With the success of the movie The Greatest Showman, which is about the famous P. T. Barnum, it comes with no surprise that I was super excited to find out that someone had written a book featuring him. I had already read a previous work of Christina Henry’s before called Lost Boy , which was absolutely amazing so I knew I had to give this one a go! Here is my review:
Summary (Goodreads): Once there was a mermaid who longed to know of more than her ocean home and her people. One day a fisherman trapped her in his net but couldn’t bear to keep her. But his eyes were lonely and caught her more surely than the net, and so she evoked a magic that allowed her to walk upon the shore. The mermaid, Amelia, became his wife, and they lived on a cliff above the ocean for ever so many years, until one day the fisherman rowed out to sea and did not return.
P. T. Barnum was looking for marvelous attractions for his American Museum, and he’d heard a rumor of a mermaid who lived on a cliff by the sea. He wanted to make his fortune, and an attraction like Amelia was just the ticket.
Amelia agreed to play the mermaid for Barnum, and she believes she can leave any time she likes. But Barnum has never given up a money-making scheme in his life, and he’s determined to hold on to his mermaid.
The first thing I want to start by saying is that this novel is very different from her other work. If you are expecting a dark retelling of the Little Mermaid, then you would be completely off the mark. While this novel features a mythical creature, there is no connection to any other tales about the mermaid and this novel would be better classified as a historical fiction than a true fantasy story.
BUT IT WAS STILL FREAKING AMAZING!
I loved that this story was more focused on the mermaid and her experiences interacting with humans. The personality created for her was absolutely amazing – relatable and foreign at the same time. As she interacts with human beings, we see how she forms her opinions about them and it is such an interesting experience to see how someone alien to our species views us. I had never considered this perspective, and I’m really glad that the author allowed for this opportunity. I also loved seeing how the mermaid herself changed because of her interactions, developing more human emotions and desires.
I also adored the prose. It was so haunting and lyrical and moving. The descriptions that the author created were so vivid that I really felt like I was right there experiencing it. An to me, that is a mark of true talent. There was never a moment where I felt myself getting bored or losing connection to the story or to the characters. There was just so much depth to everything and it made this story feel very engaging, even when not much was actually happening in the story.
If there is anything I could nitpick about, it would be that I wanted the tension to develop a bit stronger in the story. There really wasn’t much of a buildup and it detracted a little from that final climactic moment in the story.
Overall, this was a very good novel that was deeply engaging. Although it wasn’t the dark fantasy retelling I had thought it would be, I enjoyed the historical aspects of the story and the amazing characterization. For those reasons, I’m giving this a solid 4/5 stars, and I cannot wait to see what else this author will create!
Happy reading ~