Mermaids never drown

MERMAIDS NEVER DROWN Tales To Dive For Edited By Zoraida Cordova and Natalie C. Parker

Titan Books, pb, £7.99

Reviewed by Christine Downes

The problem with story collections is that inevitably, there will be some you love and others that leave you cold, and this is certainly the case with this anthology.

Fourteen short stories, sourced from Young Adult fiction writers from around the world, have been compiled by the editors Cordova and Parker. I applaud their wide-ranging choices for what I had foolishly assumed would be a narrow topic. It has been quite informative to read stories drawing from the mermaid tales of other cultures, as well as the Western European/American tradition.

Of the fourteen stories, five works stood out above the others as thoughtful, well-written, and layered with extra meanings and subtexts. They were:

1. Storm Song by Rebecca Coffindaffer combines the myth of the mermaid with the myth of the siren song to great effect. How a mermaid eventually finds her voice to wreak revenge.

2. The Story of a Knife by Gretchen Schreiber is an allegorical story of forced change upon a mermaid to make her human and walk on land, turning her back on her heritage.

3. Nor’Easter by Katherine Locke is an interesting interpretation of an actual storm that hit the east coast of America, took hundreds of lives, and destroyed whole communities.

4. The Merrow is jointly written by the editors Cordova and Parker. Easily one of the best stories in the book; it tells the story from two points of view: Josie, a teenager and Sun, a sea creature. It is an indictment of mankind’s entitlement to do as they wish with the resources of the world and the creatures that inhabit it. It is sad and worrisome but uplifting in its resolution.

5. Jinju’s Pearls by June Hur is an Asian take on the mermaid myth with an absolutely heartbreaking ending. I actually had tears. I think this one is probably my favourite of them all.

Of the remaining stories, I largely enjoyed reading most of them; however, there were four that really did nothing for me as a reader. But I return to my original point that anthologies cannot possibly please every reader one hundred per cent. The choices made by the editors are ultimately subjective, and other editors may make entirely different choices. It’s pleasing to note that the work of the two editors is one of the best stories in the book. I would be confident to read another collection curated by them.

I would recommend this book as an interesting read, with the caveat that a few stories are not as strong and well-written as others.

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