If you know the tale of the Little Mermaid, then you know the basis for this reworked story, Walking On Water, by author Matthew J. Metzger. As always Metzger gives his own spin to the story, and in many ways makes this fractured fairy tale ever so much better than the original. When Calla, the mermaid, rescues the handsome Prince Janez from a watery grave and sets him back upon the shore, it is with the knowledge that she has seen the face of the “skyman” she loves. After being sternly told by her father that no such thing as skymen exist and to be quiet and go off like a good girl to her singing lessons, Calla does the exact opposite and sets off to visit the banished sea witch.
The witch does indeed grant Calla her wish, giving her a potion that will render her human for three days. But like every gift from this witch it comes with a price—for Calla does indeed change, but not into a girl. Instead she emerges as a man and suddenly Calla understands for the first time why she always felt so out of place in her father’s watery kingdom. She was truly a he. Now as the man named Held who rescued the Prince, he sets out on the mission to win the prince’s heart and succeeds in doing just that. Unfortunately, the prince’s brother needs to secure his alliances and Janez is the bartering chip. He must marry—and quite possibly lose Held forever.
I cannot begin to explain how incredibly beautiful this story turned out to be. Walking on Water takes a benign children’s tale and turns it into the most romantically lush story of love and loss. When Calla transforms into Held and realizes for the first time that he has always been that man inside, it is amazing. Then the author shows his incredible skill in writing some of the most gorgeous scenes of intimacy between two men that I have ever read. It’s not the physical mechanics of lovemaking that Metzger focuses on, but rather the incredible exploration of the first time one loving hand touches another or as Held puts it—their hands kissed.
For Held, each touch, each moment of physical closeness was new and fresh and real for the very first time. It was absolutely magical to read the descriptive passages when Held and Janez made love. Again, not because the mechanics of what is inserted where, but rather the incredible emotional and physical rush Held and Janez experienced together became the real story. I’m so frustrated here because I know my flimsy words fall way short of expressing how incredibly moving this novel was for me. This story was poetry in motion and it’s all due to this author’s incredibly expressive style of writing.
There was such raw intimacy and beauty in every chapter and, as a result, when Janez is faced with the fact that he is to be a pawn in the political maneuverings his brother needs to employ in order to make their border safe, it is heartbreaking to experience his pain of betrayal at the hands of a brother he loves. With each passing chapter, I found my heart in my throat as Janez and Held fight against family forces that threaten to tear them apart at every turn.
Walking on Water by Matthew J. Metzger is a sweeping saga of love, betrayal, loss, and hope. It is a glorious celebration of romance that survives every roadblock thrown against it and not only survives, but also flourishes. It is a fairytale wrapped in magic and anchored in love and I highly recommend it to you.