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4.4 out of 5 stars
The Mermaid's Madness (Princess Novels)
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on October 11, 2009
Cinderella, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty - the three princess heroines of The Stepsister Scheme are back in this much (for me) anticipated sequel! What happens after the fairy tale ends? That's the essential question that Hines's series attempts to answer. The first book tells us the fates of Cinderella (Danielle) after she's married her prince, of Sleeping Beauty (Talia) after she's awakened from her long sleep, and of Snow White (Snow), after she's escaped the murderous intentions of her stepmother. Hines takes the darker versions of these tales, and twists them into something highly original and new. The three familiar princesses now serve Danielle's mother-in-law, Queen Beatrice of Lorindar, going on secret missions to aid diplomacy, stop wars, save princes, and protect the kingdom, where Danielle is now Princess.

I've been waiting for The Mermaid's Madness literally since I finished the last page of The Stepsister Scheme. It was the sort of book that made you want to keep reading, that made you want to stay in the world and find out what happens next. The title alone, but virtue of the fairy tale roots of this series, lets us know right where we're starting off. With the tragic tale of the little mermaid. But with Hines at the helm, the tragedy of the story is twisted into something much more complex.

We begin with Princess Danielle on a mission of diplomacy with Queen Beatrice, their yearly tithe and renewal of peace with the merfolk, who prefer to be called undine. Since the undine are usually a matriarchal culture, it makes sense for the Princess and Queen to take the lead. Unfortunately, things go very wrong, very quickly. For instead of the King they are expecting, they are greeted by his mad daughter, Lirea, wronged by her human lover and looking for vengeance against all humans. In the ensuing conflict, Queen Beatrice is grievously injured. This leaves Danielle and her friends Talia and Snow to find both a cure for her ailment, and to find a way to stop Lirea from making war against their kingdom - and all of humanity.

Of course, it's much more complicated than that, as the girls quickly discover.

Once again, Hines gives us excellent world building and characterization. We get to see a bit more of Danielle's Prince Armand in this one, which I appreciated quite a bit. We feel so much of her love for him in the last book, but in this one we actually get to see them interact as a couple. New characters are introduced, as well - the mad Lirea and her sister, Lannadae, and a new Prince of a neighboring kingdom, who I'm guessing just may return for future books. But the heart of the series is the relationships between our three princesses, and Hines does an excellent job portraying the myriad ups and downs of the bonds of love and friendship so important between a woman and her best friends. The girls argue, fight together and for each other, and hold each other up when needed. We find out a few more details from each of their stories, though most particularly Talia's and Snow's. Hines does a particularly good job of this. I love reading the little details of how Snow's mother raised her, or how Talia escaped from her homeland. These are the details that make the books come alive.

There are some bittersweet moments in this one. I won't spoil them for you, but suffice it to say, things are not all happily ever after for everyone in the kingdom of Lorindar.

In the end, I was sad to come to the last page for a second time. I stayed up late to finish reading, because I could not wait to find out how it all turned out in the end, and then I was sad to be finished. What will the girls do next? With a title like Red Hood's Revenge, I can only imagine!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Right now, the competition in my stack of reading material is downright Darwinian; I've got so many good books, great books, significant books and books on fascinating subjects that this book was really not on the reading radar.

It became the book I kept sneaking off to read. Even when I discovered that it was the second book in a series, I was unable to stop reading in order to go find the first.

The initial premise seems both cute and a little silly: Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella are here given their "real names" (Cinderella's is Danielle) and band together to defend the kingdom against the magical threat posed by a jilted mermaid, out for revenge against the man who done her wrong.

But in addition to taking a light-hearted attitude, Jim Hines has used as his source material the darkest, Grimmest version of the famous fairy tales. His heroines have tragedies in their backgrounds and that often gives the light satirical tone a real edge. There is a problem here, however. Perhaps because most of his "cast" is female, Hines has a tendency to pull his punches in his fight scenes and in his satire. I felt that sometimes he was ducking out of following the emotional implications of the dark stories he eluded to by switching to a Disney cartoon sequence of events. Some of his fight scenes lost credibility by not sticking to physics when magic wasn't involved.

But there is fine fantasy here. Hines makes us believe in the marvels he shows us: in kelpies and underwater forests, jars that hold the souls of sailors, a glass sword and an abalone knife. Here is adult fantasy that is lots of fun, and you bet I'm going to be searching out that first book soon. I never believed in that "happily ever after" guff and Hines fills in that gap in a most entertaining way.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
I enjoyed the version of the Little Mermaid in here. It's one of my favorite fairy tales. I learned the original one before the Disney movie with the happy ending. It's one of the most heartbreaking, and Jim Hines managed to make this one even more so. Getting darker than the original Little Mermaid is quite an accomplishment, but Hines manages to temper this with his own light humor as well.

There was good growth for most of the characters in this one. I enjoyed Snow's tutelage under Morveren, and the questions she asked herself about her own motivation, about what made her different from her own mother. It seems to me that the key difference is that Snow actually is concerned with that.

Talia is a character I enjoy a great deal, with her prickly personality. We're given a little bit more insight into her relationship with Queen Bea and with Snow, and it makes her a bit easier to understand. She's perhaps the most compelling character in the group.

I appreciate that one of the heroines, Danielle, is a wife and a mother. Too often, marriage and children is the end of the story for a character, as if life ceases to have any exciting or interesting challenges after these events. Contrary to what most fantasy, romance and adventure novels would lead a person to believe, life doesn't end with marriage or childbirth! It's wonderful having a character that a parent can relate to.

There were some important revelations among the characters in this book, and the ramifications of them remain to be seen. I look forward to reading more of the series to see where this all goes.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
When Queen Beatrice's soul is ripped from her body by
Lannadae, the Mermaid Queen, three princesses set out to
save her. Danielle, Cinderella, is naive but she is armed
with the skill to communicate with animals. Talia,
Sleeping Beauty, doesn't act like a princess as she kicks
butt with her supreme fighting skills. And Snow, Snow
White, an amazing sorcerer with the ability to heal. The
result is a magical action adventure story filled with
princesses and mermaids cleverly spun from 'The Little
Mermaid' tale (along with three other fairy tales) by Jim
C. Hines in The Mermaid's Madness.

Opening up The Mermaid's Madness I noticed a heading called 'Other Books
in this Series' and saw another book's title above this
one. I normally read stories in order for I feel that
that is the way they are supposed to be read, but lucky
for me I gave this book a chance. Although it was clear
that this book had a prequel, because there were
references to a past adventure, Jim C. Hines was able to
work in the character's background without messing up the
flow of the book.

It was a good thing that I received this book on a
Friday because I couldn't put it down. The plot hooked me
in right at the beginning and kept going strong until the
very end. It wove together action scenes, that made me
sit on the edge of my seat and yell at my book, and
emotional scenes that brought the characters to life,
making me feel for them. Hines cleverly took well known
stories and transformed them into an epic tale filled with
girl power. Now I plan to read this series' previous
books as well as the next one because The Mermaid's
Madness is now officially on my favorite books
list.

Reviewed by a young adult student reviewer
Flamingnet Book Reviews
Teen books reviewed by teen reviewers
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 14, 2009
The second Princess book, and another great one. While part of the fun of these books is the fairy tale twisting, most of the fun comes from them just plain being a good read. The characters and plot are real, pulled from the scant images we get from fairy tale readings. I'm looking forward to the next one.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 31, 2009
...The more convincingly real the characters must be. This book does it quite well.

I've read Goblin Quest by the same author and found it fun, so I thought I would try something from his other series. So I picked up The Mermaid's Madness.

And it is a series. Surprisingly, it seems to be written episodically rather than as a serial, which makes me a little happier every time I run across it. It works with The Dresden Files and It works here too. I didn't feel lost by starting "in the middle" at all.

I really, really liked the re-envisioning of "the Little Mermaid." I am familiar with the original bloody tale and I found this new take with its slight twist and liberal dose of intrigue-mixed action rather fun. Main characters weren't obnoxious... The villain had read the Evil Overlord's Not to Do list... Pacing was nicely done... It all added up to a book that I had a harder and harder time putting down.

Snow (Snow White) was by far my least favorite part of the book. For a sorceress, she sure seemed to have big problems focusing... especially if some fine looking example of the male of the species came wandering around. I found that whole trope a little overdone by the middle of the book. I also thanked all the muses of writing that by the end it added a measure of awkwardness to offset it. I also have the feeling that someone (preferably Talia) always needs to be around to knock sense into her at times.

Lannadae was also somewhat irksome, albeit in a much smaller way. She had just a little too much of the "damsel in distress" coupled with a lot of naivete about her for me to enjoy her presence overmuch.

Lirea (the Little Mermaid) by contrast be came more and more interesting as the story progressed. She read less and less like a single minded raging creature of vengeance and more like a creature deserving of caution laced with a profound sense of pity for the trials she had been put through. At some point I stopped hoping that Talia would beat her skull in and rather that Lirea would be locked into a padded room wearing a jacket with very long sleeves. And to top it all off, I didn't feel like I was being led by the nose to come to this conclusion, that Lirea's parts were written convincingly enough for me to feel sorry for her.

The over arching plot was cleverly done, as I said before. I always enjoy it when I'm kept guessing about who exactly is the one pulling the strings until at least halfway through the book. I really liked how a lot of the villain's motivations were bound up and through a certain abalone knife.

I liked the other two of the super girl power trio a lot better. Danielle's (Cinderella's) adventures as meshed in with her new position as Princess of the Realm really worked. I appreciated the politicking that occurred as fallout from incidents in the storyline. I also found the small quiet moments where she spent time with Jakob and Armand delicately sweet. They balanced out the butt-kicking parts nicely. Congratulations Mister Hines, you win an internet for featuring a married woman with a small child as a strong, butt-kicking protagonist who goes and has adventures as part of her job. It happens so rarely in the books I read that I feel it necessary to comment on it and encourage it when I find it.

And then there's Talia... Of all the super girl power trio, she is by far the best written. Clearly some work and research was put forwards to accomplish this balance between strength and vulnerability. I loved how she swung back and forth between the two and how steady of a character she seemed overall. It was awesome to read her past's effect on her and how she dealt with it. I'm actually amazed that she trusted anyone at all, considering her past. That she was able to do so with help was awesome in and of itself.

I will likely go pick up the next book in this series. And I'll likely enjoy it too.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
In The Stepsister Scheme, Jim Hines introduced us, or rather, re-introduced us, to three of the best-known fairy-tale characters: Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty, known respectively in the book as Snow, Danielle, and Talia. When Talia used her deadly fighting skills to save Danielle from a murderous attack by one of Danielle's step-sisters, then joins with Danielle (wielding a glass sword) and Snow White (wielding mirror magic learned at her evil stepmother's hands) to rescue Danielle's kidnapped husband, Prince Armand, you knew this was not your father's fairy-tale.
Now Hines, and his three "kick-ass heroines" are back in The Mermaid's Madness, which, as the name implies, spins out of the tale of the little mermaid who fell in love with a human and then sacrificed herself for him. "Yeah, right" says Hines, who keeps the mermaid, the love, and the human, but this mermaid--Lirea-- is just a little mad (OK, a lot mad). She has killed her human lover, her father, one sister and is seeking the other; she carries a knife that can suck the soul from one's body, is leading the merfolk (undines) into war against humanity, and comes with a grandmother who has been practicing powerful magic for centuries and who has her own schemes within schemes that may or may not include curing her granddaughter's insanity. Oh yeah, and Lirea has severed Queen Beatrice's (role model and deeply loved mother figure to all three heroines) body from her soul, giving Snow, Danielle, and Talia about two weeks max to find a cure for Beatrice and a solution to Lirea.
The story starts out with a bang with Lirea's sudden attack and Beatrice's possibly mortal injury. It slows somewhat after that and I admit to wishing it had a faster pace/a bit more action in the first third. There is a lot of traveling from place to place, which partly contributes to the slow pace, and the traveling is done via ship, which also doesn't help--shipboard settings don't offer a lot of potential for action. And because this is happening in near real-time due to the two-week deadline (no pun intended, well, maybe intended), Hines can't be as selective in what he shows as he was in The Stepsister Scheme, where he could move three weeks along in a sentence or two. Here, he pretty much has to show us everything. But the story picks up in the middle third and then becomes extremely fast-paced and active in the latter part.
What compensates (mostly) for the lack of fast-paced action in the beginning is the same strong characterization that made The Stepsister Scheme such an original re-use of the source material. As in the first book, Talia is the most compelling of the three: her barely-controlled violence, her dark background, and, in this book, the blooming revelation that she is in love with Snow all coalesce into a character whose presence greatly increases the tension and intensity of any scene. Snow is also well-developed throughout as she wrestles with her use of magic--its inherent dangers and temptations--, her sense of self (particularly in comparison to her stepmother), and the discovery of Talia's feelings. Danielle isn't quite as strong a presence as the other two, partially for the simple reasons that her talent--speaking with animals--is neither as flashy as Talia's fighting skills and Snow's magic nor is it always at hand as with the other two. That said, she has perhaps a more subtle growth than the other two as she starts to further assert her political rather than magical powers--her role as Princess and future queen of an entire country.
The Mermaid's Madness comes to a resolution of its particular crisis, so can be read as a stand-alone, but it also sets up many questions for future works. As Talia says to Danielle at one point--"just because your story had a happy ending, it doesn't mean everyone's does." And that's true here as well. As mentioned in my review of The Stepsister Scheme, Hines is working with these fairy tales more in their original darker colorations--the real Grimm tales--as opposed to the pastel of Disney or Perrault. There are dark issues underlying all the light-hearted romping going on in The Mermaid's Madness and the ending, while resolved, can't be written off as nicely happy. It's Hines' mix of the light and the dark and the familiar and original, that make this such an engaging series. Recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Casting the Little Mermaid of legend--one of the more tragic and sweet figures of fairy tale history--as an antagonist was a bold move, and one that Hines carries off amazingly well. Her tale is far more complex and interesting than you might expect, and provides the perfect backdrop for our familiar princess trio from the last book.

The characterizations are, as before, gorgeous. Danielle's attempts to cope with going from servant to princess are at times beautiful, sad, and funny. Snow's powers come into play more strongly in this tale, and we get to find out some truly horrifying things about how she was raised and why she's a little messed up in certain ways. As for Talia, while in some ways she always seems to try to fade into the background, her unrequited feelings of love for another (sorry to be circumspect, but anyone who hasn't read the first book shouldn't have it spoiled for them) are a thread that wends throughout this entire book.

I'm impressed by the author's ability to balance humor and tragedy. Lirea's tale is truly tragic; Queen Bea's situation creates a ton of tension; Talia's feelings are incredibly sad. Yet Hines can still weave fantastically creative humor (the dryad and her ship blew me away) and [...]-kicking action into the mix without unbalancing things at all. Add on top of that a complex plot with plenty of surprises in store, and it's hard to go wrong with this book!

[Review book provided courtesy of publisher]
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 28, 2009
Just finished reading this book last night, and WOW, what a good book. I was on pins and needles throughout the whole exciting book. Jim has the amazing ability to bring three of our favorite Fair-Tale Princesses, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella to realistic life, only in his books these girls are now called, Snow, Talia and Danielle. This book to me is better than the first, because our girl's personalities are becoming more announced, and we also learn more about they're past and possilbility's of they're lives in future books. This book is about the story of Lirea, the little Mermaid. I won't go into a synopsis because other reviewers have, but I was blown away at the ending of the book. I will never see the story the same way again. Can't wait for the third book of this series, but I have to wait another whole year. Called Hood's Revenge it should be very exciting, if you want excitement,humor and a little sadness with your Fairie Tales read these books, you will be glad that you did.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
When the princesses travel by ship to the kingdom of the mermen and mermaids, the Queen is attacked by a mermaid princess. The Queen's body is badly wounded, but her soul has left. As Danielle, Snow, and Talia rush to save their beloved Queen, they must hunt down the mermaid and recover her magical knife that has somehow captured the soul of the Queen. But the little mermaid has a story of her own, and it's quite different than what the storybooks say.

In the The Stepsister Scheme, we are introduced to Danielle Whiteshore (Cinderella), Talia (Sleeping Beauty) and Snow (White). The three princesses have a much darker history than the stories say. They aren't princesses that need rescuing. Each has their own gifts and abilities to save themselves, and those they love. When their mother-figure, the Queen, is in mortal peril, the princesses once again show sterner stuff.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, even more than the first. With a huge twist on the Little Mermaid story, the princesses stand up against the dangers of the sea as well as odd magic from a legendary sea witch. Steeped in adventure and danger, this dark fairytale is like no other. And a huge twist in the story had me at the edge of my seat until the very end. Fantasy and fairytale fans beware; you'll be hooked on this mermaid's tale.
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