Review: The Dark Mermaid

I recently sent out a survey on several of my social media accounts to get a better idea of what types of posts you would like to read on The Princess Blog. One of you requested reviews of princess content from black creators. It just so happened that I had a new adaptation of "The Little Mermaid" on my reading list by a black author that I was dying to get started on. I review many "Little Mermaid' adaptations and even wrote my own, yet I never get tired of reading them becuase the story is so versatile. Will she end up with the prince? How does she communicate? Is she a mermaid or a selkie? Does she already have experience as a human or is their world completely new to her? The Dark Mermaid by Christina L. Barr is a refreshing and expertly crafted new take on Hans Christian Andersen's tale that explores the risk the mermaid underwent by chasing after her dreams. It also builds a rich undersea setting that rivals the land of Sirenea in the Filipino mermaid series, Dyesebel.

The Dark Mermaid by Christina L. Barr

Similar to the Hans Christian Andersen tale, the heroine in Christina L. Barr's The Dark Mermaid has no name, which is considered common for merfolk. She later adopts the name "Luna" when she decides to become human. More than half the book takes place underwater, which makes for a more fleshed out fantasy setting than many other "Little Mermaid" adaptations take the time to develop. Like its title, the The Dark Mermaid brings to life a world of deadly sirens with a tyrannical king. Luna is expected to kill mercilessly if she wants to maintain her place within her family. When she refuses to murder a human boy named Ian after his parents are brutally slaughtered by Luna's father and sisters, she is banished and must go on a journey to find her place in the world. She is taken in by the castaway Sea Witch, who trains her in the magic arts. Luna works hard under her care in the hopes that she can one day unlock the power to become human and be reunited with the boy she rescued.

"The Little Mermaid" is one of few fairy tales to introduce a love triangle. The prince in the fairy tale must choose between the mute mermaid and the princess he is betrothed to. Some adaptations, such as Dyesebel, make this romantic tension even more interesting by introducing a second potential love interest for the lovesick mermaid. The Dark Mermaid introduces a shapeshifter named Napa, who is fiercely loyal to Luna and does everything in his power to help her transition into a human and find Ian, in spite of his underlying feelings for her. Napa is such a fun and friendly sidekick that I wondered if Luna was going to fall for him instead. While struggling to regain his full powers, he spends most of the book as a seagull, crab, or fish. Napa brights light humor into an otherwise dark story. I was especially amused by his recount of when he turned into a chicken, and mother almost ate him.

Another unique quality of this book is that it takes place in modern times. Like the love interest from Dyesebel, another modern-day "Little Mermaid" story, Ian is from a wealthy family that owns a tech company, which is essentially today's equivalent to a prince. Television, the internet, and airplanes are among the many human things that Luna must learn about when she sprouts legs, even though these are things that were unheard during the time period that the original fairy tale took place. The setting allows the story to be more grounded in reality instead of a faraway land that can only exist in our imagination. Ian's girlfriend refers to Luna as his "anime fetish," a likely thing for someone to tease a modern young man about if he were obsessed with a magical girl who may or may not actually exist. It also contains descriptions of Luna's first experience using a shower and wearing contemporary clothing. As a princess fan, I prefer reading about fancy gowns, but shorts and a tank top make more sense for the time period.

I strongly recommend The Dark Mermaid for any fan of "The Little Mermaid" or the Filipino Dyesebel series. There were parallels among both that breathed new life into the story that I have not seen in any other adaptation. This book also placed heavy focus on the segment of the fairy tale in which the mermaid was propositioned to kill the prince in order to save herself, something that I have only ever seen one other adaptation do. It contains a healthy balance of dark and light story elements thanks to Napa's comedic relief along with an extremely relatable heroine who wishes to find her place in the world. There is also plenty of magic and drama for all sorts of fantasy fans to enjoy.


Anonymous said…
I was the one who made the request! Thank you for writing this blog entry!
I've been eyeing this book for a while actually. When I have the money I think I will buy it.

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