"Mermaid" by Carolyn Turgeon

The story of two very different women, one mortal, one mermaid, and the clash between worlds best kept apart... It is a cold day at the end of the world when a young woman, a princess in hiding, looks out across a Northern sea and sees something she could not have seen. It looks...it can't be. It looks like a mermaid's tail. And, as she looks more closely, she sees that the mermaid is dragging a drowning sailor in her arms. Because, only hours before, another princess, the daughter of the sea queen, has decided to risk everything and take a look at the world above the sea: the world of mortals. And there she finds a storm, a shipwreck, a sailor, and sets in train events which will change both women's worlds forever.

From Goodreads

One of my favorite fairy tales has always been The Little Mermaid. Mermaids fascinate me; I’ve been writing stories about them since elementary school. With this tale, while I’m obsessed with the sugary Disney version I grew up with, I also love the original story. It’s so sad and tears my heart apart. The mermaid goes through absolute hell in order to be with the man she loves and in the end, it still isn’t enough. Mermaid by Carolyn Turgeon deals with the Hans Christian Anderson version of TLM, but with her own twist. For the first time (that I’ve seen), the tale is told through the eyes of the princess in addition to the mermaid we all know and love. As soon as I realized we were going to get her perspective on everything, I knew I had to buy Mermaid and bring it home.

The novel doesn’t disappoint, either. I was swept away by Turgeon’s lush descriptions. I wanted to live beneath the sea with Lenia (The Little Mermaid) and her kin. I loved her description of mermaids, the way their skin was hard and diamond-like, able to withstand the cold. Turgeon introduces her own mermaid lore as well. When a human is touched by a mermaid, a trail of shimmer and diamond is left on his or her skin in that spot. Additionally, she describes the way mermaids and humans used to be one race until the king and queen had a major falling out. The king tore up the sea and created land and gave his followers legs instead of tails. There was so much to envision and explore that I never saw coming.

Whenever I read a re-telling of The Little Mermaid, it always tends to follow the Disney route, complete with a happily ever after. I was enamored with the way Turgeon takes Lenia down the sadder path. It was interesting to see why she made the decisions she did, why she fell in love, her obsession with souls, etc. After making her deal with the sea witch, her tongue is torn out and I can feel her pain, but even more so when she tries to walk. I agonized with the mermaid every step of the way. Turgeon really brought her plight to life. Same with the princess. Hidden at a convent so her father’s enemies won’t find her, Princess Margrethe stumbles upon the mermaid and a washed-up sailor. She never realizes he’s the prince of the enemy kingdom, takes him in, and saves his life. Seeing the way her life pans out really fleshes out the original version of the tale. The princess was nothing more than an afterthought then, with no motivations of her own. I loved seeing the way Turgeon brought everyone together and carried out the story I love so much.

Even knowing the original tale, there are still new twists and turns that will come as a surprise to readers. Because of this, the novel never got old or boring. My only complaint was that at times, the lack of using contractions in sentences stood out, but this was forgivable due to the fact that people spoke in such a fashion back then. Turgeon tried very hard to keep to her time period without any modern influences. For example, the focus on religion and a joining of souls worked well. It wasn’t preachy, but rather laid things out in a “this is how the world is” fashion. Mermaid very much read like a proper periodical and I was completely drawn into the world in which everything took place.


This is one of those covers that reveals things to you the more you look at it. The first time I saw it on the New Arrivals Table, all I noticed was the model’s neck and the way her hair is pulled off her nape. It was the word “Mermaid” that stood out to me. Then, I saw the awesome blurb by Keith Donohue (The Stolen Child; great book!). It was the synopsis on the back that drew me in. It wasn’t until I picked the book up to read for the first time that I realized her neck and shoulders were actually joined to her back and that she sported a tail. I like to think I had my hand on her tail when I was looking at the store. I have a feeling I thought all the darkness beneath her shoulder/arm was a dress. I remember thinking there should have been a mermaid on the cover, not a girl’s neck. But upon closer, inspection, voila: it’s a mermaid! Very cool. I also love the typography used for the title. The “M” has a great curl that swirls into the “e” and dips back out again. There’s also a wave that comes in through the second “m” and swirls through it and the “r,” twirling away and trailing off like a wave. There’s also a bit of glitter around the title that reminds me of the shimmer a mermaid leaves behind on a human’s skin. While this isn’t the most eye-catching cover in the world, its elements pull everything together nicely. The title design is definitely my favorite aspect.

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  1. I had this book last week and then I sent it back to the library unread. I guess I'll have to get it again sometime :) It just seemed darker than what I wanted right now. At first I thought there would be two love stories like in Debbie Viguie's version (have you read it? So good!), but there's only one prince here. So I figured there was bound to be some sadness. The cover is so gorgeous. Oh, and is this an adult title or YA? My library copy was categorized as adult.

  2. Great review Bonnie! I love, love, love the original version of TLM. I somehow got redirected to it while I was googling the original version of Sleeping Beauty, which I tell you is sooo weird and icky-ish. It is really sad though. The ending of the original TLM, I mean. I cried even though I was only reading the plot in wiki. I feel like adding this to my TBR but I'm scared that it'll be as sad as the original. :(

  3. Brilliant review, you've totally intrigued me! I haven't really had much experience reading/watching mermaids - only the disney version of The Little mermaid when I was younger. I love the darker tone that this one appears to take on and from what you've written, it sounds incredible. I really like the cover too!

  4. Wow. That's an impressive cover. We always SAY we don't judge a book that way, yet how many of us will pick something up merely because of its cover? I know I will.

  5. Small Review: Definitely get this again sometime! The descriptions were so gorgeous. I was enamored. It is darker though, yes. If you want something light, you don't want to read this right away. Turgeon definitely focuses on the darker side of fairy tales. Midnight Pearls? Yes, it was the first Once Upon a Time novel I read! This is an adult title, yes. Definitely not YA, especially since there are adult relationships in here.

    Chel: I love the original TLM as well! I know, the original Sleeping Beauty is just...wow. It's interesting that Jim C. Hines focuses on that version when retelling Cinderella in The Stepsister Scheme. Have you read that? TLM makes me cry so much! While this is based on the original and dark, it's still such a good book; you should read it!

    Brodie: You definitely need to read the original TLM! As much as I love Disney, the original breaks my heart. I love Turgeon's take; it takes on a life of its own.

    The English Teacher: I totally pick up books based on their covers, too! But sometimes, I don't want to read the story, so I don't buy it. But then I drool over the cover every time I see it! Some of my favorite books have horrible covers, though, so I really need to not judge as much as I do!

  6. I guess I'm not really up to date on all the fairy tales. When the kids were little I remember them watching Disney's Little Mermaid, after reading your review, I understand it is the sugared down version of this book. Bummer it has such a sad end.

  7. Gina: OMG, you have to go find a version of the original by Hans Christian Anderson online and read it. It's so sad, but so good...!

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