Review: The Net that Holds Me

The Net that Holds Me by Scarlett Luna Strange is a bare-bones minimalist retelling of "The Little Mermaid" with virtually no stakes. I learned about it from the recent Valentine's Day book promotion and decided to throw in the anchor because I usually love "Little Mermaid" retellings and even wrote one of my own. The book is innocent and inoffensive for the most part, but it mitigates the majority of the tragic themes that make "The Little Mermaid" such a classic story and comes off as disrespectful toward the original protagonist at one point near the end. As a standalone YA romance, it's a short and sweet love story that can be finished in about two hours, but as a "Little Mermaid" retelling, it doesn't hold a lot of water.

Anyone who has read or seen a "Little Mermaid" adaptation knows the drill. Sage is a lonely mermaid who is bored with her life under the sea and thirsts for something more. One fateful day, she meets Elias, a human prince who also longs for something more than his life on land. These secret oceanside meetings continue for some time, but Sage keeps her tail obscured in the water, ashamed of her secret. Soon, she decides these meetings are not enough for her and seeks her beloved mentor, Tove, for a potion that will turn her human so she can explore more of Elias's world. The potion switches her between human and mer forms with the rising and setting of the sun and restricts her from telling Elias her secret. Spending more time with Sage makes Elias grow even closer to her. He eventually decides he wants to marry her even though his parents have already planned a political alliance for him.

This book gets props for including both the mermaid's and the prince's perspectives since the prince is often the most overlooked character from the original fairy tale. However, both protagonists' personalities are inconsistent and never quite reach the nuance breadth of a living breathing person. Sage claims to be shy but regularly visits Elias even before transforming into a human and has few qualms about talking to him about anything and everything. Like most fairy tale princes, Elias's personality revolves entirely around his fascination with Sage and his boredom with palace life. Even the sea witch, Tove, is a watered-down version of a villain who is kind and loving for the most part despite later revealing a confusing backstory with murky motivations that never result in any danger on Sage's behalf.

The book's biggest inconsistency is Sage's reaction upon learning that Elias is engaged. Despite claiming to be shy, Sage reacts like a typical siren and threatens to send the wrath of the ocean after him. This is the part I found most disrespectful to the fairy tale. The original little mermaid was going to die if the prince married someone else, but she still couldn't bring herself to act against him to save her own life because her love was so strong. Here, nothing would have happened to Sage if Elias married someone else. While it makes sense for her to be angry with him for not being honest with her, her reaction is so over-the-top that everything we've learned about her character leading up to this point sinks to the ocean floor. Elias's reaction is also confusing. He is more impressed by her ability to drown him with a flick of her wrist than he is fearful.

The Net that Holds Me is a light and quick read that offers a different perspective on a classic tale. While it provides dual narration and explores the prince's side of the story, its simplified plot, underdeveloped characters, and inconsistent portrayal of the mermaid ultimately leave it lacking the depth and emotional resonance of the original "Little Mermaid." Readers seeking a fresh and nuanced retelling may want to look elsewhere, but those seeking a quick and uncomplicated love story might find this a pleasant escape.


Melanie said…
This sounds like a really sweet love story to read during summer. Too bad it didn't go more in depth with the characters.

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