Jean, 39, lover of sci-fi, horror and fantasy, reader of comic books, conqueror of genre fiction.
It took me a while to return to this series. Sure, I liked Sweetly a lot, was impressed at the themes of strong female friendships, the choice in fairy tales that don't often get remade, and the atmosphere of magic that Ms. Pearce genuinely managed to make me feel. (I was lucky that I read Sweetly before Sisters Red, because the first book in the series I found severely underwhelming, and could imagine myself stopping there; it also made me more than a little confused by the twist at the end of Sweetly, but I was more prepared for it here.)
With the third book in the series, the authors targets The Little Mermaid to absorb and adapt to the world she's created. Moving to the sea to reveal the fate of Sophia's sister Naida. We also meet, for the first time, the female members of the Reynolds clan, and watch as their destinies collide. The ongoing elements of the Fairytale Retellings series mesh perfectly here for me with the original tale, and while it feels like a less personal, if slightly more epic, story, I feel the different aspects mesh better here than they have in past books.
Problems still remain. The climax of Sweetly came out of nowhere for me and felt almost detached, and while this handles that better, it feels as if there are about five climaxes, and then the book ends without resolving things I found were important like Celia and Jude's relationship (and we're told in a brief epilogue that, not only did he forgive her for lying, and they got back together, but she slipped in that huge truth bomb about her power, and it's almost as if Ms. Pearce doesn't even want us to consider how difficult that'd be for both of them, how much more tension it would cause for a time. Or maybe it wouldn't after all they've been through--who knows? Because we're not told or shown.) It also seems rather excessive, that the Fenris go through all of this, just to create their females? And with too many characters populating the story, I felt as if no one really got their due, though Lo comes the closest.
I've read one or two modern adaptations of the Little Mermaid now, and have noticed that the main selling point for a lot of authors is the relationship between the mermaid and the girl who takes credit for saving the prince (here Jude, a busker who plays and works down by a dockside amusement park) and this book, instead of pitting them against one another for his affections, actually creates a friendship between them. The strongest theme in the novel, as a matter of fact, is sisterhood, literal and figurative. The climax begins with Lo realizing that, while she hasn't made Jude love her in the time she's been with him, Celia obviously does, as her friend.
Jude could have been a throw away character, but giving him a goofy sense of humor makes him stand out. And, while I knew that she was setting it up, with his discomfort with lying, for a confrontation, I was hoping he'd be above it, especially since it doesn't feel, as I mentioned, like there's as much of a resolution to their relationship was I wanted.
Celia was sweet, Lo was complicated and a bit damaged, and the overall theme of identity, of trying to discover who you are and where you fit in the world, didn't feel as blatant or annoying as it can get with female protagonists in YA literature. It was a gentle message which allowed characters to relate to one another, and ultimately help one another, and, in both cases, realize that where they are now is actually where they are happiest. She's not reinventing the wheel with the characters, to be sure, but their strength lies, on the page and within the story, in their relationships.
While I don't really care about the Fenris, I can't wait to get my hands on the next book, because I love fairy tales, and Jackson Pearce has proved that she has a talent for adapting the more difficult ones. I do wonder if we'll ever run out of Reynolds children to read about. I hope not for a while.