REVIEW: A Witch’s Beauty by Joey W. Hill
Dear Ms. Hill,
I’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
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.