CBR Bingo: Book Club (Cannon Book Club selection)
In 1989, I was 7 years old. I wasn’t the kind of little girl who loved princesses, but like almost any other kid my age, I loved The Little Mermaid. I have no idea how many times I’ve seen it, but I know most of it by heart. I remember learning to play “Under the Sea” in 7th grade band (I also learned Aladdin’s “A Whole New World” in American Sign Language in 5th grade choir, but that’s a story for another time). I sought out Hans Christian Andersen’s original fairy tale at some point when I was younger, and remember being shocked by the sad ending, so different than the movie. As an adult, I can see how problematic the whole thing is, but the nostalgia is strong. When Sea Witch showed up as a Cannon Book Club option, it didn’t take long for me to decide to read it.
The best way to read Sea Witch is to go in knowing absolutely nothing, other than that it’s a Little Mermaid retelling. That makes it a bit of a challenge to review. I can’t even use the cover image because it literally says on the cover what happens.
Evie is the daughter of the King’s fisherman, and best friends with the King’s son Nik. The two of them had another friend, Anna, who drowned four years earlier. One night as they are celebrating Nik’s birthday aboard the royal yacht, a storm comes up and Nik is washed overboard. He’s saved by a girl who looks exactly like Anna, but claims her name is Annemette. Evie soon learns that Annemette has some secrets of her own, but even though she thinks she’s in Annemette’s confidence there are secrets she would never guess.
So, first things first–a more attentive reader probably would have guessed what was happening long before I did, even if they haven’t seen the cover. But, as someone who tends to drift over details and whose mind wanders a lot, the ending came as a huge shock to me. I’m not sure I liked it, exactly, but I definitely appreciated that it surprised me.
There was a lot in this book that I didn’t love (the biggest being Evie’s romance with Nik’s cousin, Iker. It comes out of nowhere and makes very little sense), but I’m a sucker for the Scandinavian seaside setting of this book, and I liked Evie and Nik a lot, so it wasn’t hard for me to finish it. I also liked the way the pieces came together to explain who Evie is becoming. The book intersperses flashbacks to explain what happened to Anna, and I found those very confusing. A lot of times I couldn’t tell whether the “he” in the flashbacks was Nik or Iker. I don’t think that was intentional, so it was just sloppy editing. So on the whole, I’m not sure how to rate this book. I loved the setting and I found the ending really interesting. I had some issues with it along the way, but I am glad I read this. It gave me something to think about.