Review: Song of the Sea (Singer Tales)

Deborah Grace White is the author of my current favorite mermaid series, The Vazula Chronicles. To say I was eager to read her new retelling of "The Little Mermaid" would be an understatement, especially after having thoroughly enjoyed Song of Ebony, which was a fun and creative retelling of "Snow White" and the prequel to this latest book. Though Song of the Sea did not contain any references to the Vazula Chronicles aside from a few similar themes, Deborah Grace White did what she does best and created an entirely new and fleshed out world of mermaids, magic, and romance. I'm really excited to read more books from this series, which focuses on magical singing.

Song of the Sea does an amazing job of bringing in elements from the original Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale while adding just enough new ones to keep its readers guessing. I appreciate that it didn't include any blatant references to the Disney movie and instead created its own compelling adaptation. Like the character from the fairy tale, Estelle is supposed to be able to visit the surface world for the first time when she turns 15 in a coming-of-age ceremony called an ascension that all of her sisters had already experienced. However, her father, Emperor Aefic, delayed her ascension indefinitely and refuses to tell her why. Instead of making her lose interest in the human world like he hopes, this only makes Estelle more curious and eager to leave her elaborate undersea prison. With the help of her sisters, Estelle's father reluctantly agrees to let her have her ascension but refuses to let her visit the surface again afterward. Like that's going to stop her.

Anyone who is familiar with Deborah Grace White's writing style knows that she likes to alternate perspectives between the two main love interests in her books. The way this book is written gives away the fact that Prince Farrin, the human who Estelle rescues from a ship wreck, does not wind up being her true love. Then again, that would already be obvious to anyone who read his story in Song of Ebony, which takes place in the middle of this book. Half of this book is written from the perspective of Demetrius, a merman on the royal guard who winds up inadvertently trailing Estelle on her adventures. He's a great new addition to the story that opens up more options for her to have a happy ending. He reminds me of Erebus, one of my favorite characters from the Filipino mermaid series, Dyesebel, who loves Dyesebel so much that he ends up sacrificing himself for her happiness. When Estelle makes a deal with the sea witch to risk her life on land, Demetrius follows her and ties his fate to hers so he can protect her.

I love how this story points out the flaws of the original Little Mermaid's decision without being overly critical. She spends a lot of time talking to Demetrius about why she needs to get away from her overbearing father and doesn't mind giving up her voice, but also how she didn't consider the way it might affect those who cared about her. The Sea Witch in this version of the story is referred to as the Ocean Miner, and like most adaptations, she is evil. An overarching theme in the Singer Tales series is that singing is magical. The Ocean Miner wants to possess Estelle's voice for the power it contains. Estelle bargains to get the Ocean Miner's voice in exchange for her own, but it is such agony for her to use it on land that she ends up being more or less mute anyway. It's mostly thanks to Demetrius's interference that she is able to communicate with the staff in Farrin's castle and make a living for herself, which eventually makes her realize that she actually cared more about her freedom on land than she did about marrying Prince Farrin.

Song of the Sea is a beautiful and faithful retelling of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Little Mermaid" that explores all of the characters' motivations and the ramifications of their actions while providing an alternate route to a happy ending that is different from the common approach that the Disney movie or even the Saban series took. I'm really enjoying the Singer Tales so far and find it a thoroughly enchanting series of fairy tale retellings for contemporary readers. If you enjoyed this book, I definitely recommend checking The Vazula Chronicles, which are written by the same author. That series presents a even more extensive underwater world with another touching romance between a human and a mermaid.


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