Walking On Knives by Maya Chhabara
The little mermaid has no idea that as she makes her way on land, she’s being watched over by the sister of the very witch with whom she made her bargain. She has no idea that the witch’s sister is falling in love with her.
When the prince decides to marry another woman, the little mermaid’s secret helper offers her a chance to live. But the price may be too high…
Walking on Knives contains some explicit content and a scene with dubious sexual consent.
Before I discovered Belle and she became my favorite Disney Princess, the Little Mermaid and her story were the biggest fairy tale in my life, at least to my memory. I remember pretending to be a mermaid as a child, watching a cartoon about a mermaid that changed between human and mermaid, only to be trapped in a circus or something of that kind. Nothing, however, was like the original Hans Christian Andersen tale in its darkness and depth of feeling.
Maya Chhabra’s Walking on Knives is a queer Little Mermaid retelling that has an amazing take on the original tale and when I was approached about hosting a guest post, I was thrilled because the summary above sounded beautiful to me. Maya’s post, on what happens in a love triangle and why that’s not always that great, is a unique look into a trope that is quite common in literature today. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did and also pick up Walking on Knives, out today.
When I started writing my queer Little Mermaid retelling, Walking on Knives, I knew it ended with two women getting together. I also knew I was keeping the prince a prince, not a princess, and that (as in Hans Christian Andersen’s original fairy tale) the prince and the mermaid would not be an endgame pairing.
But I also didn’t want to fall into the trap of Death of the Hypotenuse. Or Vilify the Hypotenuse. Like how in The Hunger Games trilogy, Gale (whom I like quite a bit) is vilified by his actions during the war. The final book doesn’t bother to specify his ultimate fate other than implying that he’s gone off to a richer district. I didn’t want him to “get the girl” when Katniss clearly preferred Peeta, but it rankled to see him dismissed despite all he’d done and gone through.
In Melinda Salisbury’s The Sin-Eater’s Daughter trilogy (which you should all go read, because it’s brilliant) one of Twylla’s two romantic options betrays her horribly. He gets a fascinating arc in his own right as a morally ambiguous character. While this was more satisfying than the previous example, it still settled the love triangle by making one of the characters so very gray that he could no longer be a potential love interest.
I wanted the prince to be a worthy and very real option for my bisexual mermaid, and while I wanted it not to work out, I didn’t want to diminish him as a character. So the novelette has three points of view—the mermaid, the prince, and the love interest.
Though it’s really the story of the mermaid and her female lover, the prince represents humanity, the very thing that the mermaid is striving for. And he goes on his own journey throughout the story as his initially conventional sense of morality is both tested and widened.
Just because someone isn’t the right romantic partner for the protagonist, that doesn’t mean they’re necessarily a lesser person. It may just mean that the way their journey intersects with the protagonist’s is different from what it originally seemed to be.
I hope all three of these very different characters come alive for readers in Walking on Knives. And I reserve a soft spot for the hypotenuse.
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