Napoli, Donna Jo. Sirena (2000). 210 Pages. Scholastic. $4.99

As Greece gathers their troops to go to war with Troy, the mermaids of the Mediterranean Sea sing their siren-songs to attract men. Sirena is one of these mermaids, doomed to the death of a mortal unless she can “love”* a man. While the other mermaids thoughtlessly lure men to their deaths, Sirena sees the inherent flaws; they kill many men, they are hated, and they are costing lives for the sake of their own.

After an especially brutal scene where men beat a mermaid to death- and bash in her head and ribcage- and scream at the “whores” before they die, Sirena realizes that something might be wrong about this situation. (Gee, ya think?) She ventures out on her own- which is strange, because mermaids are social creatures – since none of the others seem to care that they are murderers.

She finds herself sharing an island with a man** who has been abandoned by his comrades. Of course, we can all see where this is going; she takes care of him, keeps him alive, and eventually gains her immortality through him. The two are “married”, and live in a strange sort of harmony. He spends his time on land, exploring the deserted island, missing humanity. She spends her time in the sea, dreaming about a different future.

Eventually, Sirena must make an important decision, one which will change both of their lives forever.

The story overlaps with The Illiad, a story which I love. The setting is also pretty good- the Mediterranean is a great backdrop for a fantastic*** tale. However, I am frustrated by the volume of mythology- it seems overwhelming at times- and how it sometimes seems forced. I dislike the point of view- first person present- and do not feel that it helps the story, third person limited would have been more comfortable to read.

The Quick Version:

I feel like this story would have sat better with me if the ending had been different. I like happy endings, or at least the sort where it’s clear that they will eventually be happy. This is not one of those endings. Occasionally, I feel like I’m drowning in mythology, and I’ve got a pretty solid grip on it. It gets roughly a 2.5 out of 5, because I’m a stickler for endings- they are the part which sticks with you the most, after all.

If you actually want to read it, you can get it on Amazon or through Swaptree.


*By “love”, this book really means to have sex with. And when they have sex, it is vague- how do a man and a fish copulate?

** Philoctetes, for those of you who are mythology-savvy.

*** In the sense of “fantasy-like” rather than “very good”


Filed under Book Review, Fairy Tales Retold, High Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction

6 responses to “Sirena

  1. I ALWAYS wondered how she had sex with him. I read this around the same time I read The Iliad for the first time, and I liked how it tied in with that. But for heaven’s sake how could they ever possibly have had sex? She has fish parts!


    • As far as fish parts go, I’m not sure. I’ve read some bad fanfiction that talks about having a flap of fish skin over her vag, but uhh… I don’t know. Maybe slime and scales just… did it for him…

      On non fishy parts bits:

      I personally like the Odyssey more- I read the Robert Fagles translation in College- because it’s less murder and more adventure.

      Troy by Adele Geras is not so bad. (It’s a Troy reinterpretation with an emphasis on the female viewpoint). I’ll review it eventually… when I unearth my copy from wherever I’m hiding it these days.


  2. You might like Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood. It was surprisingly funny and its balance of mythology and humour worked really well.

    -Lydia @ The Literary Lollipop

    ps. I’ve never read this before but the fish/man relationship thing puzzles me as well.


  3. This one has been on my shelf for a while but I keep putting it off… I might give it a try if only to see what the fish business is all about.


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