Being a writer changes a lot of things in my life, including how I read a book. I can’t read the same way I could before I started writing ‘in earnest’ for lack of a better phrase. I judge books differently too. These days when I’m finished a book and it’s time for me to assess what I thought of it I tend to ask myself questions beyond ‘Did I like it?’. Did I enjoy my time spend within its pages? Was I able to suspend my disbelief throughout its entirety? Did it make me think? Was it well-written? Were the characters real? Did they grow?
In the case of The Mermaid’s Madness the answer to those questions, for the most part, was yes.
Okay, biases out on the table, I adore Jim C. Hines. I like him as a person, a blogger and a writer. Thus far I’ve enjoyed every novel of his that I’ve read and I’ve paid (via charity auction) for him to critique my work. That’s a double-edged thing though, really, because while it means while I was pre-disposed to like The Mermaid’s Madness, I also had high expectations that could easily have been disappointed.
They weren’t though. Yay!
The Mermaid’s Madness is the second in Jim’s princess books, the first being The Stepsister Scheme. I thought this was a great book and enjoyed it more than I did the first. It had a darker feeling to it than The Stepsister Scheme, which could well be one reason I liked it better, but I think there’s more to it than that.
The characters were very real, three dimensional beings who grew and developed over the course of the story. Jim built on what he’d started in the first book and made it even better. This is where I find it difficult to really make points without giving things away…so forgive my vagueness.
One of my favorite things about this novel is that actions had consequences. The consequences from the first book weren’t simply forgotten, they carried over and touched this one. Not heavily really (except in one case…man I suck at vagueness), but they were there — just like in real life. I can’t abide stories where everything works out well in the end and everyone lives happily ever with nothing changing except for the better, blah blah blah. That is great for children’s tales…I suppose…maybe…in pre-school…occasionally… /digression . Happily, Jim doesn’t do that. Bad things happen, and they can’t just be made better by waving a magic wand or kissing the prince. I like that.
That’s not to say I think this book was perfect. In a couple places in action scenes I got a little bit lost and had to read back to re-imagine the scene and exactly what was happening, and I struggled a bit with suspending my disbelief at how quickly some people recovered from…things (stupid vagueness). Occasionally people seemed to have supernatural endurance/recovery powers that didn’t fit with what I thought probable, that sort of thing. But I wasn’t bothered enough by those things to set down the book or even slow my reading.
On a pseudo-related note, no matter how hard I’ve tried (and I have tried) the Danielle in my mind doesn’t even come close to matching the Danielle on the cover. Not. Even. Close. I’ve given up on making the two match and I’m just going to enjoy how Danielle looks in my imagination.
Right, back on track.
The Mermaid’s Madness made me think, about lots of things. Stuff like reprecussions, character growth, real emotion and magic. Quite specifically about magic, magic systems and mechanics. I had a few revelations related to my own writing that was sparked by thoughts about The Mermaid’s Madness. This, as you can imagine, makes me happy.
I also enjoyed the ending, and the way Jim has started subtle mysteries in this novel I look forward to seeing how they develop in the next book…though waiting for it to come out may be painful. What do you suppose the chances are of my picking up an ARC of it before its release date?