Our Bloody Pearl (These Treacherous Tides #1), by D.N. Bryn
The ocean is uncontrollable and dangerous. But to the sirens who swim the warm island waters, it’s a home more than worth protecting from the humans and their steam-propelled ships. Between their hypnotic voices and the strength of their powerful tails, sirens have little to fear.
That is, until the ruthless pirate captain, Kian, creates a device to cancel out their songs.
Perle was the first siren captured, and while all since have either been sold or killed, Kian still keeps them prisoner. Though their song is muted and their tail paralyzed, Perle’s hope for escape rekindles as another pirating vessel seizes Kian’s ship. This new captain seems different, with his brilliant smile and his promises that Kian will never again be Perle’s master. But he’s still a human, and a captor in his own way. The compassion he and his rag-tag human family show can’t be sincere… or can it?
Soon it becomes clear that Kian will hunt Perle relentlessly, taking down any siren in her path. As the tides turn, Perle must decide whether to run from Kian forever, or ride the forming wave into battle, hoping their newfound human companions will fight with them.
This adult fantasy novel featuring a nonbinary disabled protagonist is a voyage of laughter and danger where friendships and love abound and sirens are sure to steal—or eat—your heart. It is the first book to take place in the These Treacherous Tides world and functions as a standalone prequel. (For more information on reading order, please visit D.N. Bryn’s website.)
Content warnings include mild gore due to carnivorous sirens and sensations of drowning.
My Review (4 out of 5 )
Our Bloody Pearl is the first book in the These Treacherous Tides series, by D.N. Bryn, but can be read as a standalone. It’s such a unique book, featuring a non-binary, disabled protagonist, a mermaid who were captured by a pirate captain, so different from the classical image we have for that concrete myth, and which serves as a way of thought of many difficult themes, one of the virtues the fantasy genre has.
Perle are the first siren who were captured by Kian, a pirate captain who has developed a dispositive that allows humans to ignore mermaids’ chant, and who are held captive, until captain Dejean assaults Kian’s ship, searching for that Kian’s secret dispositive, but finds instead Perle, and rescues them. Despite he would like to free them, Perle are having problems swimming after so much time in captivity, as their spinal cord suffers some kind of damage.
Instead of letting them to their own luck, captain Dejean takes Perle with him to his house, starting a nice relationship, as friends, taking care of them, with the help of Murielle. Together, they also start a recovery process for Perle, helping them with a mechanical dispositive, and starting to forge bonds between a siren and humans, something that was unimaginable until then.
This is a really character-driven story, mostly focused on how Perle deal with their problem, and how the perspective of not being able to do something that you can take for granted impacts you; Perle are disabled and we are seeing how they are able to deal with grief. It is also worth noticing that as mermaids consider themselves non-binary, it also raises a spotlight on that theme. The use of first-person helps transmit the sentiment and the feelings our characters are experiencing.
There are some things that kinda didn’t work for me, as I think some of the underwater scenes can feel a little bit confusing, not helping with the pace. In general, the pace is excellent, but it is true that the rehabilitation scenes sometimes slow it down a little bit too much. Outside of that, I would have liked to see more about how Murielle relations with other people, as I found her a really lovable character and it’s sad she doesn’t have enough time on the screen.
In general, I loved Our Bloody Pearl, despite it’s not the kind of story I usually read. The take on the mermaid myth, closer to the Greek mythology than the image we currently have it’s certainly original, and also great used as a way to discuss difficult themes such as non-binary gender identification, and how to deal with disability. I certainly enjoyed reading it, and I would recommend it to everybody who wants to think while reading.
D.N. Bryn is a queer, disabled author of speculative fiction and fantasy romance.
When not writing, they conduct infectious disease surveillance in their hometown of San Diego, where they enjoy basking in the Santa Ana winds, hiking the brush-heavy slopes, and eating too many tacos.