As you read the reviews on Bookshop Talk, you'll notice that every review is positive. No, we're not a bunch of literary
pushovers who love everything we pick up; we just see no point in telling you about a book if we didn't like it.

January 5, 2011

MIDNIGHT PEARLS by Debbie Viguié, 2003

Midnight Pearls: A Retelling of "The Little Mermaid" (Once Upon a Time)
In a quiet fishing village seventeen years ago, one lone fisherman rescued a child from the sea. He and his wife raised the girl, Pearl, as their own daughter, never allowing themselves to wonder long about where she came from -- or notice her silver hair, usually pale skin, and wide, dark blue eyes. Pearl grows from a mysterious child into an unusual young woman, not always welcomed in the village. As all the other girls her age find husbands, she has only one friend to ease her loneliness. One very special, secret companion: Prince James. But their friendship is shaken when trouble erupts in the kingdom -- a conspiracy against the royal family combines with an evil enchantment from beneath the sea. Now, just when Pearl and James need each other most, bewitching magic and hints about Pearl's past threaten to tear them apart...forever.  (Amazon product description)

Review by Natalie Gorna, Movie and Book reviewer for the Fresno Examiner

The Little Mermaid is one of my favorite fairy tales by Hans Christian Andersen.  I was pleasantly surprised to come across a new version of this poignant story in Midnight Pearls.  Of course, the plot has been deepened until you can only see a vague outline of The Little MermaidMidnight Pearls is a fairy tale in its own right.  Nevertheless, mermaids and mermen are featured in great detail together with the famous (or infamous) prince and, of course, the little mermaid herself.

Finally, the main characters have names and defined characteristics.  Pearl is the little mermaid, and her physical description matches her name perfectly.  She has a different reason for being on land instead of under the sea, although the author creates a mystery on the spot by Pearl's ignorance of that reason.  Pearl has had an identity crisis all her life, ever since she was rescued by her adoptive parents.  The way she is treated by the villagers only contributes to her sense of feeling lost.  Pearl feels very human, and yet, she feels that she is not.  Afraid of the sea and afraid of the land, she doesn't know where she belongs.  In spite of that, she is still a typical teenager in the midst of a changing relationship with her best friend, the prince.  That is exactly where Midnight Pearls picks up and becomes even more interesting. 

The prince is Prince James.  However, he has a personality and more noble feelings, unlike his counterpart in The Little Mermaid, and he's been best friends with Pearl ever since he felt the need to escape the cage of his royal life.  The combination of a prince who doesn't want to be a prince and a girl who doesn't know she's a mermaid create the necessary suspense to propel the story forward.    The truth behind Pearl's past and all other secrets in the plot are eventually revealed without spoiling the way the author propagates her idea of how the tale of The Little Mermaid may have developed into its current version.  Moreover, Debbie Viguié's narrative is very, very romantic; she has numerous love triangles and she emphasizes the power of true love very strongly with the love scenes (nothing graphic or overly sentimental) and almost-love scenes between her main characters, both mer-people and humans.

Midnight Pearls is a romance with adventure and genuine characters, and together they comprise a solid background for this soulful re-imagining of The Little Mermaid.    It was unjust in the original that the little mermaid died while her beloved prince lived "happily ever after," unaware of her sacrifice and devotion.  I was secretly pleased that Andersen's themes of death and mortality were left out of Viguié's retelling, and only the immortality of love was kept as a viable concept that heightens the novel's happy ending for all romantic couples.  While perhaps not as serious as its predecessor, Midnight Pearls re-opens the undersea world of the mer-people once again and unites them with humans in a memorable fantasy. 

Market: Young Adult
Language: None
Sensuality: Moderate
Violence: Mild
Mature Themes: Identity, prejudice

Book formats:
Midnight Pearls: A Retelling of "The Little Mermaid" (Once Upon a Time) (paperback)
Midnight Pearls (e-book)

To learn more about the author, visit: Debbie Viguié


Kim said...

This book looks right up my alley! I love fairy tale retellings.

Amoniel said...

Interesting, I have always loved Fairytale remakes :)

liberavis said...

I also love fairy tale retellings. This one is unusual, since The Little Mermaid has not been retold as a novel often. I'm always delighted to see how different writers can re-imagine classics like fairy tales. Especially a tragic story like The Little Mermaid. Midnight Pearls is definitely a good read.

Anonymous said...

I am OBSESSED with the entire Once Upon a Time series!!! There are 19 (I believe) in all. They are seriously some of the best retoled fairy tales out there!! I would recommend Before Midnight (Cinderella), The Night Dance (12 Dancing Princesses) and Golden (Rapunzel), as well as Midnight Pearls, which was the book that started me on being so crazy about all of them!
Seriously!! Right now! Go read them!!! They are short, quick and oh so good!

Unknown said...

I have always wanted to read this book!! The Idea Room sent me over here and this is one I would love to read!!