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The Mermaid's Madness (2009)

by Jim C. Hines(Favorite Author)
3.9 of 5 Votes: 5
0756405831 (ISBN13: 9780756405830)
review 1: I didn't finish this fantasy adventure. In the end, I just didn't care about the characters. The adventure seemed interesting enough--why was the queen in a coma, how can we save her? But the main character, a Cinderella-based princess, was flat, boring, and I didn't care much for her. The Sleeping Beauty-based princess was even more annoying than the first book. The Snow White-based princess was fun, but not enough to make up for the other characters.I think it goes to show that the most exciting activities can't drive a story alone. You have to care about the people facing them. Even when those people are tragic or even evil, we have to find them interesting. We have to care what happens to them, even if we hope they lose. Stories are about people, not merely ev... moreents.
review 2: Hooray for more action and adventure for the girls! Hooray for more feminist fairy tale retellings! Sequels seldom achieve five stars for me, but I'm pumped over this. 'The Mermaid's Madness', the sequel to 'The Stepsister Scheme', is a hydraulic blast, and really clever storytelling. This is definitely a series I'll be continuing.And to show I'm not a lazy motha*%^*$*er, I'll also skip the synopsis of the plot ('The Little Mermaid' reimagined with the subversive, ingenious skill I've come to expect from Jim C. Hines), and plunge down into the cold, mysterious ocean that leaves ripples of my initial thoughts of the book, before resurfacing - hair flipped back and all - to the character studies (okay that's all of the mermaid metaphors in this review, promise).I've always loved mermaids as a mythical creature. Their fascinating mystery, their relationship with water and swimming, their hybrid nature that signifies the complicated, doubled struggles of their world, their identity; everything about them holds such amazing potential for stories of all kinds. I even wrote a mermaid story for my final year at university: about a positive love between a human and a mermaid with a homosexual twist. But despite this, I could never find an existing mermaid story I liked (and I wanted to see a lesbian mermaid love story). Even as a kid, Disney's 'The Little Mermaid' didn't leave an impact on me, except for disappointment and confusion. I loved that Ariel was a mermaid and had red hair, but I hated that she gave up everything, changed everything she was, for a guy she hadn't even talked to before making her foolish-yet-ultimately-rewarded sacrifice for married life as a girl with skinny, unscathed, pretty legs. Ariel doesn't achieve much on her own plotwise, and even the equivalent of her selling her soul to the devil is without consequence. This little mermaid gets her happily ever after despite learning nothing and not growing as the "hero" in her own movie (this could not have been lost on Hines either; I mean, the tragic little mermaid in his book is named Lirea, an anagram for Ariel, for crying out loud). I don't dislike a Disney film easily, but 'The Little Mermaid' continues to make me groan. I prefer the original Hans Christian Andersen story, which I interpret as a cautionary tale for giving up who you are for a man you barely know. Andersen's tragedy fairy tale may have a bittersweet ending in that the little mermaid finds peace with earning a soul upon her death, but Jim C. Hines' take on it looks at the mermaid's choices (or lack of) as merely a tragedy, and our three princess heroes, Danielle (Cinderella), Talia (Sleeping Beauty) and Snow (White), get swept up in the outcome. Just like in the princess's original fairy tales, all is not what it seems or has been reputed in 'The Little Mermaid'. 'The Mermaid's Madness' features the mermaid losing her mind as she hear mocking voices telling her what a failure she is; a cursed knife that trap its victim's soul; a little sister mermaid (sisterhood is important in this tale, another plus); and a mermaid - or undine as they are called in this book's world - matriarchy with separate clans threatening war on the kingdom of Lorindar (when they're not in mating season, of course), which is where Danielle is the princess-by-marriage and where the other princesses are servants to the awesome Queen Beatrice. Throughout the beginning and middle of 'The Mermaid's Madness', Lirea the mermaid is set up to be the main villain. Her POV segments offer the reader a clear - and well-written - understanding of her fragile state of mind and her grip on reality. This way she is made somewhat sympathetic, to a point, considering that she still kills people, including her father and one of her sisters. What's also worth remembering is she's only a child, and one of priviledged royalty at that, so facing the consequences of pursuing a man she just met - who used and betrayed her trust and love - was the first of the many blows to her damaged psyche and self-esteem. Lirea might in fact be more a victim than anything else.Danielle Whiteshore is less of a main character in this instalment, as we get more chapters from the POVs of Talia and Snow, but she is still significant. The "humble" and "clean" one of the trio (I love her compulsory habit of cleaning things, especially when she's nervous), purehearted Danielle wants to see the good in everyone, having the most sympathy for others. Less naive than in 'The Stepsister Scheme' (as she should be), she is always improving her swordplay, and knows when to be assertive and even ruthless in situations where it's necessary; she is a future queen after all, as Queen Bea reminds her. Her ability to talk to animals is a very useful skill and a major asset in 'The Mermaid's Madness', as she communicates with sea creatures while on the ship she sails (while also fighting seasickness a lot of the time). A real woman with a great heart and sense of justice, I adore Danielle. Even being a wife and mother does not hinder her one bit from going on dangerous adventures, although she does worry about being distant from her family, and fears the prospect of her son growing up without her. Her relationship with Prince Armand is much better handled and more believable than in her first adventure, probably because there are more scenes in which they are together. They spend as much time with each other as they can, and Armand isn't just waiting on the sidelines as Danielle goes out to sea. He is strong and brave but a sweetheart with real anxieties. The couple are truly charming, and their baby son Jakob (lovely name, lovely spelling) is sweet if not a little creepy for someone barely a toddler. Not much time is devoted to him, at least, but I'm willing to bet he will play an important part in the subsequent books.Talia is the same old tough-as-nails, first-class fighter and ninja, with nothing about her that attributes to the conventional, stereotypically-feminine notions of how a princess should be. Those traditions regarding gender power and control are what ruined the life of this rape survivor, and she will not have that happen again (indeed, the truth about her fairy tale is absolutely devastating). The formidable Talia loses battles in 'The Mermaid's Madness' and hates herself for it. But she never gives up and is smart, even offering Danielle insightful observations and useful advice. Literally sleepless, cynical, wonderfully sarcastic, and yet not so stoic as the reader gets a glimpse of her maternal instincts when it comes to little Jakob (she sneaks through his window at night sometimes to sing to him). She has a soft spot for childhood innocence and is rightfully indignant of people who use magic to "improve" their children. Thought to be dead inside, Princess Talia Malak-el-Dahshat at one point tells Danielle more of her backstory of how she arrived in Lorindar and met Queen Beatrice and Snow. And how she fell in love. Talia's feelings for Snow are explored a lot more here, and I can't wait to see how it develops further in the next book.Snow is the true star of 'The Mermaid's Madness'. It is she who wins the award for the most well-developed, complex princess ever, so much so that she might be replacing Talia as my new favourite character. A flirtatious, buxom, promiscuous sorceress who isn't dumb and whose sex life is NOT a plot point or a cause for concern? How often do we see anything like that? Snow's the bookworm and academic of the trio. Her priorities may be slightly skewered, and she can be thoughtless, but her heart is in the right place. Or is it? 'The Mermaid's Madness' sees Snow discover more about her magical potential, and what she is capable of. She possesses more power as she learns more spells, including how to enter someone's mind. Magic is frequent in this book - it is a fantasy after all - but also shows the consequences. Not everything is lighthearted, as Snow is soon made aware of how dangerous she might become and regrets doing morally reprehensible things for the greater good. She finds she can't trust herself; that she might be turning into her mother, the main antagonist in the last book and the woman who wanted to possess and control her daughter through magic. The confident, free-spirited and free-thinking Snow White is hurting - literally, with a head injury, and metaphorically. She is in total control of her sexuality, but her magical abilities? Too much power and not enough thought and responsibility could turn her into something she's feared her whole life...Bottom line, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White are kickass in this series! The three ladies, with their colourful, rich and complex personalities and histories, are like the fairy tale versions of 'Charlie's Angels', 'Charmed', 'Totally Spies' or other girl trio groups, only better. They get on each other nerves and banter more often than is appropriate in the deadly circumstances they fall into, but they support each other and will do anything to keep their friends alive and happy. Reading like actual human beings, each one of them has her flaws, and each struggles to regain control over her life, in how she freely sees fit. Whenever a well-meaning and/or confused antagonist or a chauvinistic man tries to bring them down, the three princesses will rise above it and kick back. They make a marvellous team, and even turn themselves into mermaids in this sea adventure!'The Mermaid's Madness' is one of the few novels about pirates where I wasn't bored to tears; with descriptions of ship mechanics, of where the masts are held, where the cannons are placed, or the norths, easts, souths and wests of every little thing. Action is important, and Hines did his research. The three princesses and their crew - captained by the dryad Hephyra, who is connected to her ship from Fairyland - do not visit many islands in their mission to find the little mermaid and free the human souls powering up her knife. But their encounters really made me want to find out what was going to happen next. 'The Mermaid's Madness' goes in many exciting directions, and twists and turns. It is violent and bloody without being too gory, and it even bodly mixes magic with religion, if not as a light touch to this savvy fairy tale. A heartfelt message about the importance of love and trust in family circles is prominent throughout, as well as the theme of how risky the business of first love can be and how it makes us vulnerable and susceptible to the motives of others. Oh and Lannadae, Lirea's younger sister and key player in the book, is adorable as a fairy tale storyteller and fangirl of the princess stories.It's not the perfect sequel. Any mention of Fairyland and its inhabitants is almost nonexistent, with the exception of Hephyra's character, even though they were central in the story of the previous book. For that matter, references to 'The Stepsister Scheme' are rarely written in, and they mostly revolve around Danielle's anxieties about Jakob possibly being exposed to magic, since back then she was subjected to it darkly when pregnant with her son. This is fairly puzzling considering how important the political and economical relationships between the nations are in this series. True, Fairyland isn't visited at all in 'The Mermaid's Madness', and is not important to the story, but still. With its aforementioned twists and turns, the plot can be a bit too complicated, with a growing cast of characters who are not all that interesting or well-developed. But despite its flaws, what a fun ride! A water slide! (Damn I'm doing it again). Forget Disney, Jim C. Hines Christian Andersen knows how to write a fairy tale retelling that is commentary, relevant and above all entertaining and creative. 'The Mermaid's Madness' is brilliantly-written with funny lines of dialogue and symbolic imagery; has a large cast of female characters who glowingly differ from one another and are each memorable and lovable in her own way; and the undine are an interesting bunch of scaly sea people; especially in their breeding rituals (this is definitely not a children's book). What a fantastic writer.Now to dive right into ‘Red Hood’s Revenge’.Final Score: 4.5/5 less
Reviews (see all)
Very good, I liked the new characters and the story never lulled down too much it kept a good pace
Hmmm. Better than the first one, I think, but I am now sated and will not be carrying on.
I enjoyed the reimagining of classic fairy tales!
Another great series.
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