Thank you to the author for providing this novel in exchange for an honest review!
Genre(s): Fantasy, Romance
Series: These Treacherous Tides #1, Stand-Alone
Publisher: Self Published
Release date: July 26th, 2018
/r/Fantasy Bingo Squares: Disability (HM), Self Published, Ocean Setting (HM), #Ownvoices (HM)
‘These humans make a good, loyal pod. I won’t let anything happen to them, no matter the cost. But I won’t stand by while my own kind are hurt, either. I will swim this cove in peace for as long as I wish, and open our pod to all who need sanctuary, siren or human.
And no one will stop me, least of all Kian.’
This book was super cute and super fun. Our Bloody Pearl sits on the cusp between YA and adult fantasy, somewhat similar in this regard to authors like Mercedes Lackey or Brandon Sanderson – albeit completely different in terms of themes and style. If you want an easy weekend read featuring murder mermaids (!!!), a kind and caring found family (!!!!), and an adorable ace romance (!!!!!), then this is absolutely the book for you! All of these things are completely my catnip, and I’m so, so happy that the author reached out to me offering a review copy since it might not have made it onto my radar otherwise. There’s even wonderful representation of disability and disability accommodations!
Perl, of course, is the titular murder mermaid – Our Bloody Pearl. They are a siren who was captured by an abusive and evil pirate named Kian, trapped in a small tub with their tail crushed to prevent escape. When another pirate, Dejean, attacks and overcomes Kian’s ship, Perl finds themself in very a different set of circumstances. Initially, they’re in a “don’t bite the hand that feeds me” mindset. They recognizes that they need Dejean to heal from the physical damage Kian inflicted on them, and they don’t want to jeopardize this. However, as the two grow closer, they gradually find that they genuinely enjoy his company.
I loved that Bryn kept Perl as the point of view throughout the entire book. Initially, I expected this to swap between them and Dejean. Perl’s voice is a wonderful lens, and it was pleasantly refreshing to see the full story through their perspective. This was especially true as they worked with Dejean and Murielle after it becomes apparent that their spine, and therefore their tail, is permanently damaged and paralyzed; as the realization that they will never again be the way they once were washes over them, Perl’s horror and panic comes through in a way it couldn’t if the perspectives were split. Additionally, it’s not lessened or mitigated by the sympathy or pity of another viewpoint.
‘Murielle shaped it like a fin, made from the same soft fabric and lightweight metal-like material she used for the framework of the brace. It holds my dead and mangled fin within it, and if I pull strings in the upper parts of my brace, the fake appendage opens and closes as mine would.
But it’s not my fin.
It’s a dull machine meant to replace it, and I can’t look at it and see anything but harsh ridges and unnatural shapes. It makes me yearn for my old tail; makes me feel emptier instead of fuller. But more than wanting my own fin to work and function as it once did, I want to function in the body I have now, without trying to change myself into an imitation of what I was before. If I change something, I want it to be the ocean, not me.’
As mentioned earlier, this is in fact an ace romance novel (and yes, it DOES have a happily ever after!). I thought it was great to see the two of them learning both to literally communicate by developing a personal sign language together as well as learning to communicate with each other on a personal level. The two of them come from such completely different backgrounds that it’s hard to believe they’d have much in common… and yet, they find that they really aren’t so different after all. They both care about one another with their whole hearts, and their love of the sea and desire for peace between humans and sirens overcomes everything else.
‘I don’t want to let him go. I want to keep him close, to sing to him until he smiles and the twinkle returns to his eyes, to tell him my fears and hear him say that he’ll stand by me while I face them. My chest tightens, my fingers responding in a like motion.’
Bryn’s writing pulls you straight down into the briny depths, singing their sirens to life. Although I found it a little purple and forced in the first chapter, this quickly mellowed out into more natural and easily digested writing without any loss in description or charm. If you’re worried about this feeling dry or workmanlike, rest assured that your concerns are baseless.
The pacing, too, is excellent. The book moved forward at a good clip, neither skipping over important scenes nor falling into a slog. This book moved forward fluidly, with professional attention to ensuring each scene had sufficient weight and interest for a reader. This allowed the romantic aspects of the book to truly shine; I was fully invested in Perl and Dejean’s relationship by the end!
There were a few aspects to this book that did not work as well for me. Fortunately, these were largely peripheral to the main plotlines and did not have much of an impact on my enjoyment of the novel. I was really confused about how the ships in this book worked – there are several scenes where I think they… fly? Maybe? It was really unclear as a reader just what was going on. Additionally, there’s an odd blend of steampunk and magic going on that’s not really explained in a satisfactory way. I don’t necessarily need a hard science system where everything is gone over in granular detail, but I did feel this was glossed over a bit too much. It was sometimes distracting when I had to reread a paragraph or page to try to figure out what was going on.
The magic and steampunk bits not being explained ultimately didn’t really matter, since they weren’t really “the point” of the book. Much more important were the interactions between Dejean, Perl, and Murielle as they ceased to be strangers and became a true, wonderful, found family. Between these aspects, the excellent representation of ace romance, disability, and nonbinary gender… I seriously enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it to anyone seeking out these particular tropes and character aspects. It’s just got such a big ol’ heart.
Recommended for fans of:
- The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells
- Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
- Los Nefilim by T Frohock
Have you read this book? What did you think? Do you have any questions about it?
Let me know in the comments below!