Seven emotionless princesses. Three ghostly sirens. A beautiful , malicious sea witch haunted by memories. A handsome self-mutilating prince.
Belonging to a race that is animal with little humanity, a world obsessed with beauty and where morality holds no authority, a little mermaid escapes to the ocean’s surface. Driven by love and curiosity, she consults a malicious sea-witch and pays an enormous price for her humanity. While uncovering the secrets of sexuality and the immortal soul, a deadly virus contaminates the bloodstreams of merfolk forcing the little mermaid to choose between her people and the man she loves.
Before telling you what I think about this magical realist fable, I must admit I had not read a fairy-tale retelling before. I have heard many good things about them, but I never got down to reading them. You could say that Drown gave me a nudge to read more retellings as I fell in love with it.
Written by Esther Dalseno, Drown is “a twisted take on the classic fairy-tale.” This poetically written tale holds a lot of imagery, and is very descriptive. You feel as if you breathing and experiencing the story for yourself when in reality you’re just curled up with the book in your hands. It’s hard not to lose yourself in this dark and compelling tale that will keep you hooked throughout.
To say this story is not full of surprises is an understatement. There were a few things I was not expecting as the narrative progressed, but I did make one correct prediction regarding the sea witch, but I won’t spoil that for those of you who have not read the story, you will have to find out for yourself.
The narrative flowed through seamlessly, leaving behind no loop holes and unanswered questions. There was a strange sense of naturalness despite this being a story about a mermaid, making it oddly believable and realistic. It was refreshing to read the little mermaids experiences of humanity and womanhood, as it was what you would realistically expect. The way she reacted towards her experiences as well as the experiences itself was so natural it reminds you of the way you reacted to such things the first time you experienced womanhood. Having said all of this, Drown wasn’t just a story about love, heartbreak and betrayal, but it was also a story about self-discovery. Her transition from mermaid to human was like a re-birth for her as she explores and learns about puberty, menstruation, sex, love and heartbreak during her time as a human.
As she is from a world where emotions and beating hearts don’t exist, and where love has no significance and meaning, it was intriguing to read about her discovery and her exploration of emotions and feelings. She had heard about heartbreak as a mermaid, known as the Great Condition amongst merfolk, but she had never experienced it along other emotions.
Reading the story I felt that, regardless of the price she had to pay for her humanity, she didn’t love the prince as much as she thought she did. For me, the little mermaid and the prince had come together to awaken the feelings of love in one another. The broken prince who self-mutilated and wasn’t fond of women or the way they dressed, suddenly spoke to and befriended the little mermaid. On the other hand, it was the music from the palace that had attracted also attracted her attention, but what are the chances that the person playing the music was the prince? Yes, the little mermaid fell for the prince having seen him through his bedroom window, which was at sea level. She had only seen the prince but had she seen his emotions and his frustrations?
Regardless of the bitter self-loathing prince, a new light is shone on him as we see another side of him; a gentle and caring side. When the little mermaid appears before him with a face full of make-up and heels that make her feet bleed, he tells the mermaid not to wear make-up because she looks more beautiful without it. The prince begins to soften, and slowly begins to open up his heart to life. The little mermaid came into his family as a remedy for broken and lonely hearts only to have hers broken in the process. However, she is given a chance which she declines due to her stubborn belief that she loves the prince.
Drown is a darkly compelling and enchanting tale that is beautifully written, and I highly recommend it. Esther balances out the fantasy and the real, adding a sense of naturalness amongst the mythological.