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If you ever ask me to recommend a book with sirens, Our Bloody Pearl will always be my first choice! We’re talking about disability rep, non-binary main character, ace rep, a sapphic relationship and the cutest found family trope. I do hope this review convinces you to pick it up!
OUR BLOODY PEARL BY D.N. BRYN
BOOK ONE IN THESE TREACHEROUS TIDES
The ocean is uncontrollable and dangerous. But to the sirens who swim the warm island waters, it’s a home more than worth protecting from the humans and their steam-propelled ships. Between their hypnotic voices and the strength of their powerful tails, sirens have little to fear.
That is, until the ruthless pirate captain, Kian, creates a device to cancel out their songs.
Perle was the first siren captured, and while all since have either been sold or killed, Kian still keeps them prisoner. Though their song is muted and their tail paralyzed, Perle’s hope for escape rekindles as another pirating vessel seizes Kian’s ship. This new captain seems different, with his brilliant smile and his promises that Kian will never again be Perle’s master. But he’s still a human, and a captor in his own way. The compassion he and his rag-tag human family show can’t be sincere… or can it?
Soon it becomes clear that Kian will hunt Perle relentlessly, taking down any siren in her path. As the tides turn, Perle must decide whether to run from Kian forever, or ride the forming wave into battle, hoping their newfound human companions will fight with them.
CONTENT WARNING: Mild gore due to carnivorous sirens, sensations of drowning, occurrences of PTSD, implied rape in a character’s backstory (not shown or described), short segments of emotional and physical abuse from the villain.
GOODREADS // STORYGRAPH // AMAZON // BLACKWELL’S
Our Bloody Pearl by D.N. Bryn is a fantastic tale about family and friendship, and trauma and healing. This book instantly became a favourite of mine when I read it back in September. Our Bloody Pearl is a great book that combines steam punk fantasy with real world discussions that include PTSD, disability, and gender and sexuality. The author’s advocacy really shines through their characters and the story they told in Our Bloody Pearl.
This is a book which will warm your heart and make you laugh; it is the kind of book you come out of with a better understanding of people and relationships.
RICH CHARACTER DYNAMICS
I found each of the characters from Our Bloody Pearl to be very memorable that I wanted to know so much more about them. It’s not that they were all very likable but rather, captured my attention with their quirks.
First is Perle, our bloodthirsty siren, who is “rescued” from captivity by a pirate known as Dejean. Perle does not see him as a saviour but simply as a means to an end. Having been kept chained to a bathtub by Kian, Perle is desperate to escape back to her home. However, this is unlikely due to the extent of physical trauma Perle had endured while in chains.
Our Bloody Pearl is a character focused book so we get a lot about the dynamics of Perle and Dejean’s relationship which I adored a lot; beginning with their awkward stages of miscommunication, threats (from Perle), misunderstanding, and eventual “tolerance” – the author maps out the progress of trust between these two characters.
D.N. Bryn portrays Perle’s PTSD in a way that is both subtle and impactful. Although Perle is reliant on Dejean for things like food and their tub, Perle’s emotional journey was one they navigated themselves.
Alongside Perle are a cast of characters who make the story lively. Murielle, a happy-go-lucky mechanic, made me laugh so much especially her first encounter with Perle – “There’s a fish person in the tub!” Simone is Dejean’s first mate and Murielle’s fiancee. Simone is the complete opposite of Murielle, and I would love to know more about their relationship.
THE EXPLORATION OF SIREN CULTURE
Our Bloody Pearl is coloured with Perle’s perspective; the narrative in Our Bloody Pearl relies heavily on how Perle makes meaning of the human world. A word like mattress does not exist to Perle who simply refers to them as “sponge.” On first seeing Dejean, Perle describes his hair as “coppery, stormy waves.”
The description of the world is one the author did exceptionally well. This made the world of Our Bloody Pearl far more magical and mysterious to me. It also goes to show D.N. Bryn’s talent at writing when they are able to immerse readers in the culure and social structure of Sirens, in spite of the story taking place away from any other Sirens and on land.
HEALTHY DISCUSSIONS ON GENDER & SEXUALITY
I cannot even count the number of fantasy books I’ve read where LGBT+ communities are ostracized. It’s ironic considering the books are of the “fantasy” genre. Anyway, Our Bloody Pearl takes advantage of the cultural divide between sirens and humans to have discussions on gender and sexuality.
In fact, the main character of our book identifies as neither male nor female (however, this isn’t something specific to just the Sirens as we learn from Dejean). The discussions weren’t exactly smooth flowing but they weren’t clumsy either. There was just a brief awkwardness as the two characters tried to find the best way to explain their culture to the other. The whole-hearted acceptance from the characters was just incredibly sweet and filled my heart with so much joy!
Another first for me is reading a book about a siren whose tail is paralyzed. Perle’s personal narration from the first realization of their paralysis is a journey of confusion, fear, and doubts. Reading Perle’s passages as they try to come to terms with their disability was heart-wrenching. However, I found it interesting that the author did not write Perle’s journey from an angle that would evoke pity, however, they were blunt in their narrative making Perle a character whose recovery was never about being “whole.”
But more than wanting my own fin to work and function as it once did, I want to function in the body I have now, without trying to change myself into an imitation of what I was before. If I change something, I want it to be the ocean, not me.
Alongside this, another theme explored was forgiveness. Do we forgive the ones who’ve abused us? One of the things I noticed in this book is that healing and support goes hand in hand. Through Perle and Dejean, it’s conveyed that healing isn’t about “forgive and forget” but about how we choose to shape our life after the trauma. This is a story that tells its readers it’s okay to ask someone for help and support.
But, of course, I do have a few qualms. One is that Kian needed to be fleshed out a bit more. The tension in the story would would have been better felt if we had more interactions with Kian.
Another is that I wish we could have had a chance to read of more character growth for Dejean and to have read of him in his element – pirating. I would have loved to have known who Dejean is out on the open sea.
🌸 What are your favourite siren books?
🌸 Recommend me a fantasy book with disability rep!
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