Review: The Silent Prince

The Silent Prince by C.J. Brightley was one of my most eagerly anticipated books from the Once Upon a Prince series. I've read many other retellings of "The Little Mermaid," but never one about a merman. Doing a gender-bent adaptation for this assignment instead of going the easy route of retelling the same story from the prince's perspective really breathed new life into a classic tale. Though the story is simple and direct for what it is, the portrayal of a merman in the role of the little mermaid comes off as fresh and original. It has a cute romance, plenty of action, and a healthy dose of comedy. All in all, it is a fun read and an exemplary addition to the series.

Kaerius is a confident merman prince who is proud of his incredible singing voice. One day, he rescues a human princess from drowning. From that moment on, he becomes obsessed with her. He swims to the surface frequently and learns that her name is Princess Marin, that she is lonely, and that she also enjoys singing and music. Soon enough, he determines that he is in love with Marin and trades his voice to the Kraken in exchange for legs. However, the devious Kraken gives him a one-month deadline to earn Marin's love. If he succeeds, he will get his voice back as well as the ability for both of them to switch between human and mer forms as they please. If he fails, his human lungs will expire, ending his life. Kaerius agrees to these terms and proceeds to find Marin on land and court her. Of course, a naked man washing up on shore and trying to get the attention of a woman can have very different implications from a naked woman washing up on shore and trying to get the attention of a man. Fortunately, the author leaves the more uncomfortable aspects of this to the reader's imagination, focusing instead on Marin's concern for the shipwrecked stranger and his new sensations of having legs, toes, and feet.

The communication mechanics in this book are pretty interesting. I have read other adaptations of "The Little Mermaid" where she learns to write or sign. Here, Kaerius has his own version of sign language used among the merfolk that no one on land can understand but him. Those who take the time to know him such as Marin and her guard slowly begin to learn his signals after seeing them frequently. Kaerius's behavior on land is also endlessly entertaining. He is a typical "fish out of water," confused by everyday concepts like clothing or soap, but he acts so confident that it comes off as absurd at times. His behavior is similar to that of Marvel's Thor. He never fails to lay on the charm when it comes to Marin, which motivates her to ask him to act as her suitor at a royal dance to throw off the advances of those with more malicious intentions. He takes on this task gladly, always placing Marin's safety before anything else, and gains an even deeper reverence for the politically troubled princess

The relationships in this book are simple but acceptable. The author tries to break the "love at first sight" trope by having Kaerius realize that he barely even knew Marin when he first thought he was in love with her. Yet, there are no groundbreaking revelations here as getting to know her better only makes him love her even more. The most interesting relationship in the book is the friendship between Kaerius and Brighton, Marin's guard. Just as the little mermaid often needs a female maid to teach her the ways of human etiquette and clothing, Kaerius meets Brighton soon after arriving on shore, and he does his best to make him not look ridiculous to other humans. They don't get along well at first because Brighton's duties of guarding the princess pose a potential threat, but Kaerius warms up to Brighton as soon as he learns he is married. Brighton is also the quickest to pick up on Kaerius's hand gestures and comes the closest to figuring out his true identity.

In the enchanting retelling of "The Little Mermaid," C.J. Brightley's The Silent Prince provides a fresh take on the classic tale, casting the protagonist as a confident and endearing merman prince. The choice to pivot from the well-trodden path of retelling the story from the prince's perspective to a gender-bent narrative injects a breath of novelty into the familiar storyline. The transformation of Kaerius, the merman prince, as he navigates the dual worlds of sea and land, introduces fascinating dynamics and challenges. Kaerius's unique sign language adds an intriguing layer to the story, fostering connection and understanding between the characters. This book's narrative brims with a delightful mix of romance, adventure, and humor, creating an engaging and enjoyable read that stands out as a commendable addition to the Once Upon a Prince series.


Emma said…
This book looks really good I'll have to check it out. I've read a couple of gender swapped Little Mermaid retellings and my favorite one was The Heart of the Sea by Chesney Ifalt. It features a wonderful love story about two childhood sweethearts (one a human princess named Sabine and the other a mer prince named Caspian) who are torn apart when their kingdoms alliance is broken but are reunited years later when Caspian comes to land to try and save Sabine's life. The book also features references to the book The Sea Fairies by L. Frank Baum.

Some other reverse gender Little Mermaid retelling books that look good that I haven't read are A Sea of Golden Chains by Callie Thomas and the upcoming release Hunting Sirens by Mary Mecham. There are so many Little Mermaid retelling books to read it still amazes me how many different ways authors retell them.
Lisa Dawn said…
Oh wow, that sounds great! Thanks for sharing!
Sugar said…
To this day I still love my version of the Little Mermaid of "Head Over Tails" the mix of fantasy with themes like mental health hits me deep.
Sarah said…
Thanks for this recommendation! I checked out a preview and ended up ordering the book and reading it in two days. I really liked the worldbuilding for the merpeople, it felt very detailed and creative.

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