Review: A Little Mermaid by Aya Ling

One week after the Entwined Tales Launch Party that I attended on Facebook, the book I was waiting for finally became available to read! A Little Mermaid by Aya Ling is the fifth book in the Entwined Tales series, but I cheated and read it first because I was less interested in the fairy tales that were adapted in the previous books. If you've been following this blog for a while, you know that I have a very strong affinity to the story of "The Little Mermaid." A Little Mermaid is a very unique take on it. It has the same basic premise of the youngest mermaid princess giving up her voice for legs so that she can get closer to a human prince she rescued from drowning, but this time, Princess Clio is not in love with the prince she rescued. In fact, she deems him rather foolish for managing to fall off his own ship during his birthday celebration. Clio does, however, have a huge crush on a merman with a similar name to the human prince. Due to a misunderstanding, the incompetent fairy godfather Mortimer misinterprets her wish and turns her into a mute human against her will.

A Little Mermaid was a fun read and is much lighter than its gothic fairy tale counterpart. In the novel, it turns out that Clio is a descendant of the "original" little mermaid. When her sister Nerissa tells her that a possible solution to solve her predicament was to plunge a dagger into the prince's heart so that his blood will cause her legs to form back into a tale, Clio rightfully tells her that performing such a horrid act would be preposterous. Nerissa feels the same way. Of course, knowing that her life doesn't depend on the prince marrying her like it did for her ancestor makes the situation a lot less dire. The loss of her voice isn't too much of a problem either because Prince Lucas's servants provide Clio with a seemingly unlimited amount of paper and pencils to write down everything she wants to say. My one complaint is that it seems somewhat unrealistic for Clio to regularly carry on conversations without the other person getting tired of waiting for her to finish writing or without her hand cramping up after a while. Still, this is a minor complaint. Fans of the Disney movie have been known to ask why Ariel never wrote her story for Eric, so it was nice to see an adaptation that attempted this solution.

Though the descriptions of the underwater world of Thalassa only take place during the first quarter of the book, I enjoyed reading a new interpretation of mermaid culture. It wasn't as detailed as the world presented in The Sea Fairies by L. Frank Baum, but there were still enough descriptions for Thalassa to feel real. Something else that is unique about this version is that existence of mermaids and the mermaid kingdom are considered common knowledge among humans. The two worlds have little contact with each other for obvious geographic reasons, but it does not come as too much of a surprise when Prince Lucas learns the mythological identity of his mysterious savior. In a world where magic and mythology are commonplace, there are less emotional stakes for Clio to have to worry about people not believing her or wanting to exploit her for what she really is. That is another reason the tone in A Little Mermaid felt so much lighter than the original fairy tale.

Princess Clio is a fun heroine because she's so different from what you would expect of the princess from "The Little Mermaid." She is strong-willed but shy at the same time. That is, at least, until she loses her voice and realizes how much she missed it. Her sisters were unaware of her feelings for the merman Lucanus until the whole misunderstanding with the fairy godfather took place because she never expressed them out loud. It was touching how supportive Nerissa was of her sister's plight. She regularly swims to the surface to talk to Clio and find out updates about her new life on land. Of course, Nerissa's intentions are not entirely selfless since unlike Clio, she is fascinated by the human world and wishes to learn as much about it as possible. Clio is more grounded in her version of reality and does not idealize places she doesn't about, which might be why she fits in so well among the humans, despite some initial trouble figuring out how to walk properly. The flighty Prince Lucas is attracted to her cynical nature, referring to her as his "good luck charm." Her strong sense of logic eventually helps her to overcome a plot against the crown, which seems to be a common theme in modern princess novels.

A Little Mermaid is a fun and light-hearted take on a classic fairy tale. It can be enjoyed as a standalone novel or alongside the rest of the books from the Entwined Tales series. Aya Ling has a unique voice. She is capable of creating strong heroines who still have vulnerabilities in certain areas. This book is a great alternative to the original fairy tale for anyone who finds Hans Christian Andersen's "The Little Mermaid" too dark or sad. It lowers all the stakes for the mermaid princess's life on land, making it more of a learning experience than life-staking risk. If you're like me and can't get enough "Little Mermaid" adaptations, check out my interpretation of the story, Of Land and Sea: The Untold Story of the Little Mermaid. My friend Kae-Leah also has a mermaid novel available to read on FictionPress that features a mermaid princess with the same name as Clio's sister called Nerissa Sanderson: The Part-Time Mermaid. Happy reading!


Unknown said…
I absolutely enjoyed reading this post. I was looking for birthday ideas with a mermaid theme. But, reading this post gave me a lot of good ideas. I have booked one of the outdoor NYC venues for my daughter’s birthday and I can make it look like an under water party.

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