08 abril 2011

Review: Mermaid: A Twist on the Classic Tale (Carolyn Turgeon)

Publisher: Crown Publishing (2011)
Format:  Paperback | 240 pages
Genre(s): Fantasy, Romance
Description: "The story of two very different women, one mortal, one mermaid, and the clash between worlds best kept apart... It is a cold day at the end of the world when a young woman, a princess in hiding, looks out across a Northern sea and sees something she could not have seen. It looks...it can't be. It looks like a mermaid's tail. And, as she looks more closely, she sees that the mermaid is dragging a drowning sailor in her arms. Because, only hours before, another princess, the daughter of the sea queen, has decided to risk everything and take a look at the world above the sea: the world of mortals. And there she finds a storm, a shipwreck, a sailor, and sets in train events which will change both women's worlds forever."
Warning: Contains SPOILERS!
I LOVE Disney's "The Little Mermaid". It is my favourite movie ever. I still watch it today. Oh I know Grimm's original fairy tale is nothing like the movie. It's not upbeat and it doesn't have a happy ending. Still, I believe Disney's movie to be a good "retelling" of the fairy tale. "Mermaid" by Carolyn Turgeon had potential... but I think the author failed in living up to it and making this "modern retelling" really shine. I will say this in favour of the book, though: the writing was captivating enough to make me read until the end, even if the characters made me feel frustrated and annoyed.

The main problem with this book is the story: it's not properly developed. Every character in this book is shallow in terms of feelings and personality. The world-building is weak (even the mermaid world is only 'sketched' instead of vividly described). Basically this book has about 200 less pages than it needed to have.

In the beginning of the book it seemed to me that mermaids were different from humans. They don't seem to feel like humans or understand them very well; that is why they are forbidden to go to their world.
I thought it interesting that mermaids were so different; I even liked that Lenia, the mermaid protagonist felt unsatisfied with the situation of division between humans and merpeople.

But then, ten pages later she went and randomly fell in love with some human she'd never met before and never spoke to before either. She saved him and bam... she was in love. That would be unbelievable between humans! It felt really... fake, I guess. And then she sacrificed everything for that love.

Well, it might work for Grimm's fairy tale but it doesn't work for a full novel. It's just not convincing. When you read a story in 'novel format' you expect things to happen... more progressively.

And the princess? Well, she was one confused woman. Even though I thought she was better fleshed-out than the rest of the characters and that she was the only one who actually sacrificed anything for love (and not on a whim, like the mermaid does), she also falls for the Prince at first sight? What, is he that good-looking? Come on, instantaneous romance in an adult novel? I'd have liked it so much more if the author had taken the time to actually write about the characters and develop them properly. So what if it deviated even further from the source material? It's a rewriting is it not? Look at Disney's "The Little Mermaid"; that is what I call a "retelling" of a fairy tale.

As for the prince... the prince was an utter idiot. If a woman ever fell for his looks I'm sure his complete lack of personality and raging machismo would be a huge turn-off. And to think that a proud, powerful mermaid that apparently was free enough to choose her mate in the waters, would sink as low as to become his plaything... because that is exactly what happens. Again, it is irrelevant if the same happens in Grimm's story or not because as I said before, it's a retelling; the source material will be there, but it can be changed. Even if the author wanted to follow the original that is not an excuse for the appalling lack of character development.

The end was so... lame. It was unrealistic, if you think how much the mermaid loved the prince.

So, this giant rant to say that the book lacks proper character and story development. It's not as much a "retelling" in the true sense of the word (again, I mention the Disney movie) but I suspect little more than a "retelling" of the fairy tale in the author's words. Why go to the trouble of writing a book then? I don't know, but I was really disappointed with this. Shallow characters, plot full of holes. A mess. Stick to the original or just watch "The Little Mermaid" by Disney if you want a retelling with a "twist".

2 comentários:

p7 disse...

That's too bad, it should be forbbiden to go wrong with a retelling! :P Lately, it seems that some publishers have grown a dislike of publishing good long novels with decent development.

I don't want to generalize the link between page count and quality or reading grade, but 240 pages would be good for a Middle-Grade book, acceptable for a YA, but it is quite unusual in an Adult book. So, like you said, a few more pages would probably help to better the story, if done right.

The cover is gorgeous, though. ^.^

slayra disse...

That's it, exactly! I feel like publishers value quick action before good story. It's not like the story itself is bad it's just that it's all so unrealistic! It does work if it's a fairy tale, but not for a novel... it's just they're different genres and types of writing. I expect more character and story development in a novel and I didn't get it. The guy wasn't even awake when he "met" the mermaid! How could she realistically fall in love with him? Same for the princess. :P Oh well... the cover is gorgeous... :D