Blood calls to blood; charm calls to charm.
It is the way of the world.
Come close and tell us your dreams.
Sanna is a mermaid — but she is only half seavish. The night of her birth, a sea-witch cast a spell that made Sanna’s people, including her landish mother, forget how and where she was born. Now Sanna is sixteen and an outsider in the seavish matriarchy, and she is determined to find her mother and learn who she is. She apprentices herself to the witch to learn the magic of making and unmaking, and with a new pair of legs and a quest to complete for her teacher, she follows a clue that leads her ashore on the Thirty-Seven Dark Islands. There, as her fellow mermaids wait in the sea, Sanna stumbles into a wall of white roses thirsty for blood, a hardscrabble people hungry for miracles, and a baroness who will do anything to live forever.
From the author of the Michael L. Printz Honor Book The Kingdom of Little Wounds comes a gorgeously told tale of belonging, sacrifice, fear, hope, and mortality.
AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | BOOK DEPOSITORY
And now for the guest post. Enjoy!
Writing Prompt: On your website, you mentioned that Mermaid Moon is “a late-medieval semi-prequel to The Kingdom of Little Wounds.” Can you elaborate? Which idea came first? How do they go together? How do they stand apart?
Mermaid Moon started out as a single page about a witch who falls in love with a mermaid, one of the “broken fairy tales” that a nursemaid in The Kingdom of Little Wounds tells to the princesses in her care. My editress, Liz, quietly and cruelly cut that page, and she was probably right to do it; The Kingdom has plenty of tales as it is.
But the story repeated itself in my mind and pushed its way forward until it became a 300-page novel. And then I dug a little deeper and it became a 636-page novel—more like a cry for help, actually. I will never, ever reread those first versions, but some part of them lived in me and insisted on being seen again, and so I got version three. And then a few more along the way, all of which I not only reread but also retyped, to end up with what’s coming to shore now … which is both the same story as that first little one-pager and not the same.
Here’s how they’re the same thing, only different (as some people used to say in the 1970s): Moon takes place at an unspecified time that’s probably the late 1200s or 1300s; I date it by the objects that Baroness Thyrla has in her castle. Kingdom starts specifically in 1572. They’re held together by a web of magic; the characters share certain basic beliefs that magic exists, but the magic works differently for them. It’s stronger in the past, in Moon, and takes more wrangling to conjure up in The Kingdom of 1572.
The main difference is in what I’ll call mood. I think Mermaid Moon is brighter than The Kingdom. It has more light and actual magic, as opposed to magic realism. It is the story of a mermaid who goes looking for her landish mother. Following a clue given by the sea witch, she fashions herself a set of legs and goes ashore during an annual feast held in the Thirty-Seven Dark Islands. There she is imprisoned by a witch who plans to marry the girl off to her son and then harvest their offspring to prolong her own life.
The threats to Sanna are more easily identifiable and less pervasive than in The Kingdom of Little Wounds. In that book, Ava and Midi are stuck working in a palace, in a patriarchal society to which there seem to be no alternatives. Rape is taken for granted, and even in a marriage, the sex isn’t always consensual. The consequences can be harrowing: unplanned pregnancy that ruins a girl’s social position, syphilis (a new disease at the time), birth defects. There are a couple of villains in The Kingdom, but the real problem is the culture in which the girls live.
The broken little one-page tale with which I started used to conclude with “But this is love, this is love.” I think Mermaid Moon ends up exploring many kinds of love, and some of them are actually happy ones.
And now for the Giveaway! 5 Winners will receive a Copy of MERMAID MOON by Susann Cokal. Giveaway is open to International. | Must be 13+ to Enter. ENDS MARCH 23, 2020
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Susann Cokal is a moody historical novelist, a pop-culture essayist, book critic, magazine editor, and sometime professor of creative writing and modern literature. She lives in a creepy old farmhouse in Richmond, Virginia, with seven cats, a dog, a spouse, and some peacocks that supposedly belong to a neighbor. She is the author of two books for young adults and two for regular adults.
Susann’s previous book, The Kingdom of Little Wounds, received several national awards, including a silver medal from the American Library Association’s Michael L. Printz Award series. It also got starred reviews in Kirkus, School Library Journal, The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, and Publishers Weekly, and praise from Booklist, The New York Times Boook Review, and other venues. It was #3 on the Boston Globe list of best YAs of the 2013 and won an ALAN citation from the National Council of Teachers of English.
PHOTO CONTENT FROM SUSANN COKAL