I’m sad that I don’t have a physical copy of this book – the cover is gorgeous and I imagine it’s shiny and I want to take endless photos of it – but I did get to read an ARC from NetGalley just ahead of the book’s release, in exchange for an honest review. Shoutout to NetGalley. I read this book in mid to late February, and I’ve decided to wait until the night before the book is released to write the review.
First and foremost, I have a huge soft spot for books revolving around the ocean, whether it involves pirates, mermaids, sirens, sea creatures, or any mix of those things. When I first heard about this story, I knew that I had to request it, and I was ecstatic that it appeared in my library.
Lira is probably my favourite character out of all the books I’ve read this year (so far). She wasn’t some soft, sweet young girl on the inside: she is unapologetically vicious and coldhearted, which we quickly see is the end result of a lifetime of abuse from her mother. she’s feisty, angry, mean, and conniving, without ever going overboard enough to become genuinely unlikeable.
You might’ve guessed, but this book seems to be based a lot on ‘The Little Mermaid’ story. I’m not sure if it’s been officially confirmed, but there are a lot of parallels. This story is so much more than just a retelling or something inspired by something else: it takes an idea, chews it up, spits it out, and makes it something new. The backstory for the Sea Queen explains that the power of becoming Queen turns sirens into these terrifying creatures that are more tentacles than human but are incredibly powerful and magical. She wields her power with pure brutality – even against her own family – and it’s an exciting twist on a classic tale that also pulls in other stories and folklore, like Midas.
+ Interesting friendships / relationships
Elian’s crew is everything. This story emphasises the importance of found families as blood is truly nothing more than blood. The people who choose to love, support, and protect you unconditionally are your family. The story depicts beautifully how important it is for you to choose who is worthy of your time and love. The romance in this story isn’t an insta-love at all. It’s slow burn and full of good, witty banter and back-and-forth chatter between Lira and Elian that was just so fun and sharp to read. It also has an enemies-to-lovers trope that doesn’t fall into abuse territory or power imbalance that so many other books are prone to falling into. I was rooting so hard for both of them the entire time.
+ World building / Sea lore
The world building is crafted and presented seamlessly – the entire story’s imagery is impressive, and there are so many scenes that are visually breath-taking. The sirens aren’t portrayed as these frail, beautiful creatures, no: they may be gorgeous, but they’re these powerful and wild and merciless things that can wipe out grown men with a single blow. The mermaids are inhuman, grotesque creatures that are completely different to the sirens, but they’re creepy and dark and I loved every part of the book where they were on the page.
This book had me captivated from the very first page, and I can easily imagine myself picking up over and over again.
Rating: ★★★★★ (4.5 stars)
– “Hearts are power, and if there’s one thing my kind craves more than the ocean, it’s power.”
– “Technically, I’m a murderer, but I like to think that’s one of my better qualities.”
– “Love is a word we scarcely hear in the ocean. It exists only in my song and on the lips of the princes I’ve killed. And I have never heard it from my mother’s mouth.”
– “It’s the princes who hold the allure. In their youth. In the allegiance of their people. In the promise of the leader they could one day become. They are the next generation of rules, and by killing them, I kill the future. Just as my mother taught me.”
– “In my heart, I’m as wild as the ocean that raised me.”