It’s a simple question. What if Ursula had won that fateful day? What would it look like for The Little Mermaid’s Ariel and Eric? In Liz Braswell’s Part of Your World that is precisely what happened. Ursula, disguised as Vanessa, marries a bewitched Eric. Ariel believes her true love is stolen and her father is dead so she retreats to Atlantica. Her sisters make Ariel become Queen of the Sea as punishment for what happened to her father. And there she stays, a sad, bored, lonely queen. Until she receives a message that changes everything. Her father is alive!
[ Warning: My review of Part of Your World contains some spoilers!]
A bubble-headed princess becomes a level-headed queen
It’s been five years since those fateful three days on land. Ariel lost so much to Ursula. But she has been trying to make it right ever since. She accepted the role of Queen after her father’s death and has been doing a surprisingly good job too. But she isn’t happy. She still longs for what might have been. Then she gets a message. Scuttle wants to talk to her, he has important news.
Turns out her father is alive! Scuttle saw him in Ursula’s dressing room, still in his polyp form. Ariel knows that she has to rescue him. But when she gets to Tirulia she finds even more problems than she expected. Ursula hasn’t been content to just be a pampered princess. Instead, she’s been making decisions of state, and they haven’t exactly been diplomatic. Indeed, Ursula is about to plunge the entire country into war just to satisfy her thirst for power.
Ariel feels responsible for her father’s fate as well as everything that Ursula has put Tirulia through. She decides that she must not only save her father but also free the kingdom from Ursula’s mad reign. Her first victory is finding the magical shell that contains her voice while searching for her father. She destroys the shell and her voice is finally restored!
Additionally, Ursula’s spell over Tirulia (and Eric) starts slipping. As thrilled as Ariel is to finally be able to talk, laugh, and sing after five years, she’s also lost the element of surprise. Now Ursula knows Ariel is coming for her. And Ursula isn’t known for playing nice. Can Ariel save her father and defeat Ursula this time? And will she finally get her happily ever after this time?
A very different little mermaid in Part of Your World
The flighty, enthusiastic, inquisitive mermaid from The Little Mermaid is gone in Part of Your World. Ariel has suffered through a huge trauma and taken on incredible responsibility as a result of that trauma. She went from only caring about herself to taking care of the entire ocean. And she’s made the transition surprisingly well. Whether it’s because of the guilt she carries or an innate ability to lead, she is doing a good job as queen and has matured into a strong woman over the last five years.
But that doesn’t mean that Braswell forgot the younger version of Ariel completely. She still wants to know how everything works and she still longs for a life she can’t have. But now she masters those desires instead of being a slave to them. She is still a little impulsive but she usually takes her time to think things through before acting.
You can see the younger Ariel underneath her new queenly persona. But now she understands the responsibility that her father carried and she is afraid of letting down others now that they rely on her. It’s something that anyone who has aged enough to “become their parents” understands completely and it was nice to see it reflected back in a story.
Turns within turns in this Twisted Tale
As Ariel herself observed, Part of Your World was composed of turns within turns. Instead of the heroes walking a fairly straight path toward their goal they were thwarted again and again. Every time that it looked like Ariel might be able to beat Ursula, the sea witch threw a wrench in the plan.
The constant setbacks hit Ariel like a rogue wave. But instead of dissolving into a pile of scales and tears, she would just keep working until she found a new angle. Again and again, like waves washing up on a beach, Ariel made plans and Ursula foiled them. Eventually, the dance has to end but the twists keep coming and until all the dust settles it’s not really clear who comes out on top.
Love takes a back seat for Ariel and Eric this time
I thought that it was an interesting choice on Braswell’s part that she kept sidelining Ariel and Eric’s romance. The Little Mermaid was all about their relationship but while Part of Your World acknowledges their interest in each other, Ariel keeps pushing it aside. Which I thought was another interesting choice that really showed how much Ariel had grown and changed in the last five years. She wasn’t a little girl obsessed with a boy, she was a mature woman who had responsibilities.
This doesn’t mean that she didn’t have feelings, she did. And she does intend to explore those after she saves her father and defeats Ursula. But she recognized there is a time and a place for everything and she waits until the time is right. This felt like such a hero move to me. She was sacrificing what she really wanted (to be with Eric) to do what was right (help others).
This made her a better person and a more likable character. I mean, of course, she was likable before, but in an indulgent younger sister (or daughter) way. You love her, but you acknowledge has major flaws. In Braswell’s tale, you love her for being a true hero, which is way better.
Final thoughts on Part of Your World: A Twisted Tale
Anyone who likes The Little Mermaid, fantasy, or romances should really enjoy Part of Your World. Braswell took that basic romance lead and elevated it by having the romance take a back seat to duty. She offers a really solid, enjoyable story with just a touch of that Disney magic. So carve out an evening or two and find out what would have happened if Ariel and Eric never had their happily ever after.
My Rating: 8/10
Part of Your World: a Twisted Tale by Liz Braswell is available now! Are you interested in reading it? Let us know on Twitter or The Cosmic Circus Discord. And if you haven’t already, check out our review of the new live-action remake The Little Mermaid!