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REVIEW: A Witch’s Beauty by Joey W. Hill

Dear Ms. Hill,

042522567401lzzzzzzzI’ve been known to have an aversion to mermaid sex.   But since I’m fond of your vampire novels, I decided to give your mermaid series a try.   Jane reviewed the first book, A Mermaid’s Kiss, when it came out and overall, I agree with her assessment.   In the hands of another writer, many of the unorthodox sex scenes would have made me stop reading. That said, I never finished the book.   This wasn’t the fault of the writing or story but simply a mismatch of reader preference and character focus.   I admit I’m not particularly interested in reading about couples featuring the disillusioned, world-weary warrior and the doomed, innocent virgin who falls for him.   Many readers like that dynamic, however, so I encourage anyone interested in A Mermaid’s Kiss to check out Jane’s review.

A Witch’s Beauty is about Mina, the best friend of Anna, the heroine of A Mermaid’s Kiss.   If I’d based the decision to trying the next book in this series on the first one alone, I probably would never have picked it up.   But when I found out it was about Mina, Anna’s grumpy and sometime reluctant friend, I was sold.   She was my favorite character from A Mermaid’s Kiss.

Mina is the descendant of the sea witch from the original Little Mermaid fairy tale.   She is also the product of rape — a Dark One raped her mother, an act which resulted in her mother’s eventual madness and death.   When Mina was a child, she cast a spell over the infant Anna to weaken the original sea witch’s curse.   Unfortunately, the royal family misunderstood her actions and punished Mina by chaining her to weights and throwing her into a trench.

For one month, Mina remained in the trench while the ocean creatures slowly ate her alive. The royal family eventually realized their mistake and retrieved her but expected her to be dead.   Much to their surprise, she was alive.   But the damage had already been done.   Mina had inherited the promise of immaculate beauty from her maternal line and one half of her body (the Venus half, as she calls it) remained unscathed.   The other half, however, was terribly scarred, right down to the missing fingers on her hand.   The scarred half of her body is also a physical reminder of her paternal side because the eye on that side is red like a Dark One’s.

After the events of A Mermaid’s Kiss, Jonah, the general of the angels, has assigned various angels to protect Mina.   Because of her tremendous power, she’s a liability.   Never has anyone bearing Dark One blood ever resisted the call of evil, and their worry is that she’ll become a weapon to be used against them.   Mina doesn’t think very highly of this.   Despite Anna’s persistent friendship, she’d rather be left alone.   I can’t say I blame her.   If my first act of kindness was rewarded by being thrown into a trench as fish food, I’d probably not like people very much either.   So the angels Jonah sets guard on her come and go, one after the other, unable to deal with Mina’s temper and personality.

David is a human-born angel who’s been fascinated by Mina ever since he met her.   Despite the fact that logic and evidence say otherwise, he believes Mina is someone worth saving.   Perhaps it’s because David himself is an example of a lost soul finding redemption.   David ended his life as a human by killing himself and it’s this darkness that empathizes with Mina.

Like the previous book, A Witch’s Beauty is a sort of updated fairy tale.   It’s a reverse Beauty and the Beast story where the monster is the woman and the one trying to redeem her is the man.   David’s struggle between following the orders given to him by Jonah and doing what’s right for Mina serve as the basis for the plot, especially when one of David’s choices (made in favor of Mina) results in disaster.

On the other hand, Mina’s raging conflict between the siren call of succumbing to the Dark One blood in her and her fierce desire to be under no one’s control was the most compelling part of the book for me.   I loved Mina.   I enjoyed the fact that she was perpetually grumpy and fiercely independent but still vulnerable because aside from Anna, she’s never known anyone who’d consider her a friend.   Other mermaids revile her because of her physical appearance but that doesn’t stop them from going to her for potions.   Angels hate her because of the blood in her veins but that doesn’t stop them from trying to see if there’s a way they can use her for their own benefit.   All her life, Mina’s been treated either as an outcast or a tool and it’s those roles that she rejects.

As expected with a half-mermaid heroine, there are some unconventional sex scenes.   The only difference here is that Mina doesn’t actually have a mermaid tail; she has two tentacles instead.   I’m not sure if that’s better or worse.   Oddly enough, it didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would but I think that’s a testament to your writing ability to make me believe sex between a half-demon mermaid and an angel is almost normal.   It helped that despite the heroine’s unusual appendages, the sex wasn’t as unorthodox as in the last book.   There’s no pixie sex, for example.   And along those lines, there wasn’t much emphasis on size differences or “little one” diminutives.

This was one of the more interesting redemption stories I read recently.   I liked the fact that the usual roles played by the hero and heroine were switched, and I loved the fact Mina retained her sharp edges at the end of the novel.   I love reading about the transformative power of love, but I admit if Mina’s personality had changed after she got her HEA, I’d have been very disappointed.   The plot might not be the strongest but the relationship between Mina and David is more than enough to carry the book.   B

My regards,
Jia

This book can be purchased in trade paperback from Amazon or ebook format from the Sony Store and other etailers someday but you can’t buy it in e now because, well, who knows.

Jia is an avid reader who loves fantasy and young adult novels. She's also currently dipping her toes in the new adult genre but remains unconvinced by the prevalent need for traumatic pasts. Her favorite authors are Michelle West and Jacqueline Carey. YA authors whose works she's enjoyed include Holly Black, Laini Taylor, Ally Carter, and Megan Miranda. Jia's on a neverending quest for novels with diverse casts and multicultural settings. Feel free to email her with recommendations at [email protected]!

21 Comments

  1. Gennita Low
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 08:30:51

    oooh, tentacle sex!

    The cover is very eye-catching.

  2. Jia
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 09:09:04

    Well, for anyone expecting crazy tentacle sex, I do want to say there isn’t much of that.

  3. Kalen Hughes
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 09:14:53

    Well, for anyone expecting crazy tentacle sex, I do want to say there isn't much of that.

    LOL! The rule for anime in our household for YEARS was Nothing with tentacles on the cover.

  4. Anji
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 09:31:56

    This book can be purchased in trade paperback from Amazon or ebook format from the Sony Store and other etailers someday but you can't buy it in e now because, well, who knows.

    See!!!! I would have bought that book right now if it was available in ebook format… I don’t understand publishers who don’t consider that readers might LIKE the instant gratification of buying an interesting book immediately!

  5. GrowlyCub
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 09:48:40

    Okay, revealing my ignorance here: What’s pixie sex?

  6. Jia
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 10:00:43

    @Kalen Hughes: A very smart rule, if you ask me.

    @GrowlyCub: There’s a scene in the previous book, A Mermaid’s Kiss, in which the heroine transforms into a pixie and gets, ah, up close and personal with a certain portion of the hero’s anatomy.

  7. GrowlyCub
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 10:10:13

    Jia, I feel very dense because I guess I should be enlightened by your answer, but I’m still in the dark. I guess I should have asked what a pixie is.

    Isn’t being a mermaid with a tail enough? I feel very ignorant indeed. :)

  8. Victoria Dahl
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 10:12:35

    I really liked A Mermaid’s Kiss. Mostly because it was one of the sweetest erotic romances I’ve ever read. Made me cry. I really loved that it blended edgy sex and innocence. Also, I’m not ashamed to admit I like diminutives in my romance. Even pixie diminutives! I’m pretty sure it’s because I’ve been 5’7″ since junior high and have never dated a man who could pick me up and whisper “little one” in my ear. Heh.

    I’ll have to check this out, but not for a while since I STILL have Natural Law on my computer. Oh, Kindle. When will you be delivered, little one?

  9. Jia
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 10:22:18

    @GrowlyCub: Oh sorry! Think Tinkerbell. That’s a pixie.

    @Victoria Dahl: Maybe I’m just oversensitive because I’m very petite myself. LOL

  10. Kalen Hughes
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 10:33:38

    Vicki, I think of you as bitty, but then I’m 5’10” in my bare feet, LOL! I just tend to get grossed out by all the “wee one” stuff in some romances (maybe because I just sooooooo can’t relate).

  11. GrowlyCub
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 10:34:25

    Okay, I’m slowly forming a picture here (not having grown up in the U.S. surely is a handicap in this). I had to go look up Tinkerbelle.

    So the mermaid turns into a 5in tall being with wings and then does something sexual with the hero?

    I knew there was a reason I don’t read shapeshifter books… I lack the requisite powers of imagination! rofl

  12. Jia
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 10:41:00

    But that was only in the first book (A Mermaid’s Kiss).

    The heroine of this book, Mina, doesn’t turn into a pixie. She turns into a dragon. I will quickly add that there is no dragon sex, however. Sorry if that disappoints anyone. LOL

  13. Victoria Dahl
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 10:41:05

    @Kalen Hughes: Kalen, can we date so YOU can call me Little One? ROFL

    @Jia: Jia, it looks like us tall girls can go either way on this one.

    I am *bizarrely* undisturbed by any sort of shapeshifter/non-human sexual situations. I don’t know why, aside from the explanation that I’m pervy.

  14. Victoria Dahl
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 10:41:57

    @Jia:

    There is no dragon sex, however. Sorry if that disappoints anyone. ;)

    Stop looking at me.

  15. GrowlyCub
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 10:46:45

    No dragon sex, hmm… but why do they keep turning into yet another mythical creature?

    I’ve have to take the ‘no shape shifter’ back. I did read Jules Jones’ Dolphin Dreams, liked it a lot and had no issue with it containing shape shifters (although I think the story without the shape shifting would have been even more compelling to me).

    I have no issue with shifted sex, I’m just bamboozled by the fact that these non-human creatures turn into yet another non-human creature. That seems just a tad overkill to me. :)

    ETA: But I’m glad I learned something new today and will now cease to spam this thread

  16. Jia
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 11:00:40

    @Victoria Dahl: Hey, I’m not criticizing. ;)

    @GrowlyCub:

    I have no issue with shifted sex, I'm just bamboozled by the fact that these non-human creatures turn into yet another non-human creature. That seems just a tad overkill to me.

    You’re not alone in feeling this way.

    The worldbuilding is probably the weakest aspect of this series because many aspects never quite clear or fully explained. The mermaids can change their tails into human legs. Okay, that’s not too strange. We’ve seen that in stories and fairy tales. But in addition to that, Anna (the heroine of the first book) can turn into a pixie. She also has another form that I won’t reveal because it’s a spoiler for the first book. In addition to her warped mermaid form (two tentacles instead of a tail), Mina can turn into a dragon. But it’s never explained why — I’m not sure if we’re supposed to draw the conclusion that it’s because of the Dark One blood but IIRC, the books have mentioned that there used to be dragons in the world. They’re only gone now or were killed. I seem to recall that one of the caves Mina likes hanging out in has a dragon skeleton embedded into one of the walls but I could be misremembering.

  17. Kalen Hughes
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 13:27:47

    @Kalen Hughes: Kalen, can we date so YOU can call me Little One? ROFL

    @ Victoria: If your husband wouldn’t hunt me down and shoot me . . . oh, and if either of us was in to switching teams, LOL! But I’ll make sure to call you wee one when we’re drinking in D.C.

  18. MaryK
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 14:36:49

    I guess I’ll be buying this book after all. I’ve been debating because, though I like the trade reading experience, I don’t like trade prices. Unfortunately, authors I can’t resist keep coming out in trade or hardback.

  19. Jennifer
    Jan 01, 2011 @ 08:18:19

    Just read “Mirror of My Soul” and “Ice Queen” by Hill. The main character tells a story of how her mother and brother died and it tickled the back of my brain. I thought perhaps Hill had re-used a plot point in two books but realized a chapter later that the David from “A Witch’s Beauty” is the David mentioned in “Mirror of my Soul” and this made me oddly and deeply happy.

  20. Jia
    Jan 01, 2011 @ 08:42:00

    @Jennifer: Interesting, I had no idea! Natural Law is the only book I’ve read from that series but maybe I might pick these two up.

  21. David7
    Jan 01, 2011 @ 21:58:34

    Dear Ms. Hill,A Witch

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