Review of Sea Witch Rising by Sarah Henning

Read: 1st August 2019 – 8th August 2019

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Spoilers in review: No

This is a retelling of Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid, following on from the previous book which provided a backstory for the sea witch. Like the previous book, this takes more from the original story than it does from the Disney version.

I didn’t enjoy this as much as I did the first one.

One element from the first book that I really enjoyed, the flashbacks and their unique povs, were absent. The magic system seemed to be a lot less strict as well. In the first book there tended to have to be an exchange or amplifier or some sort, which did not hold true for the whole of this book. Seeing as these two things were my favourite things from the last book, it was disappointing to see that they weren’t here in this one.

Something that bugged me throughout is that there was a boy who called himself a wizard, while the girls were witches. Wizards are not just the masculine word for witch. Wizards and witches are entirely different things. That boy, like the girls, was a witch. Viewing these terms as gendered versions of the same thing is entirely down to J K Rowling, and it’s one of many things I’m mad at her about. Henning gave herself away by having that boy insist on calling himself a Wizard.

It takes more than what this book gave for me to be convinced of a romance. I was not even remotely convinced of the romance. Also, everyone seemed to be straight. Runa was hurt and confused at how her sister could’ve been so in love with a boy that she’d leave the sea for him, that doesn’t exactly scream ‘straight girl’ to me. And yes, I’ve decided that when there are loads of characters and not even one of them are queer, I’m calling it out no matter what. There’s no excuse anymore. You could cry historical realism, but also Runa and Alia are mermaids. But even if she did have to be straight, her romance subplot wasn’t convincing and so ended up just being annoying.

So why did I give this four stars? Firstly, I have a personal policy of rounding up where I would’ve given a half star (unless I have a very good reason not to). Also, I did enjoy reading this on the whole !!

About 60 years have passed since the end of the last book, and World War One is in full swing. This wasn’t just window dressing, it was very relevent to the plot and a lot of what happened centered on things that were only happening because of the war.

There was a strong focus on sisterhood, and how close siblings can be. I tend to enjoy stories that focus on the bond between siblings, and this was no exception.

The villain was great !! The moment that I figured out who the villain was going to be, it felt right, like I’d just been waiting for a retelling to go down this route.

I also liked that, like in the previous book, killing the prince was very much on the table, and the consequences of failure were dire. Henning doesn’t shy away from any of that. This aspect of the story won’t be for everyone, and if your favourite version of The Little Mermaid is the Disney version then it probably won’t be for you. But I really liked it.

In summary, this wasn’t as good as the first book, but I still had a good time reading it. If you like fairytale retellings and/or historical urban fantasy then you’ll probably enjoy this.

I received an e-arc through Netgalley in return for an honest review. Quotes may differ in the published version.

Review originally written in 2019

Goodreads | Amazon UK | Waterstones | Hive

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