Review: Love of the Sea

Love of the Sea by Lauren Masterson is an indie mermaid princess book I learned about through Twitter. As an ardent love of "The Little Mermaid," I decided to check it out. Even though it isn't a fairy tale adaptation, it has more in common with "The Little Mermaid" than other original mermaid boos I've read such as Rescue Sirens, The Tail of Emily Windsnap, or Deep Blue. Unlike these stories, which contain little to no romance, Love of the Sea is about a mermaid who falls in love with a human and visits his kingdom in the hopes of winning him over. However, there are a few key differences between this novel and the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale. In Love of the Sea, the mermaid princess intends to recruit the human prince to rule her underwater kingdom and become part of her world instead of the other way around. I found the story to be a bit lacking in the romance department, but the world-building was exceptional.

Love of the Sea by Lauren Masterson

Princess Asrai has been hiding for years, waiting for the right moment to strike back after her underwater kingdom was usurped. When she sets her sights on a human prince named Cormack, she decides to recruit him as her king to take back what is rightfully hers. There's only one problem. Cormack has no idea that the mermaid princess exists. To deal with this little snag in her plan, Asrai maroons herself on the shore of Cormack's kingdom, forcing him to take her home and keep her in his bathtub so she doesn't dry out. Somehow, he manages to keep the mermaid in his tub a secret from most of his castle's inhabitants for quite a while. Asrai attempts to seduce Cormack despite not knowing the first thing about human love. In this respect, the book is similar to old black and white mermaid movies like Miranda or Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid that focus on a human man having a doting mermaid in his possession and not knowing what to do with her.

The biggest weakness in this book is the unrealistic dialogue. Masterson creates a rich magical world full of undersea mythology and lush imagery that is a pleasure to experience, but every time a character opens their mouth, everything that comes out is flat and one-dimensional. There were a few points in the book that I thought Asrai would turn out to be evil because she was so determined to use magic to force Cormack to love her and never shares any genuine moments of bonding with him. Then I realized the author wasn't concerned about giving their relationship depth and wanted us to take it at face value. Cormack's cousin, Peter, alternates between being a loving partner to the human princess Cormack is betrothed to and a violent rapist that Asrai's magical powers are useless against for some reason. The convenient method that Cormack and Asrai use to resolve Peter's temper in order to leave the human kingdom in his hands feels a little too contrived for comfort.

The story gets most interesting near the end when Cormack transforms into a merman, which is rare in stories like this. He visits Asrai's kingdom and learns about their rituals. Cormack is disheartened to discover that the merfolk are just as violent and jealous as the people on the land that he escaped from, but he eventually comes to terms with his new home. I think the book would have been more enjoyable if more of it had been spent exploring the undersea world. That is where the author excels. I would have loved to see more of Asrai's powers throughout the book besides her ability to view other places through magical water mirrors and using Jedi mind tricks on people. The descriptions of Cormack discovering his new merman body were memorable and thorough, though there were times I was certain he was going to change his mind because he was never fully confident in his decision to abandon his kingdom and leave it in the hands of someone as violent as Peter.

Overall, Love of the Sea is a captivating mermaid story that's a little rough around the edges. It is one of the few stories I've read in which a human prince joins a mermaid in the sea instead of the other way around. The first three quarters or so of the book hearken back to mermaid movies from the 1940s, but it truly excels in the last few chapters that give us an opportunity to explore the rich undersea world that Lauren Masterson built. I would recommend this book to young adults for its mature themes and older readers who grew up loving mermaids and dreaming of becoming part of their world.

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