Book Review: Sea Witch

Sea Witch
Published By: Katherine Tegen Books
Publication Date: July 31, 2018
Page Count: 368
Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Publisher via Edelweiss
Young Adult - Fantasy, Fairy Tale Inspired

The Little Mermaid was my favorite Disney movie as a kid. I remember thinking that Ariel was awesome and I wanted to be her, but I never stopped to wonder if she was truly in the right. First, now that I am older and wiser, I realize instalove like the kind between Ariel and Eric isn't realistic. Furthermore, the original tale by Hans Christian Andersen is a lot darker. In addition, I never once felt sorry for Ursula or wanted to know her story when I was a kid, but as an adult, I know that most people aren't born being the villain. Our circumstances and experiences shape who we become. These days I am a lot more interested in knowing what made Ursula tick than just blindly accepting that Ariel is always the one to root for regardless of her poor decision making.

Disney rant aside, I was excited to dive into this story that explains how a witch like Ursula ended up living out her days in a cave on the ocean floor. Henning largely strays from the Disney version and harkens back to the original text for her spin on life under the sea and on the land. I loved Henning's spin on this one.

The story's main character, Evie, lives in a Danish kingdom on the sea. As a child, Evie roamed the coast playing with her best friends, Nik, the prince of the kingdom, and Anna, a beautiful noble. The trio is inseparable until the moment when a tragic dare snatches one of the trio away. Anna's body is never recovered and Evie's heart never repairs. Eventually, Evie picks up the pieces as best she can with Nik's help and begins to find some joy in life once more. Everything changes the day that Annemette comes to town. She looks exactly the way Evie imagines Anna would look at their age. Evie instantly befriends the girl and the pair bonds over their shared magic. As a mermaid, Annemette can perform powerful enchantments. Evie is in awe as her skills as a witch are lacking due to insufficient training. Everything Evie knows is self taught. Annemette soon confesses that she must make Nik fall in love with her and bestow true love's kiss within four days or she will die. Mermaids do not have souls; true love is the only way they can acquire a piece of a soul which allows them to live as a human.

While Annemette's story has some similarities to Ariel, there are many differences that soon become apparent as the story unfolds. Knowing that one of these girls would become the Ursula of my childhood imaginings I kept looking for clues. There were moments when Evie seemed like the obvious choice, but then Annemette would put herself in the running from time to time as well. I won't spoil things for you, but I will say that I was kept guessing on that aspect until the final chapters. 

In addition to the friendship between the girls, I loved the friendship between Evie and Nik. These two are fiercely loyal to one another in spite of their different social stations. The banter between them made me smile and the concern they had for one another tugged at my heart. 

The story unfolds through varying times in the past and present. The past sections allow the reader to understand what truly happened on the tragic day that Anna drowned. I felt a deep connection with Evie as I read that made me more sympathetic to her as the novel progressed.

At its core, this novel focuses on the intricacies of friendship and love. Sadly, both can turn sour if not nurtured in the proper way. It also makes it obvious that sometimes the villain should actually be the one to garner sympathy rather than a headstrong and impulsive leading lady. This novel has me hoping for more retellings from new perspectives.

Seriously, just get yourself a copy of this one. It's the perfect beach read and will make sure that you never look at sea-foam in the same light.

One Last Gripe: I didn't understand why Evie's aunt didn't teach her more about their magic - especially when she knew Evie was up to something.

Favorite Thing About This Book: The setting - I have added Denmark to my bucket list

First Sentence: Two small pairs of boots echoed on the afternoon cobblestones - one pair in a sprint, the other in a stumble and slide.

Favorite Character: Nik, he was often the only constant, but I loved Evie too

Least Favorite Character: Iker

Everyone knows what happens in the end. 
A mermaid, a prince, a true love’s kiss. 
But before that young siren’s tale, there were three friends. 
One feared, one royal, and one already dead. 

Ever since her best friend, Anna, drowned, Evie has been an outcast in her small fishing town. A freak. A curse. A witch. 

 A girl with an uncanny resemblance to Anna appears offshore and, though the girl denies it, Evie is convinced that her best friend actually survived. That her own magic wasn’t so powerless after all. And, as the two girls catch the eyes—and hearts—of two charming princes, Evie believes that she might finally have a chance at her own happily ever after. 

 But her new friend has secrets of her own. She can’t stay in Havnestad, or on two legs, unless Evie finds a way to help her. Now Evie will do anything to save her friend’s humanity, along with her prince’s heart—harnessing the power of her magic, her ocean, and her love until she discovers, too late, the truth of her bargain. 

 The rise of Hans Christian Andersen’s iconic villainess is a heart-wrenching story of friendship, betrayal, and a girl pushed beyond her limits—to become a monster.