Under the dark waves of the deep sea, in the Unprotected Waters, lurks Ursula's desire to access power, in the form of her grand seashell. With powerful magic made of hate and a desire for revenge that will flood her mind, the Sea Witch shares a tale extremely violent, with themes that speak to the year of publication of this novel (2016) about acceptance, true forms, and the danger of hiding it. Ursula's powers, as well as her human form Vanessa and her necklace, are given proper origins, along with her hatred for King Triton, her thoughts about Ariel, and her friendship with the Odd Sisters ( mentioned in the Beast Within).
Serena's attention to details bring all the magic in this novel, as she created an interesting feud between the Sea Witch and the Dark Fairy, but also provided different aspects of Ursula's powers beside stealing voices and brewing potions. The ingredients that made the charm of the first two novels are reunited here: references to mythical characters such as Baba Yaga or Disney ones in the form of Cinderella's stepsister or the Dark Fairy Maleficent) that expand the Many Kingdoms.
The exploration of ongoing characters such as Nanny that reveals here an interesting secret about her nature, Tulip that allows herself to become the person she was destined to be and Pflanze will win the readers' hearts with her sassy comments.
One small complaint might be the length of the book, being the shortest one, which doesn't allow Ursula's background to be as more precise as Fairest of All and the Beast Within. I feel at least one more chapter about her time with the humans in Ipswich and one about her stay in Atlantica might have given a better backstory though it remains clear, brilliant, allowing us to root for her while condemning her actions ( and she certainly is far from redemption at the end).
Being the final installment of this first trilogy, we are left with a cliffhanger that however is the shining hope of new books coming from the horizons ( along with the witch arriving at the end).
* So what's Nanny's connection to Maleficent? If we really trust the Odd Sisters, it appears she was in denial of all her evil acts, was she some kind of mother figure to her ?
* I'd be curious to know how Ursula was able to turn Circe into a sea creature if the latter is the most powerful witch of the Many Kingdoms?
* I wish we would have learned how Ursula got her minions. Were Flotsam and Jestam already living in the Unprotected Waters when she arrived there?
*Ursula's bond with Athena was a great idea! It makes her point of view and actions about Ariel even more complex, and we could only hope her love for Athena would defeat her hate for Triton. Alas, we already know how the story ends and it's not with a happy ending for the Sea Witch.
Rating: 4 out of 5 seashells