ARC Review: Walking on Knives – Maya Chhabra

Walking on Knives
Book cover: A kingfisher sits on a branch, looking over a water body in which a mermaid’s tail is disappearing

The little mermaid has no idea that as she makes her way on land, she’s being watched over by the sister of the very witch with whom she made her bargain. She has no idea that the witch’s sister is falling in love with her.

When the prince decides to marry another woman, the little mermaid’s secret helper offers her a chance to live. But the price may be too high…

Walking on Knives contains some explicit content and a scene with dubious sexual consent.

I received an ARC of Walking on Knives through NetGalley. I chose to request this book because the little mermaid is one of my favourite fairytales and I loved the addition of the witch’s sister.

This book is #ownvoices for bisexual representation.

I want to start this review by saying that there was a rape scene in this book, so if this is a problem for you, please don’t continue reading, as I will be discussing this.

This book starts with a rape scene, and I believe this is what the blurb states as “a scene with dubious sexual consent”. It wasn’t dubious in my opinion, it was rape, not dubious sexual consent at all, and it really shocked me. I found it very graphic and I was totally not prepared for this. We don’t find out if The Little Mermaid knew that she had to have sex with the witch as part of her bargain or if this was forced on her. We also don’t find out if she could have offered a different payment and opted out of sex, if it was part of the bargain. I also felt like this scene wasn’t tackled properly after it happened and was kind of swept under a rug.

There is also a scene where the love interest asks for a kiss as payment for something that she has already given to the main character. She is also angry when the little mermaid doesn’t oblige. This really got to me and again made me quite upset. After this secene the love interest does mention that she was wrong in asking for a kiss, but she doesn’t apologise to The Little Mermaid. Because of this scene and the fact that the love interest doesn’t apologise nor is she aware that she did something wrong, I couldn’t root for this relationship.

There is also another scene where sex happens but both of the partners are quite upset while having sex, which I then see as not being consensual. One of the people even cries before they start having sex. It was very difficult to read through that too.

We don’t receive answers to quite a few questions. What does the little mermaid love about the sea witch, and vice versa? Why does the sea witch decide to bargain with her sister? What happened to her slippers at the end (I feel like I missed something here)? Why is the prince portrayed as an evil person for not returning the love he gets? It’s a very tell, not show book and I think it wasn’t the right choice in this story.

The story ought to have been a lot longer, so that the reader understands the reasoning behind the rape scenes, as I felt like these really were not talked about properly after they happened. If there had been more chapters, we would also have got more details about other events in the story, understood more of the story and witnessed the development of the different characters.

I wanted to enjoy this book but it wasn’t my book at all. I can’t recommend it.

Trigger warning: rape, lack of consent.

1 star

Have you read Walking on Knives?

3 thoughts on “ARC Review: Walking on Knives – Maya Chhabra

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