Review: A Cascading Hope

The next book on my MerMay reading list is from a series I had heard about in February for National Fairy Tale Day but hadn't read anything from. Hope Ever After is a multi-author series of inspiring fairy tale retellings in which all the proceeds go to O.U.R. (Operation Underground Rescue) to rescue children from exploitation and trafficking. A Cascading Hope by Yakira Goldsberry is a unique retelling of "The Little Mermaid" that veers pretty far from the original story but stays true to the themes of a selfless mermaid protagonist and the impending danger of turning to seafoam. The book relies heavily on Scottish mythology and has a lot of hard-to-pronounce names and Scottish accents written directly into the dialogue. There is a pronunciation and lore guide at the beginning of the book that is required reading for anyone who is not familiar with the culture.

Muírin is a merrow, which is a Scottish mermaid with the ability to transform between human and mer-forms by removing or putting on her "cap." It is similar to the mythology behind selkies, who must wear their skins to turn into seals and also come up in this book. Instead of trying to marry a prince to gain a human soul, Muírin's goal is to travel to the fabled land of Finfolkaheem to find a cure for her injured mother before it's too late and all of the merrows turn to sea foam. There is a bit of a murder mystery as well since she did not see the person who stabbed her mother, but it is easy to figure out who it is and doesn't use a big twist to mess with readers' heads. Although Muírin rescues a boy named Ciaran and has a rushed romance with him, it is far from the main focus of the book, making it a very loose retelling of "The Little Mermaid."

The author of this book put a great deal of effort into incorporating Scottish mythology into a believable world. There is a much stronger focus on worldbuilding than relationships. Nearly every character is associated with some sort of fae creature, which takes away the "fish out of water" element of a magical being on land. In fact, Muírin spent her time equally on land and in the sea from the very beginning. It is later revealed that she is even more powerful than she realizes due to her mother refusing to tell her the identity of her father. She is already the daughter of the Sea Mither, who protects all the merrows in the sea, but her hidden paternal roots give her another sort of magic as well to aid her on her quest. It is obvious why Muírin needs to rescue her mother before her own body slowly dissolves into seafoam, but there isn't a lot revealed of their relationship on a familial level, and her love story with Ciaran is developed even less.

As a lifelong fan of "The Little Mermaid," there was a lot to appreciate about this book despite it being such a loose retelling. Many other adaptations present the mermaid as selfish and irrational for making such a dangerous bargain with the Sea Witch after meeting the prince only once. Muírin is deeply selfless and wholly devoted to giving her life to save others, which is a theme that many people miss from the original fairy tale, especially thanks to Disney changing the ending. It also fixes the complaint that she fell in love with a man who was unconscious when she met him by building a history between Muírin and Cairan before she rescued him. Another thing I find disappointing in some "Little Mermaid" retellings is when the mermaids are eliminated entirely. This book does the opposite by incorporating all kinds of Celtic lore with loads of characters from fae backgrounds with various magical abilities. It was a lovely escape from reality that supports the series' hopeful nature.

A Cascading Hope by Yakira Goldsberry is a unique and whimsical retelling of 'The Little Mermaid' that shines with its rich Scottish mythology and selfless merrow protagonist, Muírin. While it veers far from the original story, it stays true to the themes of sacrifice and danger, and offers a refreshing take on the classic tale. With its focus on worldbuilding and Celtic lore, this book is a must-read for fans of fairy tale retellings and mythology as long as they take the time to review the guide at the beginning first. The Hope Ever After series is a wonderful initiative, and this book is a great addition to it, supporting a worthy cause and inspiring hope in its readers. If you're looking for an enchanting and meaningful read, A Cascading Hope is definitely worth diving into.


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