*THE FOLLOWING REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS*
I liked this book, I really did. It’s a fast paced read, and I finished it in two sittings.
This wonderful story grabbed me from page one; it was my first fairy tale retelling (but not the last) and it wasn’t what I was expecting; I loved the fact that I couldn’t predict what was going to happen. As I passed the pages, I couldn’t help thinking “This can’t have a happy ending for everyone”. Things only went from bad to worse, and I just couldn’t figure out how that could turn out well for everyone. And I needed to keep reading.
Midnight Pearls tells the story of a very unusual girl named Pearl, rescued as a child by her adoptive father, a fisher who caught her in his nets during a terrible storm in the ocean. From the very start, he and his wife knew the girl wasn’t ordinary. Her skin and her hair were too pale, and her eyes, too black-blue, like the ocean itself. Years later, her parents want her to have a life, to get married and have children, but she doesn’t feel like she’s destined to lead a normal existence. She has strange dreams and nightmares, and feels the ocean calling her, like a strange, singing voice no one but her can hear. No one seems to understand her longing, except for one person: her only friend, James, Prince of Aster, who deals with his own problems at the castle, with treacherous relatives who wants to seize the throne and have the royal family killed.
On the other hand, we meet Faye and Kale, two royals from the mer-kin, who, upon exploring a sunken ship, come across Pearl and James, and realize she is Adriana, the long lost princess of their kind, who, one day years ago, simply vanished, and nobody heard from her again, and to whom Kale has been betrothed since forever. Saving their lives after one of Faye’s spines pierces their boat and sinks it, they both separately made the decision to visit the evil Sea Witch, to be turned into humans, so they can find their true loves. The Witch grants their desire, but at a price. She takes Faye’s voice and Kale’s sight as her fee, the only thing that connects them to James and Pearl, respectively, giving them only one week to be accepted by them, or die, losing their souls forever.
I felt the love stories were a little bit hard to believe. I know it’s a fairy tale, and in them, true love grows quickly and lasts forever. And it was ok with James and Faye’s love, because the obvious ending for this story would have been James saying he had loved Pearl for years, but was to afraid to tell her so, and all that… Faye and James’ story was lovely, and I truly enjoyed it. But... I just couldn’t do the same with Pearl and Kale’s love. I mean, how could they love each other so much, if Pearl disappeared when she was four, a mere child who couldn’t understand what being in love means? I get that she considered him a madman upon their first meeting, because a half-naked, blind stranger saying that he loves her, has looked for her for years, and kisses her like his whole life had only that purpose, only could lead to such consideration. But even regaining her memories, knowing who she is, and confronting the Sea Witch… I just couldn’t believe she loved Kale. She didn’t even know him, except for the memories from her childhood days, which I simply don’t think they were enough to build such a deep love.
I loved Pearl, overall. I loved her determination to discover who she was, and why the ocean called her, but frightened her at the same time. She struggles to find herself, her true identity, and she never stops asking the questions that haunt her, in an attempt to soothe the need, the hunger of her soul. She wants to belong, to be free… To get rid of that something that forever held her back, and made her feel like a stranger, everything that revealed she was a mermaid walking among humans, and that she would never feel at home, nor in the village, nor in the palace. And when she finally finds out her true self, her heritage, and her love, she fights for it, because she will never allow anyone take it from her again. I love her for that, I always love a heroine who goes to find her happy ending instead of waiting for it or letting things get solved instead, as I [sadly] read in other books.
It’s a four stars for me, and I definitely read the rest of the retellings, that’s for sure!