Title: Walking on Knives
Author: Maya Chhabra
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Lenght: 32 pages
Genre: Romance, Fantasy, Fairy Tale
Walking on Knives had the potential to be a great story. A queer retelling of Little Mermaid where she falls in love with the Witch sounds amazing, but sadly, it didn’t live up to its promise and left me feeling upset.
The writing is vague and confusing, with constantly switching povs, which only added to the confusion. It didn’t help that the character voices didn’t differ at all, so it was difficult to tell who is speaking most of the time. There was also a problem with the names. Characters have descriptive name, such as the Prince, the Princess, or the Strange Woman. It wouldn’t be a problem if they were used consistently, but they weren’t.
The romance made me angry. We are never given any reason the Strange Woman fell in love with the Little Mermaid, she just does. She was unpleasant and possessive about it. Little Mermaid was rightly wary of her and avoided her, but all it took was one “I love you” for her to do complete 360° and proclaim her love too. Without any development, they are thrown into a sudden HEA that makes no sense.
The book opens with the Little Mermaid getting raped. That’s literally the first scene in the book. I don’t understand why the Sea Witch requires rape as a payment for her services, but it sets the tone for the rest of the book. Little Mermaid is clearly traumatized by said event and the Strange Woman, fully aware of what happened to her, treats her with scorn and annoyance. When she lightly asks for a kiss as a payment for a gift and Little Mermaid has a triggered reaction, she barely stops herself from calling her names. This is from the love interest.
Another, somewhat even worse scene happens when the Prince decides to save Little Mermaid’s life by marrying her, despite being in love with the Princess and being supposed to marry her the next day. They are forced to consummate their marriage (why was that necessary??) in a scene that left me deeply unsettled and left the Prince clearly fucked up. And for his act of kindness, he loses his own future with his beloved Princess. He doesn’t get any closure and we’re supposed to be okay with that.
All in all, Walking on Knives was short but managed to be crammed with unpleasant things and left me feeling very uncomfortable.