Review: Maiden of the Sea

Maiden of the Sea is the second book I've read from Sarah Beran's Order of the Fountain series and the third book in the series. My opinion of this series hasn't changed from what it was when I read Princess of the Beans. It uses popular fairy tale names and elements as a selling point and then removes the magic and whimsy that make these stories appealing. I've read some decent fairy tale adaptations that remove the magical elements to create a sense of realism, but what's odd about this series is that while it still has magic in it, it removes the most iconic magical aspects of each fairy tale it retells. In the two books I've read so far, these include the magic beanstalk from "Jack and the Beanstalk," Rapunzel's impossibly long hair, and in the case of this "Little Mermaid" adaptation, the merfolk race and the whimsical undersea kingdom.


Ariel is a maiden working in a temple who gave up her ability to use her legs when she went on a treacherous rescue mission to save the son of an earl named Davy Jones. Names are a crucial element in these books, and there is an author's note at the end explaining why she chose the name "Ariel" for the protagonist, despite her being a very different person from the Disney character. Ariel is blessed with clairvoyance through her dreams, which allow her to see the future as well as visions of Davy years after she rescued him. Meanwhile, Davy had been determined to find Ariel again so that he could properly thank her for her sacrifice. He finally gets his chance when the wicked Lesard, a recurring villain throughout this series, casts a spell on Ariel that restores the use of her legs but removes her voice in order to enhance her clairvoyance so that she can lead him to a magic pearl. Since the only thing Davy Jones remembers about Ariel is her voice and that she became crippled after saving him, he doesn't realize that the mysterious mute girl he meets on the beach is the same person.

After that, a basic romance ensues in which Davy is determined to help the girl who calls herself "Elle" to get out of her contract with Lesard, while Ariel attempts to find new ways to communicate with him, particularly through writing to combat the spell that prevents her from revealing the truth about her identity. What makes this book less compelling than other adaptations of "The Little Mermaid" is that Ariel spends the entirety of the story at the same beachside temple where she grew up her entire life, so the "fish out of water" element that makes the original fairy tale so appealing is gone. The stakes for her are also much lower. Going against her deal to get Lesard the magic pearl from Davy Jones' locker simply means she would give up the opportunity to have working legs again and return to the status quo as opposed to the risk of turning to sea foam that made the original fairy tale so enticing. Though the book removes the element of needing to marry the prince to gain a soul, it still contained some forceful Christian messaging, which got distracting at times.

I didn't find either of the main characters very interesting, which detracted from the romance in this book. Ariel's arc seems to have ended right at the beginning when she accepted that Davy's life was more important than the use of her legs, and the rest of the story felt more like a lengthy epilogue. Davy was a typical "nice guy" who wanted to do anything he could to help the damsel in distress, but had no particularly interesting traits of his own. The only positive thing I found about either of these characters was that Ariel was a good role model for disabled princess fans, which is one of the reasons that disabled people love mermaids so much. Unfortunately, removing the actual mermaid lore from the story made that element less whimsical as well. Though that does not detract from the representation aspect overall, it does make it less of a fun read for fantasy and fairy tale fans.

While Maiden of the Sea by Sarah Beran provides positive representation for disabled characters, it falls flat in its adaptation of "The Little Mermaid" due to the removal of the whimsical and magical elements that make the fairy tale so beloved. The characters and their arcs didn't offer much depth, and the stakes for the protagonist were low, which made the plot less compelling. The book's forceful Christian messaging also detracted from the reading experience at times. Maiden of the Sea may appeal to fans of the Order of the Fountain series since it seems to follow the same formula as the other books, but it might not satisfy those looking for a more faithful or enchanting adaptation of "The Little Mermaid."

Comments

Sugar said…
I'm afraid that a common problem with genres like Christian fantasy or Christian romance is that non-Christians looking for these books because of genre 1 alone (romance, fantasy, sci-fi, etc.) actually want to be able to ignore the genre 2 "Christian" which means that deep down they were only looking for a "clean or sweet" type book or at most that has some positive values ​​such as faith, sacrifice, etc. and some references to the superior being.
I'm afraid that's not the idea...a Christian message for those of us who are Christians doesn't detract from history, but rather gives it part of its value. I think it would be easier just to highlight in your reviews whether or not the book is labeled as Christian and how heavy the content is.
Lisa Dawn said…
Well the problem with that is that many of these books are not advertised as Christian fiction and are given away with other fairy tale promotions, which can make it surprising or jarring when it comes up in the middle of the book all of a sudden. That said, I have read other books that did a better job of incorporating it into the actual story in a way that wasn't distracting. Brittany Fichter's books are a good example of this. If the authors don't want people to be surprised, I would suggest placing their giveaways in more relevant promotions.
Sugar said…
As a Christian I believe that everything should be categorized correctly, I understand that at the end of the day no matter how much I love my faith not everyone would like to be surprised finding Christian content in their book. I don't see the harm in putting your "double genre" Christian fantasy or Christian romance book in a general promotion but the label should be in such a way that the reader knows it (unfortunately on the other hand I have not seen entire Christian fantasy promotions). The problem is that clean and Christian fantasy are both small genres compared to "normal" steamy or violent fantasy.
I understand that authors of small genres make a common plan but it simply annoys me just like you when a Christian book is not classified as such because it is as if that author is ashamed of his faith or wants to earn more money by deceiving his readers and passing on the faith contraband I don't think you should do that!
In other news "Head over Tails" by Brianna Tibbets It's turning out to be quite a cute book, the mermaid is a bubbly and cheerful girl and the main character is a boy with some problems in his life. It seems like a sweet story with some deep themes.
Lisa Dawn said…
I do enjoy your recommendations, but I unfortunately will not have as much time to read or write new posts anymore because I will be starting a new job soon that will take up a lot of my time. I had a really good thing going before. I guess it wasn't meant to last. I'll see if I can find a way to her posting in the coming months.
Emma said…
Sarah Beran has another Little Mermaid retelling called My Fair Mermaid that is really good. It features two mermaid cousins coming to land and with the aid of a friendly sea witch and has elements of the movie/play My Fair Lady. All and all it is a really interesting and enjoyable book.

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