Drown: A Twisted Take on the Classic Fairy Tale


Drown: A Twisted Take on the Classic Fairy Tale
By Esther Dalseno
Publisher: 3 Little Birds
ISBN13: 9783000505409
Pages: 260
Genre: Fantasy/Retelling

Book Blurb:

Seven emotionless princesses.
Three ghostly sirens.
A beautiful, malicious witch haunted by memories.
A handsome, self-mutilating prince.

Belonging to a race that is mostly animal with little humanity, a world obsessed with beauty where morality holds no sway, a little mermaid escapes to the ocean’s surface. Discovering music, a magnificent palace of glass and limestone, and a troubled human prince, she is driven by love to consult the elusive sea-witch who secretly dominates the entire species of merfolk. Upon paying an enormous price for her humanity, the little mermaid begins a new life, uncovering secrets of sexuality and the Immortal Soul. As a deadly virus threatens to contaminate the bloodstreams of the whole merfolk race, the little mermaid must choose between the lives of her people, the man she loves, or herself.

A complete reinvention of Hans Christian Andersen’s classic fairy tale, this is a magical-realist fable that captures the essence of sacrifice and the price of humanity.


I am unsure as to where I should actually start with this one. I am conflicting internally on how to present this review for various reasons. I want to convey my exact concerns and loves about this story without deterring others or promising too much. Openly, this will not work for everyone. But as the same holds true for all books, that is acceptable. After all, no matter how many times we say it, it will never be more true. Reading is an individualized experience.

Drown is a retelling that has managed to continue with the very format and style that effectively made so many beloved childhood stories exactly that. Loved. There is a certain amount of elegance and poeticness to the writing that contributes a great amount to what makes every page feel like an actual fairy tale. There is an air about this story that is reminiscent of childhood books and comfortingly familiar. However, I feel this style of writing will not agree with everyone. It is heavily descriptive and somewhat elaborate at times. Personally, I felt it held true to all that encompasses real fairy tales.

The story that is being retold is that of The Little Mermaid. Aside from countless children’s films and books that all seemed to follow suit with Disney’s rendition as opposed to Hans Christian Andersen’s, this was my first true encounter of an actual retelling. In fact, this was my first mermaid oriented book. I did not hold particular expectations as I approached this title. I was excitedly jumping into the “deep” unknown. And it is beautiful. As I mentioned above, the writing leaves little to be desired. The story, as it always has been, is one of passion, seeking out that of which the heart wants and the sacrifices we make. Interpret how you will, it is one of the few love stories I will always hold dear. But this one has been contorted.

“I brought you here to tell you this: sometimes what we are searching for does not exist. We may sacrifice for it, even bleed for it, but it was never meant to be ours.”
― Esther Dalseno, Drown

With its gorgeous cover art and fitting title, Drown offers up a new side to this classic tale. Serving a  twisted and dark version as implied. And it is very savory. Perhaps what drew me in the best was the rich and depressing lore behind the Sea Witch and how the merfolk came to be. Their very existence is defined and portrayed in a vain and almost sinister manner that sheds new light on a once happy and enticing tale. The author has managed to dehumanize and paint this race in an extreme contrast to humans and the land above.

“Everybody made faces around here. Human beings, she discovered, could not maintain the stony, frozen expressions of the merfolk, not for an instant. There was not a moment where their faces remained blank. There was always a light in their eye, and the light, like red wind, would flare into a raging fire without notice.”
― Esther Dalseno, Drown

While Drown is not terrifying (although at times I swore I would never swim in the ocean again), it is full of bleak and dismal moments, leaving behind all traces of the gleeful and lightheartedness that we have originally associated with our little mermaid’s story. And with that, the story has been transformed. I do believe some may struggle to find a true appreciation with this transformation though. As I admittedly did in the beginning. Holding so very true to the original concept at times, it almost read as a classic veiled within a shadow. But as the story progressed I was able to recognize just how much more was happening.

I am refraining from revealing too much, as it is the sheer unexpectedness of it all that seems to tie this story together so skillfully in the end. Do not mistake this for your childhood favorite. This is for fans seeking out an incredibly raw spin on the classic as it was told by Hans Christian Andersen.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 1/2

Purchase Drown: A Twisted take on a Classic Fairy Tale



57 thoughts on “Drown: A Twisted Take on the Classic Fairy Tale

  1. I’ve never read a retelling of The Little Mermaid. I loved the movie as a kid and still do. It sounds like the Christina Henry Alice version of The Little Mermaid. Having read both books, would you say this one has that sort of vibe? I’d read it just because I’ve never read a retelling of that story and your review has piqued my interest. Nice review! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I would say they are similar only in the added level of darkness. Although, Henry’s Alice is much more gruesome for sure! Alice was a retelling that created an entirely new spin, while Drwon certainly holds much truer to the original tale of The Little Mermaid and changes certain elements.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. I am really just trying to keep people in mind of the fact that while this is a retelling, it isn’t a new story per say. Not sure that make sense? There are a few welcomed twists and turns but the author also held tru to a lot of the original story.. ahhh damn it this one. Still on the fence haha.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Lovely review Danielle! This sounds like a eerie book but I’m not too fond of books having too much description. Yes description of a story is important, however there are some books that go overboard. I also feel like these underwater/mermaid themed books are never done well. I haven’t seen one of these under the sea books be given a full 5stars.

    By the way, I love the way you write your reviews. You should aspire to write a book or something one day lol.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. *blushing* seriously, haha stop. Thank you so much ❤ I was going to make a comment about being a reader so I don't write.. putting a nice little spin on the twitter conversation, but no one would get it probably 😉 This was decent, but you are right. Sometimes the descriptiveness gets carried away and pulls too much from the actual story. I had that problem with The Bone Witch 😦

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I think I’m one of those who like the stark contrast of retelling being completely different from the original, as long as it is still in some way recognizable to the original. When I think about a Mermaid retelling, all that pops up in my head is that ancient movie ;-). I’ve never considered The Little Mermaid as a retelling but I see the potential now and your review does sound very intriguing! So when are you writing your own book?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Excellent review Danielle, especially since not everyone is big on descriptive writing or for that matter fantasy re-tellings that veer far from the original. I myself can enjoy some authors descriptive/lush writing when it’s used to describe a world so rich it can be considered a character in and of itself. However, not too many can pull this off and it can quickly lead me to boredom if too drawn out. When I 1st heard of Drown & it being a Little Mermaid, I figured it would be hella dark but was unsure as to whether it would be a book I’d enjoy…still wondering LOL! but your review definitely brings clarity 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is under 300 pages and I believe you can still snag the ebook for about 3.00 😉 Might be worth having a look at. I don’t think the descriptive narration was droning, but more building as you mentioned. In fact after all this feedback and rereading my review, it isn’t even as heavy as I may have implied. Let me know if you decide to read through it. For me it was in the ending, but I cannot talk about that haha.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I love your review, it’s great! I also love this cover, it’s so different but beautiful at the same time. I’ve never read a re-telling story, but I adore The Little Mermaid even though this is a darker version it might be interesting!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Yes! A HCA-style retelling. I can’t even recount the number of times I’ve had to explain how The Little Mermaid *really* ends to people. The never believe me and have to go read it for themselves (which I would never discourage)– I’ve read a new Little Mermaid retellings and they have never been the same level of dark. I’ll certainly have to check this out. Thanks!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I was about to make a similar comment here. I read the original for the first time about 6 years ago. Or well, I listened to the audiobook and just while I was drifting off to sleep, the ending was there and I was like…WHAT?! *Rewinds frantically* SO depressing. But not all fairy tales can have a happy ending!

      Liked by 2 people

        1. Fascinating! They were certainly intended to teach them some solid morals. If a beggar comes up to me asking for some change, I give it to him, no doubt. Lord knows what’ll happen if I don’t! (=getting stabbed in this world; being turned into a frog until some guy decides I’m worthy of kissing in a fictional world)

          Liked by 1 person

  7. Ohh, I love The Little Mermaid! But I haven’t read it, only watched it… so maybe… I don’t know if I’d like this one haha Or maybe yes, maybe I’ll be surprised 😛

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This is strange, but out of Andersen’s fairy tales The Little Mermaid was my least favorite… but I have a feeling I would enjoy this retelling… even though re-tellings can be really touch and go… 🙂 Great review as always, you never fail a bookworm looking for their next victim for the TBR pile 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  9. You already had me with ‘A handsome, self-mutilating prince.’ 😉 The Little Mermaid is definitely one of the darker fairy tales originally (together with the Little Matchstick Girl, now what was up with THAT?!), so I’m definitely interested in reading a dark retelling of an already dark story. Overly descriptiveness doesn’t bother me usually, so I might pick this up some day! Great review darling!! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Great review! First of all, I love the book’s name, it says right away you must expect a kind of darkness and no happy fishes singing under the water. I am not a big fan of fairy tales or retellings, but it’s nice that the author managed to keep the particular writing style used in the genre to tell his tale.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I’ve never read a Little Mermaid retelling, it’s so neat that there is one. I also love the whole idea that it’s a dark and twisted retelling. There are so many lighter retellings of fairy tales out there and I don’t think I ever came across a darker one until I started blogging and being recommended them. I’ll have to give this one a read myself one of these days. Great review! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

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