The Little Mermaid is a favorite, popular fairy tale written by the storyteller Hans Christian Andersen. However, it is one of his most tragic and vulnerable creations, a love story as heartbreaking as it is sweet. Happily, there is a new version of this poignant story in Midnight Pearls by Debbie Viguié. Of course, the plot has been deepened until you can only see a vague outline of The Little Mermaid—Midnight Pearls is a fairy tale in its own right. Nevertheless, mermaids and mermen are featured in great detail together with the famous (or infamous) prince and, of course, the little mermaid herself.
Finally, the main characters have names and defined characteristics. Pearl is the little mermaid, and her physical description matches her name perfectly. She has a different reason for being on land instead of under the sea, although the author creates a mystery on the spot by Pearl’s ignorance of that reason. Pearl has had an identity crisis all her life, ever since she was rescued by her adoptive parents. The way she is treated by the villagers only contributes to her sense of feeling lost. Pearl feels very human, and yet, she feels that she is not. Afraid of the sea and afraid of the land, she doesn’t know where she belongs. In spite of that, she is still a typical teenager in the midst of a changing relationship with her best friend, the prince. That is exactly where Midnight Pearls picks up and becomes even more interesting.
The prince is Prince James. However, he has a personality and nobler feelings, unlike his counterpart in The Little Mermaid, and he’s been best friends with Pearl ever since he felt the need to escape the cage of his royal life. The combination of a prince who doesn’t want to be a prince and a girl who doesn’t know she’s a mermaid create the necessary suspense to propel the story forward. The truth behind Pearl’s past and all other secrets in the plot are eventually revealed without spoiling the way the author propagates her idea of how the tale of The Little Mermaid may have developed into its current version. Moreover, Debbie Viguié’s narrative is very, very romantic; she has numerous love triangles and she emphasizes the power of true love very strongly with the love scenes (nothing graphic or overly sentimental) and almost-love scenes between her main characters, both mer-people and humans.
Midnight Pearls is a romance with adventure and genuine characters, and together they comprise a solid background for this soulful re-imagining of The Little Mermaid. It was unjust in the original that the little mermaid died while her beloved prince lived “happily ever after,” unaware of her sacrifice and devotion. It is secretly pleasing that Andersen’s themes of death and mortality were left out of Viguié’s retelling, and only the immortality of love was kept as a viable concept that heightens the novel’s happy ending for all romantic couples. While perhaps not as serious as its predecessor, Midnight Pearls re-opens the undersea world of the mer-people once again and unites them with humans in a memorable fantasy.