Read Recently — March — Other Worlds

The Mermaid’s Madness by Jim C. Hines

Sequel to the Stepsister Scheme. Having tackled Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella in the last book, Hines now takes on the Little Mermaid.

The Kingdom of Lorindar has a treaty with the merfolk of the seas surrounding them–a wise move for an island kingdom. Every now and then (annually, if I remember correctly) the Queen of Lorindar takes ship to meet the Queen of the Merfolk and renew their bond. A few years back, the merqueen died and left her husband temporarily in charge, so this year when Queen Beatrice takes Danielle, Snow and Talia out with her she expects to meet the King. Instead, she meets his daughter.

In this world, as you might expect, the Little Mermaid did not get a happy ending. As you might expect from the title, she went crazy. Homocidal crazy. And now she’s killed her father, taken over the kingdom, and declared war on Lorindar. And critically injured Queen Beatrice.

Of course, our three heroes are out of their depth in this one. In over their heads, you might say. Can the witch who “accidentally” caused this whole mess in the first place perhaps help them? Or does she have her own agenda?

Sequels, of course, are always hard to write about. But if you liked the first one, you should like this one. Recommended.

The Golden Tower: Book two of the Warriors of Estavia by Fiona Patton

Sequel to the Silver Lake.

This one picks up a few years later. Brax is about to finish his training and become a soldier. Spar is still a trainee, seemingly destinied to become a seer to the church, but also determined to keep as much of his independence as he can, while also safeguarding Brax. Graize is making a name for himself among the tribes of the lands outside the Wall, while unwillingly splitting with Spar the duty of educating the young God he helped give birth to. Meanwhile, that God, the older Gods, and other forces of which our heroes are unaware, all have plans of their own.

Despite the fact that it’s been almost two years since the first book came out, I had no problem picking up the storyline and remembering who all the characters are. Patton does the same excellent job here that she did before, and this continues to be Highly recommended.

Princep’s Fury: book five of the Codex Alera by Jim Butcher

The series continues. This time, while Tavi is away overseas taking home those of the Canem who last invaded Alera, his friends, family, and enemies at home are facing an invasion of their own. Despite the wit, wisdom and power of our heroes, things are looking pretty grim by the end of the book.

This is still Butcher’s best series, Highly recommended.

In Great Waters by Kit Whitfield

Kit Whitfield is a British author who I until this book mostly knew for her comments at Slacktivist. This is actually her second novel, but I bought it first.

It posits a world much like ours during, roughly, the 16th or 17th century. All the nations we are familiar with are there, but there’s an addition: merfolk are real, and any nation that wants to be a sea power has to have a treaty with them. One part of the treaty is that they have to be ruled by half-breeds, which is a bonus because it is easier for the half-breeds to communicate with the full-blooded mer. Furthermore, all of the ruling families are related closely to each other, as no one is allowed to go a-breeding and create new half-breeds.

Mind you, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen, now and then. “Whistle”, a young merman we meet at the start of the book, is a half-breed. Like Tarzan in the original books, he’s smaller and slower than his companions (and cannot hold his breath as long as they can; not really an issue for the Ape Man), but develops more cunning (he can’t do as well at catching fish, but does figure out that shellfish are good eating. When he’s five, his mother takes him to the surface and abandons him on the shore, from which he is eventually taken by human strangers and brought to their home to live. They are, unknown to him for a long time, an English noble family, and part of a conspiracy to eventually put him on the throne (the existing noble family is suffering from the effects of in-breeding). They name him Henry.

The other protagonist is Princess Anne, born with too much of the mer-folk in her features, but also not by any means in line for the throne. At least, not at first.

The story seems destined to set our two heroes apart–if Henry becomes King, Anne is certainly doomed along with the rest of her family. However, if Henry is discovered before he can become King, he will be burned alive.

Whitfield’s world-creation is good; the whole set-up holds up well to inspection. If I have one complaint, it’s that I can’t get a good mental picture of Henry and Anne’s legs. Nor can I tell from the description whether the merfolk have tails or not (at the beginning I thought yes, later on I thought no). But that’s a minor thing.

Highly recommended.

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