Details of the sea witch’s banishment have been exaggerated. The body count that preempted it was not. Once an illustrious princess, her hands and tentacles were stained with the blood of thousands. No one could comprehend how the hooks of madness dragged her down from her life of privilege.
Born Princess Vanessa of Atlantica, the ambitious young royal was one of two children born to the great King Poseidon. She and her brother, Triton, were groomed from birth to rule. Yet only one would ascend that coveted throne. While carefree Triton flits through his training with a cavalier demeanor and beguiling charm, Vanessa’s hunger for her father’s acceptance drives her to push herself to the limits of magic, and combat to become a leader worthy of her people.
When war against the humans ravages their once regal kingdom, political sides are chosen. Factions from the seven seas challenge the existing leadership, pitting Vanessa against her brother in a vicious battle for the crown. Traitors are exposed, dark family secrets revealed, and a once strong sibling bond is strained to its breaking point.
Only when the ink black waters from the ultimate betrayal rescind, will the truth be known of how the villainous sea witch rose with one name on her vengeful lips–Triton.
I’ve always been a fan of Stacey Rourke’s retellings. They’re usually far more dark and sinister, closer to Grimm than Disney and I adore that kind of twisted carnage. This is a YA retelling of how Ursula, like from The Little Mermaid, came into existence. It explores what it takes to make an innocent and caring person turn dark, how much betrayal and anguish a person (mermaid) can take before they crack, and whether love can truly heal all wounds.
Here’s what I loved:
- Princess Vanessa is a victim and it is so not her fault. All she has ever done is try to be a perfect daughter to the point of stifling who she is. She’s young, idealistic, and so hopeful. She has a pure and beautiful heart, she truly cares, she’s funny, her sarcasm is on point. She’s pretty awesome. And then she gets better. She is forced to make choices that transform her from the inside out. She must embrace her magic and she does not always make the best decisions, in fact, sometimes they’re downright cruel and propelled by anger. BUT that’s what makes her more real; she’s flawed and hurt and sometimes broken but never, ever defeated and there’s power in that.
- The world building is amazing. Each ruler of the Seven Seas is unique and they all have tons of personality. There are whole cultures and ideals in tiny details that fit so well together. You can totally picture little under water countries.
- Vanessa’s relationship with Triton. She adores him. Even though he’s like a little free-spirited hippie who would rather frolic around than be responsible, how could you not love those golden curls? Their relationship is a complex one. But it’s adorable. And then crash and burn. You’ll think about how the children you met in the very beginning of the book transformed into these two strangers. It’s heartbreaking.
- Plot twists. There are a ton and they’re truly shocking. You don’t expect them. But when they’re revealed you’ll definitely think, ahhhh, it all makes sense now.
- I love love love Vanessa and Alastor. Epitome of slow burn. The way he cares for her. It’s so sweet, omg.
Here’s what I disliked:
- The structure. I don’t know if it’s because of my ARC or if this is in the finalized version, but the blending of past with present, the sort of omnipotent voice that runs through in Italics and then the time jumps. There are big gaps in time that range from 2 months to several years. Which is fine, but when coupled with the italics it’s a little confusing and took me time to readjust. Initially the whole prologue was iffy. You assume who it’s about and what’s going on from prior knowledge but it reads as a stream of consciousness merging of random thoughts that kind of feel out of place sometimes. The organization-style choice- wasn’t my favorite.
- Some plot points ended abruptly. There’s this whole build up on animosity between Vanessa and another character and then boom, over. I guess, I just wished there was more…hands on retribution.
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RONE Award Winner for Best YA Paranormal Work of 2012 for Embrace, a Gryphon Series Novel
Young Adult and Teen Reader voted Author of the Year 2012
Turning Pages Magazine Winner for Best YA book of 2013 & Best Teen Book of 2013
Readers’ Favorite Silver Medal Winner for Crane 2015
Stacey Rourke is the author of the award winning YA Gryphon Series, the chillingly Legends Saga, and the romantic comedy Reel Romance Series. She currently hard at work on the Unfortunate Soul Chronicles, and additional literary projects. She lives in Michigan with her husband, two beautiful daughters, and two giant dogs. She loves to travel, has an unhealthy shoe addiction, and considers herself blessed to make a career out of talking to the imaginary people that live in her head.