Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Mermaids’ Tea Party

Novelette by Samantha Henderson.
Read for PodCastle by Tina Connolly
Originally in Helix, free online

Cassandra is a little girl, the only survivor of a shipwreck. Rescued by sinister, bored mermaids who put her on an island with a pirate, at their mercy for food. She doesn't know whether she can trust the pirate, but she is absolutely sure she can't trust the mermaids. They want her to help them throw a tea party. And if they get bored, they're likely to kill her.

A coming-of-age story about a girl disappointed in the lack of fantastic creatures, who gets something much less Disney than what she might she might have hoped. Also the story of how rich men can be terrible people, and pirates might not be so bad. The ending is semi-ambiguous, but it is pretty clear what Cassandra is going to do. It's a straightforward story, unsurprising once you get the setting and all the pieces into place, but still suspenseful.

The writing and narration are excellent, the characters well-drawn, particularly Jack the Pirate, who has been stranded too long, gone a bit crazy, and only barely hanging on to his morality, but nonetheless hanging on, despite stress and loneliness, where other men (like Cassandra's father) are likely to fail. And Connolly's reading is great, particularly the accents. It lends the right tone to the darker scenes that really build the characters and the tense humor of the tea party itself, my favorite scene involving mermaids that I've ever read.
3.5 fishy bitches out of 5.

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