Review | “Sea Witch” by Sarah Henning4 min read

Synopsis

Everyone knows what happens in the end. A mermaid, a prince, a true love’s kiss. But before that young siren’s tale, there were three friends. One feared, one royal, and one already dead.

Ever since her best friend, Anna, drowned, Evie has been an outcast in her small fishing town. A freak. A curse. A witch.

A girl with an uncanny resemblance to Anna appears offshore and, though the girl denies it, Evie is convinced that her best friend actually survived. That her own magic wasn’t so powerless after all. And, as the two girls catch the eyes—and hearts—of two charming princes, Evie believes that she might finally have a chance at her own happily ever after.

But her new friend has secrets of her own. She can’t stay in Havnestad, or on two legs, unless Evie finds a way to help her. Now Evie will do anything to save her friend’s humanity, along with her prince’s heart—harnessing the power of her magic, her ocean, and her love until she discovers, too late, the truth of her bargain.

Content Warnings

Character death; descriptions of death/dying; descriptions of drowning

Review

Okay, so you’re all going to have to bear with me. The twists and turns of this book were ridiculously good, so I’m going to have a hard time talking about this book without spoiling anything!

To begin with some background on the book, this concept is based on Hans Christian Andersen’s version of The Little Mermaid. I’ve seen an unfortunate amount of people disappointed in the book. I think some of them were expecting this to be like the pure, light-hearted Disney film. This is not the case at all. The original Little Mermaid is dark and unforgiving but a good story all the same. I think that’s a pretty good way to describe Henning’s book, too. In an interview, she said the reason she began writing Sea Witch is that she read the original story and wanted a retelling/origin story that gave more justice to the witch that helps the little mermaid than the Disney movie does. And I just need you to know Henning does a damn good job of this.

To be fair, it’s difficult to see the resemblance between this and the Disney film at first and even second glance. So if that’s the only exposure to The Little Mermaid you have, you’ll be a bit caught off guard. Henning’s story takes place in the Danish city of Havnestad. The main character, Evie, is the fisherman’s daughter, AKA a nobody that just happens to be best friends with Prince Nik. Evie and Nik’s childhood friend Anna drowned when they were young. But now a girl that looks exactly like Anna has appeared out of nowhere. And she’s here just in time for Nik’s coming of age celebrations.

Who are all these people, right? Where’s Ariel and Sebastian and Prince Eric? Well, in Andersen’s story, the little mermaid is never given a name. I don’t think any of the characters have a name. That lets Henning set up Sea Witch in a way that keeps you guessing how her characters fit into either Disney’s or Andersen’s version. Because of that, the book is admittedly a bit hard to get into, especially if you’re going in with expectations.

This is definitely a character-driven story for the majority of the book. Until the last 50-100 pages (I listened to the audiobook so don’t quote me on this), Sea Witch focuses much more on who the characters are and what the world around them is like. But when the plot revs up, man, it really takes off. Plus the characters, their backstories, the magic system, and the culture of this world are enjoyable enough that I didn’t mind having little plot.

Final thought

This book is totally worth it! All the loose ends come together beautifully at the end. Sea Witch is the type of story I want to share with everyone because I loved it so much. Also, I recommend the audiobook if that’s your thing because Billie Fulford-Brown does a great job of capturing Evie’s voice and the tone of the book.

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