I’m back with another book review, and this time I’m reviewing “Our Bloody Pearl” by D.N Bryn! I realized I haven’t really read anything involving sirens and pirates at the same time for a while, so I thought this would be nice to try reading. Here’s a summary so we know what it’s about:
“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.”
There is a lot I really love about this book, so I need to break it down:
1. The well-written representation.
Perle is canonically non-binary, and I’m pretty sure this is the first book I’ve reviewed on this blog that features a non-binary character. This actually feeds into the worldbuilding of this book, where sirens do not have specific male-female pronouns and even can, apparently, change their reproductive systems themselves. Dejean and Perle have a great conversation about this about 70 pages into the book, and I found that part to be quite interesting overall in discussing male/female/non-binary-ness. It’s also implied, at the end of the book, that both Dejean and Perle are asexual in a last bit of dialogue (or at least Perle is, if not Dejean for sure).
Also, Murielle and Simone are canonically a lesbian couple and the couple of scenes featuring both of them together in this book are also very sweet to read. I would love to read more of these two together (especially given that Simone was away for most of the main events in the book while Murielle had a lot more spotlight) in later books.
While still on the topic of representation, another interesting thing of note is that Perle and Dejean end up communicating with each other through sign language. Perle can understand what Dejean’s saying most of the time, but Dejean does not speak siren speak, hence the signing. This comes in serious use when Perle and Dejean both have to translate for each other when interacting with enemies and allies alike, so not only is it helpful for character interactions, but also for driving some part of the plot overall!
2. The romance!
Other than Murielle and Simone, we have the slow-burn romance of Dejean and Perle. Granted, both of them had to overcome a lot of trust issues (doesn’t help that Perle had very good reason to hate humans, and doesn’t help with the reveal that Dejean’s father was killed by sirens either), but they took the time to talk this all out and discuss things between them as they went, which helped further the trust and bond they developed with each other.
3. ALL the character development!
Dejean and Perle were both just as interesting individually as they were when in their romance. The bonds they shared with other characters (Simone being Dejean’s first mate for instance, Perle’s interactions with Storm and so on) also helped to really build their individual characters and flesh them out. Given that this story was more Perle-centric (especially given that it was her own point of view we’re reading this from), I would like to see slightly more development in Dejean, especially given his pirating background and all, but I think that will be remedied in future books. Murielle was also adorable to read, and had a lot of funny lines (especially her first reaction to seeing Perle) which made me laugh a bit. I didn’t see much of Simone, but what moments she had were good and I hope they expand more on her in later books, as well as her and Murielle’s relationship.
I do think Kian also made for a terrifying antagonist. Not just in the scenes where Kian personally appeared, but also in the scenes where Perle discussed Kian, whether it be in their own thoughts (since this book is in their point of view). It really helps shape Kian as a serious threat, not just to Perle and the other main characters but even to Kian’s own crew (and I felt honestly bad for the crew). Kian’s (spoiler alert!) death at the end was, however, extremely fitting, given that it was a weight she used to keep Perle prisoner, and a weight that was used in Kian’s own demise.
4. Thematic development: What makes someone human?
This is a theme that is touched upon in the book quite a lot overall. Perle may be a siren, but is also very smart and capable of thinking and doing all the things humans can do (other than walk on two legs, of course, and other than the cannibalistic traits they have). And then we have the differences between how the sirens and humans see each other. We have sirens like Storm that absolutely hate humans. We have sirens like Perle that learn to see eye to eye with humans like Dejean and Dejean learns to see eye to eye with the sirens. And then we have the humans that are arguably less humane like Kian is in their treatment of others, regardless of whether you’re human or siren. It’s fair to say this gives me as a reader a lot of food for thought.
5. Worldbuilding Development
A lot of the worldbuilding is interesting, even though the main setting is mostly restricted at the docks/port where Dejean, Perle and the others are hiding from Kian. Even though the setting was so restricted for majority of the book, however, the author really made it work and paid attention to worldbuilding details like how Perle would see new people (since Perle is a siren and would basically have a culture clash with Dejean and the others), and even when other sirens and humans came into the mix, we got to see established differences between how sirens interact versus how the humans acted.
I hope that, given that the end of the book has Perle and Dejean going to help other sirens be free from the pain that Perle has been through, that we’ll get to see more of this world beyond the shores and see more siren/human culture clashes and comparisons in later books, because I think that would help make the worldbuilding even richer.