July 9, 2019

Books for mermaids

Disney’s live-action remake of 1989’s The Little Mermaid won’t be ready for quite a while, and that may leave fans feeling adrift in the meanwhile. Try luring them in with sea-sational books for, and about, mermaids! Here are a few of my favorites for adult readers, and the searches I used to find them in NoveList.

Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire
Cora, a mermaid transformed, is the quietly brave teen heroine of this fanciful novel. Just before 10th grade, she is whisked to another realm where she becomes a mermaid and must save it from destruction. Pulled unwillingly back to earth and made human again, Cora finds herself on a dangerous quest in a creepy candy land (think Willy Wonka meets Stranger Things). This stand-alone novel is third in the Wayward Children Series.

The Mermaid by Christina Henry
Amelia, a mermaid tempted by the mysteries of the land, falls in love with a mortal and later meets notorious huckster P.T. Barnum. She joins his sideshow hoping to see the world. Amelia, forthright and vocal, believes she is free to leave – but Barnum doesn’t like letting his “exhibits” wander. Inspired by Barnum’s historical “Fiji Mermaid” hoax, this is a moving, romantic read perfect for those who wanted more empowering options for Hans Christian Anderson’s original “little mermaid.”

The Oyster Thief by Sonia Faruqi
When an oil spill poisons her little brother, mermaid Coralline sets off to find a cure. Her journey takes her far from home and delays her upcoming arranged marriage (which she doesn’t mind). Izar, a handsome merman with a hidden agenda, joins her search. As a mutual attraction develops, their prior obligations (and Izar’s secrets) complicate their love. Beautiful, vividly described undersea imagery, the author’s clear knowledge of marine conservation, and delightful whimsy make an eco-fantasy for adult and teen mermaids alike.

The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar
A sedate 18th-century merchant unexpectedly gains possession of a mermaid’s body. The oddity propels him into London’s finest drawing rooms and piques a high-end madam’s interest. He falls in love with a capricious courtesan; their bawdy courtship culminates in her demand that he find a second mermaid. Throughout the narrative, the mermaid flits: a mysterious creature whose story and emotions slowly unfold. A huge cast of well-drawn, culturally diverse secondary characters bring to life Georgian society in this leisurely, surprisingly steamy read.

Rolling in the Deep and Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant
Not all mermaids are cute little sea-princesses, as these two terrifying novellas remind us. In the first, an SF cable network sends the SS Atargatis into the Mariana Trench to prove that mermaids are real. On board with the film crew are deep sea-scientists (in case they find something) and a team of fake mermaid performers (in case they don’t). In the second, guess what! Mermaids are definitely real – and blood-thirsty. These gruesome horror/SF thrillers deliver fast-paced action that will best suit fans of Jaws vs. Ariel.  

  • Search SU mermaids for mermaid stories (all ages).
  • Search TH gateway fantasy for other books about characters pulled into other realms.
  • Search TH inspired by real events for other stories inspired by historical figures and/or events.
  • Search TH creature feature for other stories starring bizarre creatures.

For those of you who are new to field codes, SU means subject heading and TH means theme. Learn more about field codes and how to use them in our Idea Center

See you under the sea! (Or in a newsletter where you can get more book tips like this one). 


Kimberly Burton is a Readers' Advisory Librarian at NoveList and a member of the Book Squad. She is currently reading Bunny by Mona Awad. 


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