Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish, and is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. It’s all about books, lists and sharing the love we have of both with our bookish friends. This week, I’m taking a slightly unorthodox approach to the prompt.
This week, we’ve been asked what books we’d gladly throw in the ocean. I’m not a big fan of prompts that invite us to spend a post ragging on books we’ve disliked, so I figured I could do this one of two ways: I could explain why some authors have been added to my ‘fuck no you don’t get my time’ list, or I could focus on stories about sea creatures that I’ve enjoyed or that intrigue me that could be tossed into the seas as offerings to the merfolk. So hell yes let’s talk about books that the sea peoples might appreciate (assuming the pages didn’t go all mushy) – I’ll leave the negative energy to BookTube.
It’s surely risky inviting the merfolk to read stories about themselves, but these three very different portrayals may at least give them hours of amusement about how wrong stupid humans get things.
The Deep by Rivers Solomon is a haunting tale of inherited trauma, tackling questions of identity and memory and what debts we owe our ancestors. Its merfolk are the descendants of pregnant women thrown overboard by slave traders, whose children were rescued by whales; they understandably hate humans and can summon storms with their rage. It’s a poignant, lyrical tale whose hopeless darkness is eventually brightened by compassion and hope.
Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant may give them dangerous ideas: here the merfolk are mostly interested in eating a ship full of scientists and media people whose safety precautions leave much to be desired. Honestly? I was cheering them on for the most part. Those humans deserved it.
To Kill A Kingdom by Alexandra Christo is a re-imagining of The Little Mermaid (perhaps not a tale that to make a merperson happy) as a bloodthirsty princess who collects princes hearts and keeps them under her bed. The opening concept leads into a swashbuckling adventure of Mediterranean princes and eventually a showdown with the terrifying sea Queen, and if I was slightly disappointed that the siren princess softens her attitudes towards princes, it was still a lot of fun.
Moving on to tales of the perils of the deeps, The Kraken Wakes has always been one of my favourite Wyndham apocalypses: an investigative journalist and her husband build their careers on the back of doggedly following up on strange events at sea; when strange machines emerge from the depths to wipe out coastal towns and sea-level and climate begin to shift, it becomes clear that humanity may be teetering on the edge of extinction. Drowned London and the early scenes involving a diving bell have always stayed with me.
Hold Back the Tide by Melinda Salisbury was one of my favourite reads of 2020: a stand-alone YA horror of creatures released from captivity by the dropping water levels of a remote Scottish loch. Atmospheric and gripping, there’s more than enough water and menace here for it to earn a place on the list even if the monsters do arguably end up being cave creatures rather than marine menaces.
But perhaps we shouldn’t focus too long on tales where humans are pitted against the depths. My last picks are from my TBR, watery tales that I may be misjudging as I haven’t read them yet…
The Blue Salt Road sees Joanne Harris give us a gender-flipped version of the tale of the selkie. Here, a male selkie is drawn into marriage with a human woman and trapped on land with no memory of his people, but an endless longing for the sea (for more fascinating re-imaginings of selkies and other traditional tales, check out Foxfire, Wolfskin by Sharon Blackie).
Song of the Current was Sarah Tolcser’s debut, the first in a duology of river gods and boatmen, pirates and sea creatures that has been well-regarded by enough of my mutuals to entice me.
In The Changeling Sea, Patricia McKillip’s grieving heroine Peri hexes the sea that stole her father and inadvertently summons the Sea-King’s changeling sons, finding an unexpected path to solace. I’ve only ever read McKillip’s Forgotten Beasts of Eld, but I loved its fairytale atmosphere.
Frances Hardinge gives us terrifying sea Gods in Deeplight – all thought to have killed one another, until a boy finds a still-beating heart and gives it to his friend to save his life. But no boy can hold a God’s heart and remain unchanged… This promises to be a riot of world-building and uncanny lore.
Let’s finish with some sirens in Kelly Powell’s Songs from the Deep. Here the sirens haunt the shores, luring the unwary to their deaths – but Moira isn’t convinced they killed the boy whose body is found on the beach. A murder mystery with sirens? Yep, sign me up – I’m sure they didn’t do it, and I love that the heroine likes to play her violin to the sirens.
What tales of sea monsters or merfolk have you enjoyed?