Poor Unfortunate Soul: A Tale of the Sea Witch

The third instalment in Serena Valentino’s villain’s tales is the story of Ursula. I was really looking forward to this: after scaring the beejeeeesus out of me as a kid, Ursula has become my favourite villain as an adult. She definitely projects the body confidence I lack that’s for sure!

Regular readers will know I was left a little disappointed by The Beast Within and so it was with some trepidation that I ventured onto the next novel in the series. However, I was too tempted by the promise of a backstory to my favourite sassy octopus.

Poor Unfortunate Soul starts off really well, as is the case with all Valentino’s books. We meet Ursula as an orphaned human girl, raised by a loving adoptive father but never accepted by the villagers around her. She is acutely aware that she is different and is constantly drawn to the sea. However, when the villagers realise Ursula’s true form and start a literal witch hunt, her father tries to protect her and it ends tragically.  

Vengeful and alone, Ursula returns to the sea and discovers her family isn’t lost to her after all: she has a brother, Triton.

Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, Triton and Ursula are not destined for an emotional reunion and a game of happy families. Instead, Triton wants Ursula to conform to his idea of beauty and live in his kingdom as a mermaid. He also refuses to share his throne with Ursula: something their parents aspired to.

The siblings also disagree over the treatment of humans. Although both despise the race, the sea king disapproves of his sister’s vengeful ways and eventually banishes her from his kingdom. This only adds fuel to Ursula’s rage, causing her to plot to destroy her tyrant brother by using his youngest daughter: Ariel.

We all know how that story goes!

I really enjoyed this backstory to Ursula and the twist that her and Triton were related but separated when they were young. In my opinion it gave me what I wanted from the villains series: empathy for the villain.

However, as was the case in The Beast Within, I was willing for this to be fleshed out more. How were Triton and Ursula separated? What was the kingdom like when the siblings attempted to cohabitate? Ariel’s mother is briefly mentioned as a friend to Ursula – was it her death that permanently severed Triton and Ursula’s relationship? In my opinion, Ursula’s brief relationship with her brother is the lynch pin in her demise but the details are glossed over as an almost appendix in the story. I wanted more of this and less of Tulip!

Ah yes, Tulip is back! Although for the life of me I’m not sure why!

Yes, she was in the last book and we know she made a deal with Ursula.

Yes, she links the books together, particularly with the references to Maleficent’s evil doings in a neighbouring kingdom.

Yes, she has a friendship with Circe and Pflanze: allowing the odd sisters to locate their beloved sister.

Yes, she has a weird nanny who feels like she should be someone but I’m not entirely sure whom.

But dear god she takes up too much of these books. She clearly regained her beauty for a reason and I’m sure her royal suitor has a future role but she just doesn’t interest me as a character. She’s an extra: popping up now and again to make some link in the storyline.  

I can’t delve much further into this book without completely ruining the story for you so let me just say that I enjoyed the book more than The Beast Within. Poor Unfortunate Soul gave me the backstory of Ursula and allowed me to witness how her hate and thirst for power consumed her, as well as the consequences of this.

The novel was less heavily involved with the Odd Sisters than The Beast Within. It seemed that the villain was the main focus which was in keeping with Fairest Of All and greatly appreciated. However, I was still left wanting more: these are thin books and a quick read; I just feel that the opportunities for developing real, complex villains are being missed.

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