probably find Jim Hines’ The Mermaid’s Madness a strong cure for that particular earworm.
Book 2 of his Princess series does indeed adapt that particular fairy tale, and to particularly good effect. This time around we’ve got our three heroines, Danielle, Snow, and Talia, having to delve into why the local undine are attacking human ships and sailors–and why their leader, the mad young queen Lirea, has nearly murdered Queen Beatrice. Lirea’s backstory, which tells how she gained the power to transform into human shape out of love of a human prince but then lost him, is darkly tragic and an easy match for the original Hans Christian Andersen version of the tale.
I appreciated that the main male characters weren’t quite figureheads here, either, even as the primary focus remained on the women. King Theodore and Danielle’s husband Armand remained primarily off-camera, but on the other hand, they were also doing things, which is all I ask. Better still, we got some delightful developments about Talia and Snow, about which I shall not expound because oh my yes spoilers. Points as well for Danielle succeeding in being both a mother and an effective warrior and heroine; that’s a pretty rare thing in fantasy novels, still.
Definitely worth checking out if you like your heroines of the mold of Wicked Girls Saving Themselves (h/t to ), and keep an eye out for the dryad ship captain who will, if you’re a filk fan, very likely remind you of Tricky Pixie’s “Dryad’s Promise”. Four stars.