The Sea Witch: Review

It’s been some time since a witch was burned in Havnstad, Denmark. But Evie is still terrified it will happen again. She, like her mother and her Tante Hansa, is a witch. Her powers are small but she does what she can to help the fishermen and her father especially in the face of the shortage of fishing for years now. Tangled in the lives of the royal family, Evie tries to keep her head down when she can.

The arrival of Annamette, an unusual and painfully familiar young woman leads Evie to turn away from what has always protected her and dabble in powers stranger and stronger than her own.

What is The Sea Witch about?

The Sea Witch functions as almost a prequel AND a retelling to the classic The Little Mermaid story. The novel focuses on a pseudo-historical fantasy version of Denmark, where Evelyn and Niklas have grown up together, Evie being the royal fisherman’s daughter and Nik being the Crown Prince. Evie harbors a dangerous secret: she is a witch, from a long line of witches, and could be burned for it. She practices what little magic she knows in secret, as her Tante Hansa has taught her to do. In addition to this dangerous secret, she must balance the disdain her town holds for her and her friendships with Nik and his cousin, Iker, her only friends left after tragedy struck years ago and she lost her best friend, Anna.

When Annamette shows up, looking exactly like a grown Anna and asking Evie for her help, the fisherman’s daughter and the princes get tangled into a fairy tale where magic is darker and deeper than before. Because Annamette is a mermaid who has only a few days to seal the magic that she used to gain legs and become human permanently, something Evie desperately wants so she may have another friend and learn more about her powerful magic. Despite this pretty straight forward introduction to the narrative of The Little Mermaid, The Sea Witch keeps a few tricks up its sleeves.

Genre: Fantasy, Fairy Tale Retelling

Despite having several of the tropes associated with The Little Mermaid, this book also functions as a separate fantasy story. There are several parts that, due to the novel being from Evie’s perspective, embellish on the magic of The Little Mermaid and give it a flare unique to this book and its version of the world.

Tropes: Magic is Evil….Or misunderstood?

This book definitely utilizes the (in)famous trope of magic being regarded as evil while our main protagonist attempts to both hide their powers and use them for good. There is also the additional trope of a society ostracizing someone for seemingly overblown reasons, allowing that person to be consistently mistreated and beaten down. Evie is both highly anxious due to her social standing, AND because she must constantly conceal her magic from others. The town is already on the verge of casting her out, and magic would only make it worse.

Plot: Uh, emotions are bad, maybe?

So outside of the retelling part, this book has a lot going on and much of it is emotional. Evie’s emotions take center stage, naturally, and focus largely on a handful of things: she has love and attraction for Iker, love and loyalty for Nik, grief from her loss of her mother and Anna, fear and love for her father, fear and anxiety for herself, growing love and loyalty for Annamette, and more. Additionally, everything in the story becomes complicated by feelings. Nik and Iker’s romantic feelings, Annamette’s motivations, the overwhelming disdain of the town, Tante Hansa’s bitter tutelage. It all becomes a roiling sea of emotion and human experience that shapes the lives of each character differently and to different ends.

The Good

I liked quite a bit about this book! I enjoyed the atmosphere and the descriptions in it, and the writing style as well. I really liked the depictions of magic and the magic system that Evie introduces us to versus the truth of magic that we learn by the end of the novel. I also appreciated the candid understanding of the humans in the story. Evie never once questions the mindset of the people who hate her in the town, she understands exactly what it is they think. There’s no “woe is me” self pity about it, even though she also knows that it isn’t fair they treat her as they do. I enjoyed her dynamic with Annamette, as well. I think in most The Little Mermaid retellings, as with the original, the mermaid herself doesn’t make a lot of friends outside of her love interest. It was far more interesting to read about Annamette having a close friendship, and Evie’s own attachment to her driving her to seal the magic that keeps her on land. Additionally, I really enjoyed the twists in the ending (though I won’t go into detail about those for spoiler reasons).

The Okay

I wasn’t totally a fan of the romantic plots of the book, but that was largely because I could already see where those were going. Throughout the novel, it’s regularly assumed by outsiders that Evie and Nik have feelings for one another though it’s clear that Evie is romantically inclined towards Nik’s cousin, Iker, who in turn is amorous with Evie. I never really connected with Iker as a character, which made it hard to be understanding of Evie’s inability to resist him. There were some elements of a love triangle/quadrangle that were predictable considering the nature of the book, though I felt they ended up not contributing to the ending of the story very well and instead complicated things quite a bit more than they needed to be.

The Bad

I will say that the ending deserves to be in both the good and bad categories. I don’t plan to reveal anything major, but minor spoiler warning for the ending, as from what I say you might piece together part of how this book ends. I felt that the epilogue was the only strong part of the ending, everything else was both too built up to and too rushed. I felt that most, if not all, of the main characters behaved out of character during the dramatic final scenes. Action was pursued far too quickly, and certain things taken too seriously in the moment. I also think that Evie was uncharacteristically naive in the face of what was happening, and a lot of the subsequent events were poorly explained. The action was rushed and unexpected, and it also seemed out of place in a book that was so quiet and middle ground-like up until this point. There was just too much going on altogether, and too many twists and turns in such a short period of time.

Final Thoughts

I did thoroughly enjoy this book (and shoutout to Shirley from Mommy Bookwyrm for this suggestion!) and I definitely want to read more along these lines, and perhaps by this author. The Little Mermaid isn’t always my favorite retelling, but this one was more interesting for being about Evie more than the mermaid herself. Additionally, I really really enjoyed the epilogue and the twists that it provided for the ending of the story. This was a nuanced and interesting story, and provided excellent characters and wonderful writing. Despite what I didn’t enjoy as much about this book, I absolutely was absorbed into the world it created and the magic it introduced. I absolutely respect the direction the author took with this book’s plot and enjoyed the narrative as in unraveled. Additionally, some of the writing was just so beautiful! If you’re into fairy tale retellings and want something a little darker and a little more unique, I definitely recommend this!

Friendly Reminder!

Hello Book Bees, a friendly reminder that at this time I am unemployed and do not have access to unemployment benefits or any other sort of aid to help my husband and I during this time. If you’re interested in supporting me in making more of this content, please consider joining my Patreon and supporting me!

By Catherine

I'm a lover of books, coffee, wine, and bees. Happy to join the ranks of book bloggers everywhere!

2 replies on “The Sea Witch: Review”

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