With a few exceptions, I believe this to be one of my favourite versions of the sea witch origin myth. I am aware that there have been a few of them, and some of them can be rather similar, which is OK. The fact that we don’t even sure if Irsa is her real name in this one because history has supposedly forgotten it is the first thing I detest about it. The prologue stated this, and it genuinely crushed my heart because the sea witch is constantly demonised and never given any sort of humanity.
It’s probably for the best that history has forgotten the name her own mother gave her since whatever her real name was, her grandma didn’t find it especially amusing or agreeable. But erasing her name from history entirely because the public views her simply as a villain and nothing else just breaks my heart. She wasn’t always evil, and her past, before she turned into the villain that everyone perceives her to be, was very tragic. She should have become a “villain” a long time ago, in my opinion.
Despite having witnessed others do it, we can still recall their names, right? Anyway, that’s just a sad narrative point for me, but I believe it’s what made me care more for Irsa and stop thinking of her as another evil trying to rip the world apart. Which, in my opinion, was excellent on Wilheim’s part since it added some humanity to the situation and made us feel genuinely sorry for her as the years passed.
I admit that I was optimistic when I originally read that Irsa had been chosen to be Calypso’s student because the “best” or “most powerful” witch in all of Alon hadn’t taken on an apprentice in years or whatever. But obviously not, no. Why, after all, would the beginning of a villain contain much goodness? Irsa’s connection with Aislin was probably the only positive experience she had while growing up, and I’m so glad they connected.
I like their friendship, and I was so relieved when Aislin realised there was a problem with Irsa and resolved to find a way to save her. She didn’t think Irsa was lying to protect her abuser, and she assisted her in developing a plan to leave that circumstance without pointing the finger at Irsa. which was so lovely to see mirrored in this novel because it can be so difficult for individuals to realise that they do. Irsa being abused after having to cope with her first tragedy in life, in addition to the POS “father” who was briefly mentioned, would be the second aspect of the story that I didn’t appreciate.
However, aside from that, I really liked “Tales of the Sea Witch” and thought it was an intriguing spin on the sea witch legend. Irsa is incredibly strong, and if she could harness that strength without having to put her life in the hands of someone who would abuse it, who knows? She might have been one of the good guys after all. However, reading about villains is always more entertaining, right?
About The Book
No creature under the sea is born dark; some just lose themselves. Irsa’s name was lost long ago to the obscurity of being labeled a villain. Born with enough magic to boil the ocean, all Irsa wants is a simple life with her best friend, Aislin. But when they discover their connection is more than just friendship, the pair must fight all odds to be together.
Surviving the sea isn’t easy, but Irsa has never known any different. With Aislin by her side, she must face a wicked witch, defy a prince, and maybe gain all she ever wanted: a happily ever after. Tales of a Sea Witch is an origin story full of mermaids, and undersea magic for fans of Tithe by Holly Black, and Wicked by Gregory Maguire.
Tales of the Sea Witch
So this is hard to admit but I’m moved by stories of characters who really get knocked down and pushed beyond the limit. I don’t really like having to read it but it’s authors like Wilham who really know how to describe these events with strength and care. This story is very much a prequel to the Little Mermaid tale we think we know so well. Wilham’s spin on the fairy tale touches on emotional abuse, gaslighting, and persecution—and how characters like Irsa manage to rise above it all. This isn’t a happy tale but it’s a beautiful one. The world building and character development kept me hooked.
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