The Little Mermaid has long been one of my favorite faery tales. And yes, I mean the heartbreaking version by Hans Christian Andersen. (Although I will confess that I am a bad feminist, and sort of love the Disney movie, too. Ariel has red hair. No heroines ever have red hair. Well, except for in speculative fiction, when they also then have tattoos and wear leather and sometimes use swords. Yes, I am a Mary Sue character in real life. And... moving on.)
Anyway. Love The Little Mermaid. Love retold faery tales. So I was both excited and apprehensive to hear that the extremely awesome Jim C. Hines was going to use The Little Mermaid as his source story for the follow-up to his novel, The Stepsister Scheme (which I loved, and you can find my review of here.) Excited because I love the source material, and was sure Jim would do a great job. Apprehensive because, well, would it be great enough?
The answer is yes. The Mermaid's Madness is a wonderful book. Jim uses the tragedy and heartbreak in Andersen's original story to great effect, making The Mermaid's Madness a deep and powerful story of love and sacrifice and heartbreak (and not just from where you would expect it) and at the same time providing enough moments of levity and snark to balance the darkness. He's obviously done his research into the underlying mythologies of the characters, but brings this information in with a deft enough hand that you can just enjoy the reading, rather than feeling as if you're being lectured to. And while this is a follow-up, you needn't have read The Stepsister Scheme first to know what's going on. (Although, you should read it at some point, because it is delightful.)
But the thing that made me happiest about reading The Mermaid's Madness was that is was like watching Jim level up as a writer. Don't get me wrong - he's always been talented. But there was something more here, something extra, that just made me want to cheer the whole time I was reading this book. The Mermaid's Madness is a terrific read, and I highly recommend it.