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As we rise out of the water, and behold all the land of the earth, so do they rise to unknown and glorious regions which we shall never see.

-Hans Christian Andersen, The Little Mermaid


As soon as I saw this book’s cover on Instagram, I wanted to read it. And when I found out it was a retelling of a fairy tale, well I couldn’t wait to read it. So I asked the author if I might get a copy a bit early. And she delivered a beautiful copy of an even more beautifully written book.

If you love to read fairy tales, this book is written for you. If you love Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, this story was written precisely for you. It is longer, bigger, and better. Esther’s third-person omniscient voice could be that of Andersen or Grimm, where the narrator (in this case the Lighthouse) tells a sweeping story of seven mermaid sisters and The Littlest Mermaid who knows there’s something more than her life on the bottom of the ocean floor. It’s a beautiful story of heartbreak, but, ultimately, of the power of love.

But this book is not a fairy tale of modern minds. It may focus on love, but it focuses on both the uplifting and the destructive nature of love. With love’s highs come devastating lows, and we feel them all the way with The Little Mermaid.

It might seem odd to have a main character with no name, but this nameless mermaid gets under your skin in an unexpected way. As she gains her own heart, “after many nights, a cold, cursed fist grasped at her heart and squeezed until suddenly, it began to beat,” so does Esther’s writing grab at your heart and squeeze at the plight of this nameless mermaid.

The story is familiar: The Littlest Mermaid falls in love with a human–a prince–before she even leaves the ocean. She watches him from the ocean, sees his pain at the world he lives in. And when she has the chance, she saves his life. From then on, she is irrevocably his, heart and, well…not quite soul. For

‘A mermaid has not an immortal soul, nor can she obtain one unless she wins the love of a human being. On the power of another hangs her eternal destiny’

Andersen, The Little Mermaid.

What follows is a tragic tale of love and heartbreak. While Disney made “The Little Mermaid” a popular children’s movie, the tale wasn’t written to be that happy, and as the title, “Drown,” suggests, this isn’t a story with a Hollywood ending. The girl doesn’t get the guy, they don’t live happily ever after. It’s dark, it’s twisted, it’s everything a fairy tale ought to be.

‘I brought you here to tell you this: sometimes what we are searching for does not exist. We may sacrifice for it, even bleed for it, but it was never meant to be ours.’

Esther Dalseno, Drown.