Celebrating Sirens: 7 Books That Feature the Alluring, Potentially Deadly, Ocean-Dwellers

Celebrating Sirens: 7 Books That Feature the Alluring, Potentially Deadly, Ocean-Dwellers

There is something fascinating and majestic about the concept of sirens and mermaids. I mean, who didn’t want to play mermaids as a kid in the pool?

Even though they’re classically depicted as beautiful and fantastical, mermaids can have a mean streak. Sirens specifically are gorgeous, but monstrous, luring sailors to their death with their irresistible singing voices.

So, what’s the appeal? Perhaps we find the mysteries and possibilities of the vast, unexplored ocean simply intriguing. Or maybe we just like the idea of taking something traditionally thought to just be pretty and adding some depth to it. (Pun completely intended.)

Thankfully, many authors have put their own spin on these creatures of legend. So, here is a list of books featuring sirens and mermaids — one for each of the seven seas, and some with a little more bite than you may expect. Read on the beach for added effect!

 

 

1. All the Murmuring Bones by A.G. Slatter

This gothic, dark fantasy tells the story of Miren, whose family has a long-standing agreement with a community of Mer people: If they give the Mer one of their children each generation, they will provide safe passage for their ships. Unfortunately, her family has not been holding up their end of the deal. This is bad news for Miren, whose very life and freedom are now at stake.

This book is full of twists and turns, and some reviewers say it even borders on horror at times. If that’s your vibe, this book may be a great one to add to your TBR.

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2. Those We Drown by Amy Goldsmith

The Sirens are supporting characters in this YA mystery/thriller set on cruise ship, but they are so fascinating that we had to include them. The main character, Liv, is a late addition to the semester-at-sea (or “seamester”) on board a luxury cruise ship, so she’s already the odd one out. She feels even more isolated when her only friend disappears and she starts to notice that something is definitely not right with the people on this ship, including the beautiful, internet-famous influencers known as “The Sirens.”

Now, are these sirens metaphorical or literal? You’ll have to read the book to find out!

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3. The Deep by Rivers Solomon

This fantasy, sci-fi novella is an emotional story following a mermaid named Yetu, who serves as the historian for her people. This means that she is the only one in her community who remembers their past as it is too traumatic for everyone to be reminded of regularly. You see, these mermaids are the descendants of the pregnant women who jumped from slave ships. They adapted to breathe underwater and have now created their own community. But the burden of this knowledge is too much for Yetu, so she flees.

This story was actually inspired by a song of the same name by the rap group Clipping, which features actor Daveed Diggs, who you may already know from Hamilton, The Little Mermaid (2023), or Blindspotting.

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4. From the Mouths of Sirens by Abigail Hair

Speaking of The Little Mermaid, you know we had to include some retellings of this classic tale. But this YA fantasy is not about going to the surface. Instead, it’s about competing in a legendary tournament between four rival kingdoms. When the Mer king denies Saoirse’s entry into the competition she’s dreamed of being a part of, she has no choice but to go to the Sea Witch for help. As you do.

Oh hey, fans of the enemies-to-lovers trope, there’s some good stuff in here for you, too.

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 5. A Ship of Bones and Teeth by Karina Halle

Looking for a slightly darker retelling of The Little Mermaid? We’ve got you. What if a decade after her deal with the Sea Witch, our mermaid heroine wants to reverse the spell because her prince is absolutely not the man she hoped he’d be? And what if a pirate captain who also has a score to settle with the Sea Witch could be the key to her freedom?

Monsters, haunted ships, and a revenge plot? Count us in!

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6. A Song Below Water: A Novel by Bethany C. Morrow

In this YA contemporary urban fantasy, Tavia is living in Portland, Oregon, trying to keep her identity as a siren a secret. It’s hard enough for her to navigate this city as a young, Black teenager, but after a siren murder trial gains national attention, she’s under even more pressure to lay low. Unfortunately, tensions are escalating and it’s just a matter of time before her secret is out.

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7. To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

Okay, we’ll wrap up with one last retelling. This YA fantasy follows Lira, the princess of the sirens who quite literally collects the hearts of princes. When she kills a fellow siren, her mother punishes her by turning her into a human with the directive to steal the heart of Prince Elian, a siren hunter. And naturally, enemies-to-lovers antics ensue.

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This just scratches the surface of the many books about mermaids and sirens that are out there. Which are your favourites? Have you read any of these, and which ones should we add to our own TBRs? Let us know in the comments!

Happy reading!

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