Once upon a time . . . that’s how the old stories always begin.
Once upon a time there was a king of a fallen kingdom. He was just and he was beloved. Or so the numbers said. One day, he gathered together the greatest, wisest minds in all the land—not sorcerers, but scientists—and he bade them fashion him a son. A prince. A perfect prince to embody his father’s legacy.
The scientists each brought the prince a gift: beauty, strength, ambition, intellect, pride. But they must have forgotten something because when he saw the mermaids dance at the Cirque de la Mer, he ran away to join them.
For a year, he trained them, performed with them, thought he was happy. For a year he thought he was free. But then Nerites came: A merman who refused to be tamed. A captive from another kingdom. A beast in a glass cage.
The old stories always end with happy ever after. But this isn’t one of the old stories. This is a story of princes and monsters.Todd’s rating:
I found this to be such a sad and touching short story.
It is a romance, but not a happily ever after. There really can't be given the circumstances. But you deeply feel the emotion behind the yearning that the two main characters feel to be as one.
The narrator of the story is the genetically-engineered, runaway sun of the King. I'm still not sure precisely what all of that had to do with how the story unfolded, but ok, let's go with that.
He ran away years ago and joined the circus. The Cirque de la Mer, to be precise, where he trains and performs with the merfolk on display there.
He's content with his life and has learned what to expect of the merfolk, until the arrival of a new merman named Nerites, whose behavior is much different than the other merfolk. Color our narrator intrigued, if not more than a bit fearful as well.
Through several interactions between the king's son and Nerites, it becomes obvious that Nerites is not simply a simple animal, eager to perform tricks for scraps of fish.
The story is fairly brutal in the way that the merfolk treat one another and although their captors do care for them, it's obvious that the merfolk are regarded as merely dolphins that vaguely look human. Wild creatures of limited intelligence to be trained.
Nerites plays along for a while, then after suffering a humiliation that most sentient creatures would consider humiliating and unforgivable, he lashes out in the most deadly manner imaginable.
The king's son is unable to sit back and leave Nerites to whatever fate that the owners of Cirque de la Mer decide, so he runs away again -- but this time with Nerites in tow.
As the story concludes, both of our heroes still live, but not the shared life together that both of them long for. *sigh*
4 sad, lonely little stars.
My copy of this book was provided by the publisher through NetGalley for a fair, unbiased review.
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