Review: Selkie's Song

A few months ago, I reviewed the book Dragon's Maid from the Love's Enchanted Tales series by Kimberly A. Rogers. I enjoyed the fantasy, originality, and romance of Dragon's Maid, so I decided to go back and read the first book in the series, which was based on my favorite fairy tale, "The Little Mermaid." Selkie's Song was not the first "Little Mermaid" adaptation I've read with a selkie protagonist, but I still prefer KM Shea's version, The Little Selkie, due to its faster pacing and stronger heroine. There was so much I wanted to like about Selkie's Song, especially due to its many tongue-in-cheek references to the Disney movie, but most of the story drags like crazy due to poor decision-making on behalf of the main character. I can see from reading Dragon's Maid that Kimberly Rogers improved her writing as the series progressed, so I suppose this was more of an experimental book to set up the vast dragon-centric world of Love's Enchanted Tales, which is admittedly no small feat.

Selkie's Song tells the story of Naia, a selkie who becomes harder to relate to with each subsequent chapter. She is an outcast among the selkies due to her red hair and pale skin that stands out among her dark-haired and dark-skinned kin. Her hobbies of gardening and the arts are far more common among humans than for her own species. This is an interesting setup for the book because it makes it sound as though Naia relates better to humans than to selkies, but instead, she longs to be accepted among her kind. She has a great deal of respect for the Great Selkie, Malik, who shows favoritism toward her, but she brushes it off as kindness and assumes that he wishes to court her sister instead. Naia's continuously ignorant assumptions are what drive the entire first half of the book. When a human prince decides he loves her and wants to marry her after her pelt goes missing, she assumes that he is hiding it in a secret place despite never seeing him with it or making any mention of having it. She allows him to take her to his castle and court her without ever asking him if he actually has her pelt and continues this foolish deception even when she has an opportunity to be rescued by Malik.

Selkie's Song is not the first "Little Mermaid" adaptation I've read that pokes fun the Disney movie, but it is far more direct with its references and even comes off as mocking it. The human prince who captures Naia in exchange for her affections is named Eric, and he is betrothed to the Lady Vanessa, who he forgets about as soon as she has been replaced by a shinier object. He also asks Naia if her name is Ariel multiple times after she gives him the silent treatment. In her fruitless efforts to find her pelt, Naia makes it her mission to play matchmaker between Eric and Vanessa is Eric will lose interest in her and return the pelt that she assumes he possesses. This drawn-out game of deception is not only boring, but it also poses a huge threat to Naia's life. It is made clear that Naia will die if she is separated from her pelt for too long, and yet she continues to dance around the matter and never asks for help even when it is offered. The original little mermaid was self-sacrificing, but it was always in the name of love, and not survival. Naia doesn't care for Eric at all and grows much closer to Vanessa in her attempts to bring them together even though Vanessa deserves better than someone who would drop her like a hot potato the moment he sees a prettier girl.

I think I would have enjoyed this book more if it were shorter. It is twice as long as most books in this genre, including others in this series. So much of the story is wasted on Naia's ignorance that by the time she actually gets what she wants, I had stopped caring. The author made a note at the end that she wanted to make her story closer to the fairy tale than the Disney version by not making Naia end up with the human prince. Yet, any similarity to to the Hans Christian Andersen story is eliminated if Naia never had feelings for the prince to begin with. Her love interest, Malik, seems to be the only character in the book who possesses common sense, but even he hides his true feelings for Naia until it is too late and she gets captured by Eric. So much of this story would not have even happened if the characters did not repeatedly sabotage their own happy endings. If Naia and Malik had come clean with each other immediately after her capture, the rest of the story would have been more engaging and less tiring.

Selkie's Song is an interesting study of selkie mythology and does a decent job to set up the world of Love's Enchanted Tales, but I don't think Kimberly Rogers fully understood the story that she was trying to adapt. Making the human prince a lovesick moron who couldn't see Naia's obvious lack of interest in him defeated the purpose of having her sacrifice anything for his sake. Likewise, Naia is a frustrating heroine because so many chapters were wasted on her obviously wrong assumption that Prince Eric has her pelt. My suggestion would be to shorten the amount of time she could survive without the pelt and tell Malik the truth right away to build up to the excitement of the book's climax. I would recommend this book for people who are interested in the mythology of selkies, but not for fans of "The Little Mermaid."


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Happy International Mermaid Day!