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Reviewed by Vincent Dublado for Readers' Favorite
“Mermaids were expected to be demure and to respect their betters which were always men.” And so goes the heart-breaking rule that is the premise of Anna Finch’s Voiceless: A Mermaid's Tale. Although this coming of age story is inspired by The Little Mermaid, Moriah, the mermaid protagonist in this story, is no damsel in distress and is more than just a girl who falls in love with a human male. To illustrate that she is a grander character, she lives in a patriarchal underwater kingdom where the mermaids are subservient to the mermen. This societal structure is the result of their fall from grace after defying their goddess, Gaea. When she turns sixteen, Moriah undergoes a rite of passage of living among humans to better understand the nature of these two-legged creatures. Meeting a young man named Michael has opened her eyes to the naked reality that the value of freedom enjoyed by humans is a far cry from the despotic rule of her kingdom. Herein lies the thrill of this novel, as Moriah makes difficult moral choices that involve getting a pair of legs and freeing her kingdom from the shackles of oppression.
Voiceless, as the title suggests, is an allegory for women’s condition in a patriarchy that is broadly conceptualized in a fairy tale framework. Clearly, Ms. Finch wanted to create a mermaid with a strong, independent character, and this unique attribute is reflected in how Moriah interacts with Michael: She is a girl in love with a boy, yet at the same time, she knows what she wants and stands before Michael as his equal, if not better. It touches on contemporary social issues while giving much-deserved respect for the integrity of the original tale which inspired the novel. It has a cohesive plot that stands out as unique and a heroine that readers will care about. For anyone who is tired of watching beloved fairy tales that have fallen prey to Disneyfication, Voiceless is a bold and a much-welcome read.