A new point of view can turn any story in a wildly different direction. The last time I read Jim C Hines, he did just that with Goblin Quest. That novel was turning around the view of the classic Dungeons and Dragons type quest. The Mermaid’s Madness and the books of the Princess Novels are doing that with stories everyone knows but now they’re a bit different.
I admit, I bought book two completely by accident. It was a two part accident. First, Amazon made it seem much more standalone than it really was. Secondly, well… I looked at the cover and went “Holy shit yar! They look like pirates! Hell yeah!” and was totally distracted by nautical awesomeness.
I’m getting ahead of myself though. Back of the book time!
There is an old story – you might have heard it – about a young mermaid, the daughter of a king, who saved the life of a human prince and fell in love. So innocent was her love, so pure her devotion, that she would pay any price for the chance to be with her prince. She gave up her voice, her family, and the sea, and became human. But the prince fell in love with another woman. The tales say the little mermaid sacrificed her own life so that her beloved prince could find happiness with his bride. The tales lie.
If you want to know the real story, a tale not of unrequited love and noble sacrifice but one of madness, murder and magic gone awry, Danielle, Talia, and Snow – a.k.a. Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White – are the three princesses who can tell you what really happened. They were there when everything fell apart, and unthinkable tragedy struck the kingdom of Lorindar. And they were the only ones who stood a chance of setting things right, not only for Queen Bea and Lorindar, but for the merfolk as well…
Cool sounding stuff right? See why I was all excited for this? So here I am attacking book two without reading book one first. I wasn’t as bad off as you might think. There were bits of the first chapter and a half where I felt like I was lacking, but it wasn’t any worse than the feeling of repetition the same sentences would evoke if I had read book one. Madness dives (a bit literally) into the meat and potatoes of the story pretty quickly so I never felt there was this huge disconnect between what happened before and what I was reading. Sounds like book one is the story of Danielle, aka Cinderella. Talia and Snow’s are backstory on page one of book one from what I gather. I think that goes a long way to not feeling left out here since there are things that are supposed to be a mystery. I happen to think that pulling off a Book Two that can operate on it’s own is a pretty big feat that requires a deft touch.
The princesses here are awesome. Clearly. They’re the main characters. Talia is a wicked bad ass. Snow is all magical coolness. Danielle is new to her princessness and by the time you get to the end there’s a “Wow. Holy character growth Batman!” It kind of sneaks up in a gradual way until you realized it was there for the last four chapters. The princess I found the most impressive was Lirea, the titular little mermaid.
She’s crazy. Seriously off the deep end crazy.
The asshat prince who left her and a slew of sketchy magic (sketchy in context, not poorly written sketchy) break her psyche. Crazy is fun to read. Crazy is an epic pain to write well. Someone who’s gone off their rocker still thinks that they’re on the right side of the fence. So when you drop into the point of view of a madwoman, her internal logic has to be sound to the nth degree more than a sane character. I think I would have enjoyed this book without Lirea’s point of view. As I said, the three princesses are all wonderful characters in their own right, together as a trio and solo. But I seriously applaud and thank Hines for having the guts to give us the opposing POV soaked to the brim with crazy. Lirea is one of the best crafted insane characters I’ve read.
Hines’ writing is just as witty and sharp as it was with Goblin Quest although I thought Mermaid’s Madness wasn’t quite going for the same flavor of of humor. This one is going for the refreshing bits of life between the action. It’s one of those “Life is amusing” kinds of philosophies where you can always find something weird and silly at all the moments you shouldn’t. I think witty is the appropriate term and it conveys a deeper relationship between the characters who can laugh amongst themselves.
I seriously enjoyed myself with this book. There’s a lot of stuff I wish I knew more about in the overarching tale of the series. In the microcosm of book two, a couple times I felt some of the supporting characters got lost in the shuffle of the four POVs in the book. Multiple POVs is tricky to juggle to begin with but I think most of this feeling comes from thinking some of these supporting characters could spark their own stories.
This is the kind of book for people who like awesome, but more so for people who want something a little bit different. It’s a well crafted tale turned on it’s head and is every bit better for it. All those commercials for the Cinderella blu-ray on TV are making me think of wildly different things now.