Title: The Mermaids Melt at Dawn
Author: Grendolyn Peach Soleil
Publication date: July 19, 2020
Genre: Fairy Tales, Folklore, Mythology, Fantasy
One Sentence Summary: Deep in the bayou, Rok is a rowdy Cajun boy who was raised on the stories of the mermaids of Barbiche Island, who hold their own terrible stories.
While dragons will always be my favorite mythological creature, mermaids come in at a very close second. From beautiful and sweet to ugly and terrible, the stories about them kind of run the gamut. As soon as I saw the title of this one, I couldn’t resist. Add in mythology and folklore and Poseidon and I was hooked. I was actually antsy to start The Mermaids Melt at Dawn and I was not disappointed.
The Writing: Pure Magic
My goodness, the writing! Soleil managed to perfectly capture the beauty, the nature, the words of spun silver that epitomize fairy tales. It’s dreamy and flowery, but fits the story so perfectly it’s almost possible to believe this really is a fairy tale. The prose is gorgeous, just verging on being overdone. But the words, the phrases, the metaphors, just flow.
The Plot: All About the Mermaids
Told in a series of ten yarns, it centers around the mermaids of Barbiche Island. Within ten stories, the life of Sugar Rok is told from his young wild days of hunting monsters in the bayou to his long journey to demand something of the legendary mermaids. The yarns also tell of the mermaids’ lives and legends surrounding the island.
The Mermaids Melt at Dawn begins in a linear fashion with gorgeous backstories, mythology, and folklore woven in, but transforms into a larger story that revolves around those who call Barbiche Island home. It’s a series of individual stories that create a whole in an incredibly brilliant way that echoes mythology and folklore. While it borrows and twists fairy tales, Greek mythology, and the folklore of the bayou, it manages to create its own dark story that is at once beautifully haunting and detached in the same way the stories of old feel. It brought to life it’s own folklore that could rightly have it’s own place in the halls of time. At some point, it feels less a fictional story and more a real fairy tale.
Each yarn feels more like a self-contained story connected to the larger idea of the legendary mermaids of Barbiche Island, but, put together, they’re a beautiful spiral of a larger, darker story that only adds more mystery and drama while entertaining. It’s an incredible story of a boy who manages to step straight into folktales and mythology. I loved that this is a series of interconnected stories instead of a singular one. It allows room for multiple stories to surround one primary tale in much the same way as mythology, lending an air of credence to the idea that this could be real and there could be an island called Barbiche, and mermaids could be real.
The Mermaids Melt at Dawn is an astounding story, an incredible book filled with even more incredible stories. It’s brilliantly conceptualized, carefully crafted, and masterfully spun to walk the line of truth and fairy tale.
The Characters: Like From a Fairy Tale
The mermaids of Barbiche Island lie at the core of The Mermaids Melt at Dawn. It makes sense considering they are the titular characters. But they well and truly lie at the heart of the story. While the first few yarns focus on Rok and his family, the idea of mermaids granting a wish lies at the core of the family. Rok is a riot of a boy, but his heart, mind, and imagination have been fired by the idea of the mermaids. They drive him forward into time and become tied up in his life.
Rok grew up with his grandparents, one a man and the other descended from mermaids, in the bayou of Louisiana. His life is full of real and imaginary monsters that he recklessly hunts, but only the lure of the mermaids seem truly real to him. He lives a life spun from tales, which prove to be his undoing, but not without the kind of adventure such a rowdy boy deserves. There is also a darkness in his heart, secrets he’d rather keep. But while the adventure and the call of the sirens pull him in, it’s the darkness that forever haunts him and drives him forward.
The mermaids are dazzling, mesmerizing, but have lost the glory Rok sought. Their tale is sad and agonizing, haunting and dark. While one may think of beauty and glittering tails, they hold overpowering shadows in their souls, shadows that have stripped much from them and turned them to the creatures Rok comes to know. They’re cold and twisted, but somehow still sympathetic. Their mythology is at once beautiful and sad, golden and rusted; a perfect fit for the dark yarns The Mermaids Melt at Dawn spin.
The Setting: Spun of Magic
Dark and eerie, but with an unmistakable glimmer, the bayou and Barbiche Island share a kind of magic. Steeped in folklore and mythology, they are the perfect backdrops for the haunting yarns told in The Mermaid Melt at Dawn. They tighten the grip the reader feels, the one that persuades them that these tales are, in fact, real. The magic and mystery are wound up together, forcing the mind to consider that, perhaps, these are not just stories after all.
The mystery of the bayou plays perfectly in the stories. They conjure haunting scenes of monsters and fog, danger and dark laughter, the perfect backdrop for the monsters Rok hunts and for the glittering tales of the mermaids. It’s the world that raises Rok to be who he is, and that propels him out into the world seeking a greater adventure, a more powerful treasure.
Barbiche Island is shrouded in mystery, in danger. It’s unforgiving, unsurprising considering the magic it keeps. A place of mythology, a story, it allows the story to take a more haunting turn as the home of tragedy. It seems beautiful, but it’s just a lure.
The Mermaids Melt at Dawn spins an incredible story. It initially feels rooted, but quickly spirals into something more, something greater, something of mystery and magic. It’s a beautiful story that haunts the heart and just might have one thinking mermaids might be real. It’s a timeless story, one that so well catches the imagination. I adored every yarn, every word. It’s beautifully written and incredibly well conceptualized and executed. I loved the feeling of coming out of it and thinking I’d like to go to Barbiche Island just to see if it might be true.
Great if you enjoy: fairy tales, Greek mythology, folk tales, short stories, mermaids, a new spin on fantasy
Not great if you’re looking for: standard fantasy, a single story
How many cups of tea will you need?
5 cups, definitely
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Thank you to the author, Grendolyn Peach Soleil, for a free e-copy. All opinions expressed are my own