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Book Review: Drown by Esther Dalseno

Book Review: Drown by Esther Dalseno - A Little Mermaid Retelling

For those of you that don’t know the true story of the little mermaid, that is Hans Christian Andersen’s original story, you will probably be very shocked by Drown. Drown is a Little Mermaid re-telling but not the kind that involves singing crabs and fishy friends. Drown is the dark tale of a little mermaid and the sacrifices she makes for the human prince that she is in love with. This story takes us back to the origins of the mermaids and how they came to be.

I always get very excited about fairy-tale retellings and Drown was no different. As soon as I read the synopsis of this story, I was excited for a darker retelling of my favourite Disney movie and Dalseno’s tale does not disappoint. The author has created a unique backstory to this troubling tale. In this world, mermaids have hearts that do not beat and they do not feel emotions. The royal mermaids gorge themselves on lavish food each day, whilst many others in the kingdom struggle to survive. They are the vainest creatures on earth, constantly looking in the mirror and thinking that they are each the most beautiful. That is, apart from the youngest mermaid princess.

She’s always known that she’s a little different to her sisters, her face occasionally betraying emotions that mermaids supposedly do not have anymore. When she takes a trip to the surface of the ocean she is enchanted by the human world, but mostly a human prince, and upon her return she makes a deal with the dreaded sea witch and trades her fins for legs – at a steep price.

Whilst Drown is full of interesting characters, there were not many that I really connected with to begin with. The little mermaid herself is a peculiar character and I was never sure whether I admired her for sacrificing so much for what she truly wanted, or wanted to shake her for giving everything up without any guarantee of happiness. Towards the end of the story when there are a few twists and turns in quick succession and the whole story becomes a lot clearer.

At this point you finally understand a lot of characters’ true personalities and you start rooting for them as the story races towards the finish line. There’s a lot of mystery surrounding a lot of characters which keeps you on your toes throughout and forces you to continue reading. At no point in this book did I feel sure of what the outcome would be and even 5 pages before the end of this story there are still several possible outcomes.

The little mermaid and the prince are not the only characters of interest in this novel. There’s also the prince’s uncle, the other mermaid sisters, the King mermaid etc. All these characters have some sort of story or background that adds to the story and I’m impressed by Dalseno’s ability to include these extra details without detracting from the main storyline in any way. She has seamlessly integrated lots of other stories into this novel to give the reader a really wide view of the mermaid kingdom and the universe that she’s created in Drown.

I sped through this book over the weekend and found it to be an incredibly intriguing and unique read. Dalseno takes a well-known and well-loved Disney tale and creates something darker, much closer to the original tale, that will have you tearing through the pages. It’s almost as if Dalseno has given the emotions of the heartless mermaids to the readers of her book as you find yourself feeling happiness, sadness, excitement, love and heartbreak in this story.

Don’t pick this up thinking that this is going to be a fluffy fairytale because it is far from it. What sacrifices does the little mermaid make to be with her prince? Does she even end up with the prince in the end? These are all questions that you will find yourself asking as you read. This story is both haunting and beautiful – a strange combination that hooks you from the very first page. All in all, I’d highly recommend Drown to any fans of the little mermaid, who will no doubt be mesmerised by this new take on the classic story. The writing is beautiful, the story is unique and I guarantee you won’t have read anything like this before!

Buy Drown by Esther Dalseno
Amazon | Book Depository

If you liked this post, check out these other retellings:
Cinder by Marissa Meyer Book Review
Gretel and the Dark Book Review

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Laura is a culture and travel blogger based in London. She studied French at Oxford University and now studies Law in London. She’s an avid reader and traveller and loves to combine the two with literary travel. Find her tips and reviews on the best reads, eats and destinations on whatshotblog.com.

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  1. dominika
    27th October 2015 / 12:00 AM

    I am always so excited to read book reviews but I have so little time to read as much as I would like to.. 🙁

    thanks for sharing,


  2. 27th October 2015 / 11:32 AM

    Wow! That sounds like a different take on mermaids, it looks like an interesting read 🙂

  3. Tori Gabriel
    27th October 2015 / 12:30 PM

    Ooohh, I love mermaids! This sounds right up my alley. I’m going out later so I’m going to pop in to Waterstones to see if they have it in. It sounds great.

    • 27th October 2015 / 3:59 PM

      It’s not published until the 31st of October but you can preorder it from Amazon! 🙂

  4. Jade
    27th October 2015 / 12:33 PM

    Sounds interesting! Love discovering different versions of Disney classics!

  5. bericebaby
    27th October 2015 / 12:44 PM

    Amazing giveaway hun.
    Whenever I think of mermaids its from Peter Pan or Hook (which hayden watches nearly everyday LOL
    Thanks for sharing
    Charlotte x

  6. Lili @ Reading Against Time
    27th October 2015 / 2:15 PM

    I’m sooo excited for this book! Besides the fact that it sounds totally amazing as a Little Mermaid retelling, I’ve heard and seen soo many good reviews about it that I can’t wait for it to come out! Thanks for this great review and giveaway! Glad you enjoyed it lots!

    Great post! x

    ~L. @ Reading Against Time ♥

    • 29th October 2015 / 12:21 PM

      Thanks for entering! Hope you win because this really is a fantastic book 🙂

  7. Ickle Pickle
    27th October 2015 / 3:27 PM

    Oh wow – this book sounds amazing! I haven’t heard of it but will definitely look out for it. Kaz x

    • 29th October 2015 / 12:21 PM

      I’m not sure this one will be available in shops but it’ll be on Amazon from the 31st of October 🙂

  8. 27th October 2015 / 3:56 PM

    Ohh this sounds like a really great book, definitely something I could get into. x

    • 29th October 2015 / 12:21 PM

      I’d definitely recommend it if you’re looking for something a little different!

  9. Teresa Bowen
    27th October 2015 / 8:13 PM

    What a fabulous review you have written. It makes me want to get hold of this book and read it right now.

    • 29th October 2015 / 12:19 PM

      Thank you Teresa! Hope you manage to read this one day 🙂

  10. Laura
    27th October 2015 / 8:22 PM

    Sounds like a great book. I have so many backed up on my kindle to read right now! xxx

  11. 27th October 2015 / 8:29 PM

    Oh wow! This sounds like a great book….It sounds so different to the Disney one! x

    • 29th October 2015 / 12:09 PM

      It really is! You’ll have to read it to find out just how different 😉

  12. 27th October 2015 / 7:54 PM

    I love the sound of this! I love the idea of dark mermaids, and a different side to the fairytale we all know. X

    • 29th October 2015 / 12:22 PM

      A lot of authors have started to write ‘dark’ fairytales over the past few years and I’m loving them!

  13. Beautyqueenuk
    27th October 2015 / 9:51 PM

    Ooh now this is fascinating, I am definitely adding this to my list to read x

  14. Kacie Morgan
    27th October 2015 / 11:16 PM

    This looks like an interesting read. I’ve just entered your giveaway… fingers crossed!

  15. tracey bowden
    27th October 2015 / 11:39 PM

    I really like the sound of this book, I have entered your competition so fingers crossed if not it’s going on my wish list for christmas. great review thanks

  16. 27th October 2015 / 11:58 PM

    I always found the original Grimm’s and Hans far more interesting than the Disney versions and have entered the giveaway. Fingers crossed I win!

  17. 28th October 2015 / 12:49 AM

    This sounds like a great book, fingers crossed for a win as I could do with a new good book to read 🙂

  18. 28th October 2015 / 4:53 PM

    This sounds really really interesting! I have read lots of Hans Christian Anderson in Danish and the stories are really not what you would expect!

    • 29th October 2015 / 11:58 AM

      Ooh in Danish! How exciting! I’m really curious about his other tales now as I want to see how much darker they are!

  19. Mandi
    28th October 2015 / 11:50 PM

    This book sounds perfect for my two teenage daughters, guess I should enter to win a copy.

    • 29th October 2015 / 11:58 AM

      I’m sure they’d love it! Good luck if you enter 🙂

  20. Cali Willette
    29th October 2015 / 12:49 AM

    Thanks for the giveaway! I love mermaids and I want to read this book so bad. 😉

  21. 29th October 2015 / 10:13 AM

    Oh my GOD yes! So many people don’t realise how dark original fairy tales even are. My sister is super into reading up on these and I REALLY want to read this book now 🙂

    • 29th October 2015 / 11:58 AM

      I was so surprised when I found out the original little mermaid story!! In that case I think your sister would really enjoy this, hope she gets to read it! 🙂

  22. 29th October 2015 / 4:48 PM

    This sounds really interesting but I’m not sure I’m ready for the non-Disney version yet!

  23. Lina
    29th October 2015 / 10:12 PM

    This sounds brilliant – I’d love to read this, I love re-told stories! I’m entering to win too!

  24. Daniella Abraham
    30th October 2015 / 5:09 PM

    This book sounds great, I’m definitely going to buy a copy as it’s right up my street.

  25. Hannah Latoya Bond
    30th October 2015 / 10:55 PM

    This sounds great. Disney have changed a lot in many of their movies from the original, making it sound all wonderful when it was actually far from it x

  26. Umber Phoenix
    30th October 2015 / 10:51 PM

    the book sounds amazing! and really love the cover of it.

    Umber x

  27. Erin Ek Rush
    31st October 2015 / 10:18 AM

    That sounds like a great read. I love retelling of fairy tales – the Wicked series as great! I would love to win this book!

  28. Rhian Westbury
    31st October 2015 / 10:55 AM

    This sounds like an amazing book. I was actually in Copenhagen last weekend and went to the Hans Christian Anderson museum and it wad only then did I realise that he even wrote the original. This book sounds right up my street though! x

  29. 31st October 2015 / 10:58 AM

    I LOVE fairy tales in all their dark, often gorey glory! Can’t wait to add this to my library! xx

  30. 31st October 2015 / 11:13 AM

    Sounds like a take on how life is! I would love to read this and will be looking out for it on Amazon. Thanks for the intro to it.

  31. The Mummy Balancing Act
    1st November 2015 / 2:49 AM

    This sounds like a great giveaway. I know you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover, but damn that’s pretty x

  32. Renna Creighton
    1st November 2015 / 11:33 AM

    Ooooohhhh I’d love to read this. I love a dark story. I do love
    Once upon a time on TV and maleficient, as they show a different side of the story.

    • 3rd November 2015 / 8:05 PM

      Ahh I need to start Once Upon a Time! Looks like something I’d love but I’ve never gotten into it -thanks for reminding me!

  33. Mimicat
    2nd November 2015 / 6:21 AM

    I do love a good read

  34. Max
    2nd November 2015 / 2:46 PM

    Would love to win this for my sister

  35. Sheila Shepheard
    2nd November 2015 / 4:38 PM

    Having read the review I can’t wait to read this. I know the original Little Mermaid story is dark & nothing like the Disney-fied film. Sounds right up my street.

  36. Karl Borowy
    2nd November 2015 / 8:38 PM

    a good read

  37. Amanda Bootes
    3rd November 2015 / 2:03 AM

    I’ve been wanting to read this for so long, but never seem to find the time. Your post just intrigues me even further. Definitely on my book list!


  38. 13th November 2015 / 11:24 PM

    This sounds so much better than Disney. I’m not much of a reader, but I am tempted to buy it based on your review.

  39. Emma @ Novelsee
    15th March 2016 / 11:47 AM

    I’ve just finished reading this, I think I agree with most of what you said. It’s beautifully written, I had a hard time really loving the little mermaid herself, but the storyline and writing was interesting enough that it kept me reading. I loved the ending 🙂

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