Book Review: Poor Unfortunate Soul by Serena Valentino

Add Poor Unfortunate Soul to your Goodreads TBR:

A Disney Villain Tale

Published in Australia in 2018 by Scholastic Australia.

Purchase Links:



Angus & Robertson:

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy Fiction, Fairytale Retelling.

Page Count: 191

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Sypnosis from Goodreads:

The tale of the sea king’s daughter Ariel is a beloved one of losing and then finding one’s own voice. The story has been told many times and in many ways. But always the mergirl always wants more than her world can offer, and her father demands that she live within the confines of his domain. Her rebelliousness costs the little mermaid her voice and nearly her soul. But the power of good prevails, and Ariel emerges proud and unchanged. And yet this is only half the story. So what of Ariel’s nemesis, Ursula, the sea witch? What led to her becoming so twisted, scorned and filled with hatred? Many tales have tried to explain her motives. Here is one account of what might have shaped the sea witch into a detestable and poor unfortunate soul.

My Review:

I received a copy of Poor Unfortunate Soul from Scholastic Australia in exchange for an honest review, all thoughts are my own.

I’m all for stories told from the villains point of view! Furthermore, I’m all for an origin story about why a specific character became so rooted in their evil ways- granted, I absolutely adore Ariel and have since childhood, but Ursula has always been a character that I often wondered about.

Why is she just so set in her vengeful ways? I really think Serena Valentino has done a fabulous job showcasing Ursula’s torment from her early years, just how she depicts her true feelings of only ever being wanting to be loved and accepted by her Brother, the almighty King Triton, but when he recoils at her true form and calls her horrible and hurtful names and verbally attacks her in such an awful fashion, well really it’s no wonder that she’s so consumed with a fiery vengeance!!

Poor Unfortunate Soul takes place during The Little Mermaid canon, the story that we all know and love! There’s also some brilliant characters that the Author wove into the story too, some characters crossing over from other Disney tales, such as Maleficent and even Snow White had a mention too! Well, not exactly Snow White herself but the trademark poison apple which was a remnant of her Wicked Stepmother’s initial malicious actions, which seemingly proved to turn out to be sacrificial! The way Serena Valentino incorporated these aspects into her story was just really clever, as it felt like everyone was slightly tied together and interconnected!

The pacing of this book was utterly brilliant! At only 191 pages, it was just so instantaneous, falling into the world of Ursula and her plotting to overthrow her brother and destroy the Daughter he loves most, Ariel, whilst supposedly restoring the mysteriously disappeared Circe to her Sisters. Of course, there’s one person that doesn’t quite trust Ursula’s agenda and I just really enjoyed how everything unravelled at the climatic point of this book! The writing especially at the latter points of this book was just so wonderfully dark and atmospheric, I really could feel the magical tension, filled with the sisters’ fury and betrayal at what was revealed, I could feel the glass threatening to shatter as spells were being uttered! In turn, when Ursula is striking that penultimate bargain with Ariel and our favourite red-haired mermaid feels her voice being forced from her lungs, just, wow! The agony that was described was unreal and completely vivid! I found myself wincing in horror as I was reading! So powerful!

What really struck me as interesting though and thought provoking was how well Serena Valentino wrote as Ursula. As I mentioned, she’s berated and belittled and practically insulted by her brother, when it was confessed she only wanted to be accepted and loved by her family, only to ultimately be banished! However, you can totally tell that there’s some fleeting pain when Ursula thinks of Athena, Triton’s dearly departed wife, who, as it’s revealed, had stuck up for Ursula and was essentially the reason that Triton hadn’t banished her sooner!

Overall, I definitely recommend Poor Unfortunate Soul! It’s a fun, engaging story that is definitely compelling and completely written so vividly that I could easily picture everything unfold in my mind as if it was watching a Disney movie!

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