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11 October 2009 @ 08:43 am
Book Review: The Mermaid's Madness  
The Mermaid's Madness

Jim C. Hines

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What would happen if a star writer went back to the darker themes of the original fairy tales for plots, and then crossed the Disney princesses with Charlie's Angels? What he'd end up with is The Mermaid's Madness-a whole new take on The Little Mermaid. And with Jim C. Hines, of Jig the Goblin fame, penning the tale, you can bet it won't be "They lived happily ever after."

Cinderella, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty - the three princess heroines of The Stepsister Scheme are back in this much (for me) anticipated sequel! What happens after the fairy tale ends? That's the essential question that Hines's series attempts to answer. The first book tells us the fates of Cinderella (Danielle) after she's married her prince, of Sleeping Beauty (Talia) after she's awakened from her long sleep, and of Snow White (Snow), after she's escaped the murderous intentions of her stepmother. Hines takes the darker versions of these tales, and twists them into something highly original and new. The three familiar princesses now serve Danielle's mother-in-law, Queen Beatrice of Lorindar, going on secret missions to aid diplomacy, stop wars, save princes, and protect the kingdom, where Danielle is now Princess.

I've been waiting for The Mermaid's Madness literally since I finished the last page of The Stepsister Scheme. It was the sort of book that made you want to keep reading, that made you want to stay in the world and find out what happens next. The title alone, but virtue of the fairy tale roots of this series, lets us know right where we're starting off. With the tragic tale of the little mermaid. But with Hines at the helm, the tragedy of the story is twisted into something much more complex.

We begin with Princess Danielle on a mission of diplomacy with Queen Beatrice, their yearly tithe and renewal of peace with the merfolk, who prefer to be called undine. Since the undine are usually a matriarchal culture, it makes sense for the Princess and Queen to take the lead. Unfortunately, things go very wrong, very quickly. For instead of the King they are expecting, they are greeted by his mad daughter, Lirea, wronged by her human lover and looking for vengeance against all humans. In the ensuing conflict, Queen Beatrice is grievously injured. This leaves Danielle and her friends Talia and Snow to find both a cure for her ailment, and to find a way to stop Lirea from making war against their kingdom - and all of humanity.

Of course, it's much more complicated than that, as the girls quickly discover.

Once again, Hines gives us excellent world building and characterization. We get to see a bit more of Danielle's Prince Armand in this one, which I appreciated quite a bit. We feel so much of her love for him in the last book, but in this one we actually get to see them interact as a couple. New characters are introduced, as well - the mad Lirea and her sister, Lannadae, and a new Prince of a neighboring kingdom, who I'm guessing just may return for future books. But the heart of the series is the relationships between our three princesses, and Hines does an excellent job portraying the myriad ups and downs of the bonds of love and friendship so important between a woman and her best friends. The girls argue, fight together and for each other, and hold each other up when needed. We find out a few more details from each of their stories, though most particularly Talia's and Snow's. Hines does a particularly good job of this. I love reading the little details of how Snow's mother raised her, or how Talia escaped from her homeland. These are the details that make the books come alive.

There are some bittersweet moments in this one. I won't spoil them for you, but suffice it to say, things are not all happily ever after for everyone in the kingdom of Lorindar.

In the end, I was sad to come to the last page for a second time. I stayed up late to finish reading, because I could not wait to find out how it all turned out, and then I was sad to be finished. What will the girls do next? With a title like Red Hood's Revenge, I can only imagine. :D

The Mermaid's Madness
could stand on its own, but if you haven't read the first book, The Stepsister Scheme, I still recommend starting there - plus, I enjoyed it just as much.  :) 

Current Mood: awakeawake
Queen of the Skiesqueenoftheskies on October 11th, 2009 04:26 pm (UTC)
This is the best book I've read all year. I adored The Stepsister's Scheme, but I think I love this even more. :D

I wish Jim had a discussion group like some author's have. I found myself wanting to talk about it with people once I was done.
rhienellethrhienelleth on October 11th, 2009 04:38 pm (UTC)
I agree! I stayed up late last night to finish reading, and then stayed up even later to write the review, since that was the closest to a discussion on the book I could get. :)
Queen of the Skiesqueenoftheskies on October 11th, 2009 05:13 pm (UTC)
I wonder if Jim would mind if we started a discussion group for his novels?
Jim C. Hines: Mermaidjimhines on October 11th, 2009 08:39 pm (UTC)
I'm planning to do a "Spoileriffic Mermaid Discussion Post" this week, if that would work. But I certainly wouldn't mind if you wanted to put together a discussion group as well!
patron saint of neglected female charactersrose_griffes on October 12th, 2009 02:59 am (UTC)
I've never read any Jim Hines, but after what he said on the Polanski horror show, I'm ready to give him a try!