Review: Voiceless - A Mermaid's Tale

Seeking out books I see in Facebook ads can be hit or miss, but I'm glad I picked up this one. Voiceless: A Mermaid's Tale by Anna Finch is a uniquely modern take on "The Little Mermaid" that is feminist without being too misandronist. It is not a true retelling of my favorite fairy tale, but more of a "What if?" scenario that explores what could have happened if the story took place in a different type of setting and if the main character had made a different decision when facing the sea witch, kind of like selecting a diverging branch in a visual novel. Though it uses some direct dialogue from the Disney movie during a key scene that many authors seem to enjoy referencing, there are few references to the Disney movie or even the Hans Christian Andersen story overall. Instead, this is a well-researched book about trauma and manipulation built around a fantasy setting.

Voiceless tells the story of an ambitious young mermaid named Moriah who is trapped in an underwater society that treats women as second-class citizens. It's a powerful story about women's rights and liberation, although I thought it was interesting that the author chose to make women oppressed in a mermaid society because mermaids are typically presented as matriarchies. However, I can see what she was going for by incorporating the metaphor of the original Little Mermaid losing her voice. Moriah chooses not to give up her voice and requests magic lessons from the sea witch instead but was voiceless in a different way due to her grandfather's oppression of her society. In that respect, this book reminded me a bit of Frozen 2 by making the grandfather a villain so the main character would be one generation removed from him and less likely to know or understand his motives than she would be with her father, who is kind and cares about her.

Like other adaptations I've read and seen, the human world in Voiceless is set in modern times, making Moriah's society feel even more dated due to its backward way of thinking. When Moriah visits the land, she falls for a human named Michael and does lots of modern activities with him like playing video games and eating fast food. Michael helps open Moriah's eyes to the many problems in her society and inspires her to lead a revolution against her grandfather. He is not a cardboard prince who is just there to drive the plot along. Michael has problems of his own involving his family that Moriah is eventually able to help with by using the magic that she learns from the sea witch. Both Moriah and Michael are flawed characters that complement each other perfectly, allowing them to learn and grow.

I couldn't help seeing some parallels between the mermaid world in this story and some of the more problematic areas of the middle east. Using power tactics and treating women like second-class citizens is something that certain parts of the world still struggle with today. While I probably would have been less interested in this story if it didn't take place in a fantasy setting, I appreciate that the author used this book to give a voice to those who might consider themselves voiceless. In addition to encouraging its readers to stand up for what they believe in, it also has a strong mental health message and encourages therapy to recover from trauma. It goes beyond the "happily ever after" ending of a fairy tale to show that there is always more work to be done.

Voiceless is a modern feminist fairy tale done right that doesn't degrade all men into sexist dirtbags. It has strong characters with complex backgrounds and a great message about speaking out against injustice. This book does a much better job than Ever Cursed to show the breakdown of a patriarchal society and give women their own voice. I like that it doesn't criticize nations that are already free and instead compares two very different societies to show what it's like to learn that there are better opportunities out there, which in a way, was what the original "Little Mermaid" character was seeking. It draws more inspiration from real life than your average fantasy story, which is what makes this book truly unique. If modern feminist fairy tales are your jam, be sure to check this one out.


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