Review: Seaspoken

For the final day of 2023, let's review one more mermaid book before branching out to other fairy tales in the New Year. Seaspoken by Sarah Delena White was part of a previous holiday promotion. I was drawn to the title and beautiful cover illustration of two elves swathed in white embracing in front of a stormy sea. Since Fierce Heart by Tara Grayce had a charming interracial elven love story, I hoped this one might be similar. As an added bonus, the female protagonist in Seaspoken comes from a race that can transform into mermaids while underwater, so what's not to love? The book introduces a strong Romeo and Juliet-style relationship between two warring races, but it lacks the stakes or compelling emotional core of many other similar stories.

Seaspoken includes many traditional princess tropes including arranged marriages, forbidden love, and magical transformations. It contains elements of "The Little Mermaid," including an underwater rescue sequence and two lovers separated by land and sea, but it is not a true adaptation of the fairy tale and lacks the compelling stakes of Hans Christian Andersen's tragic romance. Evya, the female protagonist, comes from a race of mermaid elves with the ability to transform their tails into legs on dry land. Keliveth, who comes from a race of land-dwelling magic-wielding elves, can cast runes on himself that allow him to survive underwater. As a result, few obstacles are keeping the two lovers apart besides the rift between their two races, which is spurred mostly by their parents, the rulers of their respective tribes. The romance begins with a vision that Keliveth had of Evya. Though the two are conveyed as having deep feelings for each other, there are not nearly as many personal reasons for them to want to be together as there are political ones involving the desire to end the war between their races.

The biggest strength of this book by far is the worldbuilding. It does a beautiful job of creating two unique races of elves and developing their traditions, languages, and magic systems. Evya comes from the Tuath, an original race of elven mermaids who can adapt to land when necessary. As a princess, she must follow a strict ritual to select a mate in which her potential suitors are required to pass a series of challenges to prove themselves worthy of her hand and the throne. Her mother, the Seamother, has powerful magic over the ocean and uses it primarily for her own personal gain. The tuath also have a tradition of marking their bodies with tattoos to represent various things. Keliveth does not understand this tradition but respects it when Evya chooses to incorporate it to make him her mate. Keliveth's race uses magic runes to adapt to different situations and takes advantage of this power to be closer to Evya. He also has a unique ability to see visions of the future, which may be tied to his royal blood as the son of a king.

In the end, the magic of true love saves the day, of course. The climax of this book is pretty original for what it is and allows Keliveth to prove himself worthy of Evya's hand beyond a shadow of a doubt. I wish the two lovers had also made up with their parents at the end instead of defying them and forcing them to deal with the consequences, but one of the themes of the book is that the future generation of leaders can improve upon the previous one. In that respect, it instills a sense of hope for a more peaceful tomorrow. After reading so many other books about princesses choosing their own suitors, I found that the two lovers in this story bonded more over the idea of a political union to end the violence between their two factions than they did over common interests. While there is nothing wrong with that, it lacked the emotional core of other fairy tale-inspired stories about forbidden love.

In this whimsical tale of forbidden love and political strife, Seaspoken by Sarah Delena White immerses readers in a richly developed world where two races of elves navigate tradition, magic, and the tumultuous sea. While the romance between the protagonists, Evya and Keliveth, unfolds amidst the backdrop of an age-old conflict, it appears rooted more in a desire to improve the lives of their people rather than a deep emotional connection. Despite its enchanting worldbuilding and original climax, the narrative lacks the poignant stakes and emotional resonance found in classic fairy tale adaptations. As Seaspoken navigates the waters of interracial love, it ultimately sets sail on a hopeful course for a more peaceful future, reminding us that even amidst societal turmoil, the promise of a brighter tomorrow endures.


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