Warning: the following post contains an unacceptable amount of ocean puns and “Little Mermaid” gifs. Proceed with caution.
Before I start this review, I think it’s important to get a little background on this book and why I was so darn excited to get my hands on it.
I first was alerted about this book by my college friend and fellow mermaid enthusiast, Matt of Mattimation (aka the guys who stole my voice and turned me into the mermaid princess Sirenetta). With lots of exclamation points, he shared the news that a mermaid book was being written by married couple Jessica Steele-Sanders and Chris Sanders—Chris, being most famous for his work with How to Train Your Dragon, Lilo and Stitch, and The Croods. After looking through the artwork and concept (lifeguard mermaids?!), I knew one thing: I had to have it.
Rescue Sirens made its official debut at this year’s San Diego Comic Con, with the authors selling the book and giving out phenomenal lifeguard swag (buttons, tattoos, stickers) at their booth. Cue me feeling like this more than ever before:
Still, I held my head high, eagerly awaiting the opportunity to buy my own copy. I circled the Rescue Sirens Facebook page like a hawk, knowing that if I wished upon my lucky starfish, I’d get my chance.
When I saw the announcement that the authors were selling a limited amount of signed hardback copies, I pounced. I have no memory to date of a time I’ve spent my money faster. The book arrived a few days later, and I dropped everything to get reading. And let me tell you…I soared through this book. Rescue Sirens was the most fun I’ve had reading in awhile, and was definitely worth my wait.
Let’s dive into the review, shall we?
First and foremost, this is not your average mermaid story. So much of the mermaid genre is filled with retellings of The Little Mermaid—which, you know, gets old. Everything about Rescue Sirens is fresh, new, and original, from concept to world-building to character development.
In particular, I loved the idea of humans being derived from mermaids, creating an ancient bond between the two species. This approach opened the door to a whole new world of mythology, which includes mermaids disguised as lifeguards to protect their above-water kin. And, as with many ocean-centric stories, this book stresses the importance of ocean conservation and preservation, not only for the mermaid’s sake but for humans, as well.
Another concept I adored was mermaids viewing books from the human world as treasures, using them to understand the world above. For someone who spends most of her free time reading books (and the rest of her time thinking about them), this hit me right in the heart. Books are treasures, you guys!
The writing is fast-paced and filled with beautiful imagery, from the beaches of Miami to the underwater home of the mermaids; the story never felt like it was floundering in exposition or explanation. By ten pages in, I was getting a strong urge to drop everything and head to the nearest beach. Added bonus, the writers seem love puns just as much as I do (“Hey there, gillfriend” is my personal favorite).
One of the strongest anchors of this story is the characters. Each mermaid feels fully realized as a member of the Rescue Siren group, bringing forth their own unique set of skills, talents, and personalities—together, they click beautifully. While there is mention of mermen, this was very much a female-centric story, without (thankfully) any sort of love story in sight.
Hmmm…a group of strong female characters with their own strengths, coming together to fight for a higher purpose (or should I say, porpoise)? Is this the Sailor Moon of mermaids? I digress…
As is the case with Chris Sanders’ animated work, the main theme of this story is about family and, by extension, what it means to belong. While each mermaid differs greatly from the other (right down to their mermaid tails, which vary from dolphin to seal to blue marlin), it is their differences that make them stronger and work together as a team—even if it does take some time for everyone to get along. Just as in life, we don’t get to chose who is in our family, but we can choose who we become and who we chose to accept. Kelby, one of our leading ladies, particularly must overcome anxiety and come to terms with what it means to truly be herself, and her personal growth is beautiful to see unfold.
Also making a splash in this book is the phenomenal artwork, with internal illustrations provided by the fabulous Genevieve Tsai and cover/character artwork done as a collaboration between Chris Sanders, Edgar Delgado, and Teresa Martinez. With all hands on deck, the artwork is (needless to say) gorgeous.
This was the adorable, fun, cute story I had hoped for—and more. The creators are talking about printing more fancy bound and signed copies, but, if you’re impatient to soak it up (as you should be), you can grab it as an eBook on Amazon.
The future of Rescue Sirens holds lots of potential, and I am excited for the next installment in the series. I can’t wait to “sea” where the story goes next!