Review: The Siren Princess

The "Little Mermaid" nerd in me could not resist reviewing another adaptation of my favorite fairy tale. The Siren Princess is the second book in The Forgotten Kingdom series by Lichelle Slater. Its prequel, The Dragon Princess, had very little to do with "Sleeping Beauty," so I wasn't too surprised to find that The Siren Princess also had very little to do with the fairy tale it was based on. In fact, it had more in common with Peter Pan than it did with "The Little Mermaid" with a love interest who was none other than Captain Hook himself. This romantic version of Captain Hook was polite and heroic unlike Emma Swan's rough-around-the-edges beau from Once Upon a Time. There were a lot of random name references to Disney's The Little Mermaid, J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan, and Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, but the characters' personalities bore no resemblance to the ones they were named after. Like its predecessor, I thought that the references in this book were forced and that it would have worked better as an original story instead of a reimagining. Ironically, the name "Ariel," and the protagonist was randomly named "Odette" like the princess from "Swan Lake." I could not for the life of me figure out the relevance of that story here.

The Siren Princess tells the story of Odette, the daughter of the pirate queen, who dreams of being the captain of her own ship. I think "The Pirate Princess" would have been a more accurate title for this book because most of it was about pirate culture, which is quite literally the opposite of princess culture. Odette is brash, blunt, belligerent, and hates dressing up. As a princess fan, I found her difficult to relate to. The mermaid elements of the story also lacked the whimsy and imagination of other mermaid stories I've read. Instead of a magical kingdom of merfolk, there was a sunken city filled with cursed inhabitants. The sirens were described similarly to the ones from Freeform's Siren series as monster-like beings with sharp fins, scales, and pointy teeth. I thought it was interesting that Odette was lured in by the sirens' song at the beginning of the book when most siren mythology implies that the song only works on men. Unfortunately, the rest of the book barely paid any mention to their song or its powers.

This version of "The Little Mermaid" was similar to J.M. Stengl's The Siren and the Scholar in that Odette lost her memories instead of her voice. However, she wasn't trying to pass a test of true love nor did she give up the memories willingly. The first three-quarters of the book was a difficult grind because so much of the story was shrouded in the missing part of Odette's memory. It was easy to understand her frustration that everyone else knew the secrets of her past except her and refused to answer any of her questions. When she finally does learn the truth, it changes a lot of the dynamics that I believed to be true up to that point. I was hoping to learn more about Odette's mysterious ability to transform into a siren, but the big reveal turned out to be yet another princess tale of betrayal. Odette's love interest made more sacrifices than she did, which caused her to come off as rather selfish, unlike her "Little Mermaid" counterpart.

My favorite part of The Siren Princess came within the final chapters of the book when it briefly retold the story of "The Frog Prince" with far more accuracy than it did "The Little Mermaid" with one exception. This time, the prince was gay. It was a cute and light-hearted take on the story that should have gotten its own book entirely instead of being used as a bookend for The Siren Princess. There are few fairy tales out there that embrace non-heteronormative couples, so I was pleasantly surprised to see that done here so well. Prince Ulrich was a far more interesting character than Odette, and I would have enjoyed a full-length story about him more than the one about her. It's disappointing to say that my favorite part of a "Little Mermaid" reimagining was the part that wasn't about "The Little Mermaid," but I've never enjoyed stories pirates very much.

Overall, The Siren Princess contained very little of what made "The Little Mermaid" such an appealing story. The protagonist had the exact opposite personality of the character from the fairy tale, and her story focused more on pirates than it did on mermaids. I think this book could only be truly enjoyed by people who dislike or criticize "The Little Mermaid" and would prefer a version in which the main character is less self-sacrificing. Fans of Peter Pan might enjoy this book due to the inclusion of Captain Hook and the Lost Boys. All the random fairy tale references got kind of messy after a while, and it felt like the author had just dumped all of the stories into a blender. If you're a fan of Peter Pan or the Pirates of the Carribean movies, there might be something here for you. However, if you love classical princess stories as much as I do, you might want to skip over this one.


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Happy International Mermaid Day!