Have you ever heard of the book “A Game of Thrones”? It’s a fantasy book that was released in 1997. It was kind of popular, and I think there was even a TV show about it. I know a few people who like it, but I’m not a huge fan. After all, why should I be a fan of a book that lost the 1997 Nebula Award for Best Novel? Obviously, whichever book won the Nebula for Best Novel would be a cultural touchstone and be forever remembered in history. That book is, of course, “The Moon and the Sun” by Vonda N. McIntyre. So, it makes sense that that film based on a book so beloved would languish in developmental hell for years and years. Right?
In fact, the original title of this article was to be “‘ The Moon and the Sun’ Film (AKA ‘The King’s Daughter’) Needs to Be Released Already,” but then, on December 15th, 2021, a miracle happened. After eight years, the first trailer for “The King’s Daughter” finally dropped on Youtube! I couldn’t believe it, having waited for this film trailer for so long. I stopped everything I was doing and watched the trailer, ready to feel… something.
I’m going to be frank. “The King’s Daughter” does not look good. The trailer felt cheap, from the strange costume choices to the bulky, gold, expository text dappling the screen. “The King’s Daughter is also being released in January, otherwise known as a “dump month,” which suggests the studio doesn’t think the film will do well, and they’d rather it not compete with higher grossing films, like Spider-Man or Encanto.
I do not think that this film will do justice to the book, and I feel sad for the people who will be disappointed. This film has been in development for so long that just a few months ago I wrote this:
“It’s been literal years since the film was made. The movie is now set to be released in January 2022, and I feel in my bones that it will be terrible. But I don’t even care. After years of studios blue-balling me, all I want is for them to release this stupid movie. I want to watch it, feel underwhelmed, and then leave the theatre disappointed. Then when it comes out on whatever streaming service, I plan to watch it over and over again because I have a weird fixation with mermaid movies.”Me in December 2021
I wonder how I would have felt if I had been old enough to read this book when it was first published. I wasn’t able to read in 1997, so I doubt I would have been able to ride the initial hype wave or really even recognize the letters used to spell the title, but I do still wonder.
Had I first read this book when it was released, would I have appreciated it more?
I read McIntyre’s work because I have a deep love for mermaid lore, as is standard for most weirdo loners. But a lot of books about mermaids are straight garbage. Or they’re intended for girls in middle school, and as much as I love the Baby-Sitters Club, I have sadly aged out of that demographic. So I need my mermaid content to be a bit more substantial.
Or, at the very least, when I set out to explore a new mermaid universe, I expect the question “how are mermaid babies made?” to be answered.
I have many mermaid questions, and I expect to receive thoughtful answers. I need to know if the mermaids are mammalian or not! Do they lay sacks of eggs fertilized by mermen, or do they give live birth? Or is it something in between, like do merpeople lay eggs like a platypus? If your mermaid franchise gives me some crap answer like “mermaids grow their tales on their 13th birthday” or “wear the mystical moonstone necklace to become a merfolk,” then get the hell out of here.
So as you can see by my strong reaction to something so stupid, I was a primary candidate for McIntyre’s work. I assumed I would love it. It is not the first time I’ve ever been wrong, and it won’t be the last. You might ask me: is “The Moon and the Sun” well-written and well-plotted? I think so, but I’m an accountant, not a literary critic. And that wasn’t why I disliked it.
The story is pretty basic: In King Louis XIV’s court, Father Yves de la Croix returns from an expedition having found a mermaid named Sherzad. The mermaid is held captive in a fountain as King Louis considers what to do with her. The answer to that quandary is “eat her like Sole Meunière in a vain attempt to achieve immortality.” However, his niece, Marie-Josèphe de la Croix, forms a special bond with Sherzad and prevents the Snackening.
I went into this story prepared to enjoy it, but I didn’t know that “The Moon and the Sun” is… kind of icky. Like when you’re swimming in a lake, and you touch the squishy bottom of the shore. Or when you’re speaking with an acquaintance, that person misreads your tone, and suddenly the conversation turns sexually graphic. I sincerely hope you have not experienced either of these occurrences because I have, and they’re terrible.
There are many unnecessary sexual and anatomical descriptions in this book. I was not expecting the merpeople to be so horny. I felt extremely uncomfortable reading about the mermaid “mating frenzy” that Sherzad describes in the book, and the use of the word “play” in the context of that mating frenzy was revolting. At one point in the story, there is a weirdly poetic description of Sherzad’s vulva that is seared into my mind like the grill marks on a tuna steak. Maybe I’m too immature or squeamish to properly appreciate the work and care that McIntyre put into her work. Despite my criticisms of the text, I know that the very descriptions I found so unrelentingly creepy will not phase other readers. For those interested, I did write a review for the book after I read it, and my review has aged hilariously badly.
Some readers may be confused by my criticisms of the text, especially given my weird fixation with science fiction romance novels. That’s understandable but let me describe it differently. If I bring you a plate of nachos covered in nacho cheese, you’ll probably be delighted. However, if you were expecting me to bring you Bouillabaisse and that Bouillabaisse is drenched in gooey nacho cheese, you would be less delighted. McIntyre’s sexual descriptions felt like shot-gunning a 106 oz can of Smart and Final Brand Nacho Cheese Sauce. I did not expect it, I was not prepared, and I was not delighted.
I apologize if anyone is disappointed or hurt by my description of “The Moon and the Sun.” I read this book a few years ago, and I like to think my appreciation for fantasy literature has advanced since then. If I reread it, knowing what I know now, then I might even love it and declare it my new favorite book. Jane Austen’s Persuasion will have to make room for the magical horny mermaid book.
I think Austen would be understanding of that. Though for now, my feelings have not changed with time. And when I think of this book, I mostly feel a sense of discomfort.
I’m not too distraught that this film has not yet been released, even though production wrapped in 2014, though I am not the only person confused by this. I don’t lie awake at night dreaming of the day I can see “The King’s Daughter” in theatres. I didn’t love the book, and I can wait. My excitement for this film is more because I think we need as much beautiful fantasy escapism as possible, and I was curious to see what changes the script might make to the source material. However, I’m not that patient, and I think 8 years is more than enough time for a mermaid movie to be finished and distributed. I’m glad studios agreed with me and are releasing the film.
I looked up Vonda N. McIntyre to see what else she had written. I also was curious if she had any feelings about the film adaption of her work. Unfortunately, McIntyre passed away on April 1st, 2019, before the film was released. If the film was a poor adaptation of her story, and she had the chance to see it, I hope she was not too disappointed. All I wanted from “The King’s Daughter” was a release date, but now I hope for something a bit more serious: I hope that fans of “The Moon and the Sun” are happy with what they see.