Once upon a time . . . that’s how the old stories always begin.
Once upon a time there was a king of a fallen kingdom. He was just and he was beloved. Or so the numbers said. One day, he gathered together the greatest, wisest minds in all the land—not sorcerers, but scientists—and he bade them fashion him a son. A prince. A perfect prince to embody his father’s legacy.
The scientists each brought the prince a gift: beauty, strength, ambition, intellect, pride. But they must have forgotten something because when he saw the mermaids dance at the Cirque de la Mer, he ran away to join them.
For a year, he trained them, performed with them, thought he was happy. For a year he thought he was free. But then Nerites came: A merman who refused to be tamed. A captive from another kingdom. A beast in a glass cage.
The old stories always end with happy ever after. But this isn’t one of the old stories. This is a story of princes and monsters.
Call me crazy, but there was something about that cover that just called to me, aside the obvious beauty of the illustration. This was a terrifying and breathtaking read, and were it any longer and more developed, it might have killed me.
The worldbuilding is beautiful, post-apocalyptic yet terribly current, but not heavily emphasized upon. And despite featuring mer a lot, it’s a heartbreaking story about human nature in all its terrible beauty.
The main character, the prince, is an interesting and charismatic character, though he tells his story by somehow becoming invisible through it. Never something of himself, always the result of someone else’s desire or action, more as a mirror than a creature of his own, he mostly defines himself through refusing circumstances and demands. What truly stands out is his yearning for freedom, as a form of affection and not only. Nerites took my breath away since he first appeared, and continued to do so throughout the story.
Their interaction, unspoken love and mirrored destinies make them an unlikely and perfect pair, in my opinion. Captives in their lives, in their attempts to obtain freedom and love, bound together by the spaces between them, the impossibilities of it all. I’m not sure if I’d call this a happy for now ending, or a bittersweet one, it’s so much up to you as a reader that I won’t deem it one way or another. To me, it was a terribly authentic ending, so real that it hurt.
I’ve read a novel by Alexis Hall and loved it, but this story… this is just so incredibly heartbreaking and beautiful, the writing is just so strong and I’d say literary and powerful… I’m sure I will read more by the same author, and will most likely love it all just as I have loved what I’ve read so far, but this story… this is the kind of work that just looks so much like the jewel of one’s crown that you can’t imagine something else becoming that. Maybe something else will, after all, the sky is the limit, isn’t it?
For sure one of the best reads of this year, and a Bomy Award of Excellence, so 5++++ butterflies. I cried through most of this read. I loved and revered it, and will re-read it and cry over it many, many more times, of this I’m sure. Just… read it. Read it.
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