Asrai is one of the main characters in my fantasy novel, Love of the Sea. She is a young mermaid from the kingdom of Sulu. Raised by Illyana, the former royal advisor to the great warrior king Tuande and the powerful sea hag Selacante; Asrai is princess in exile looking to regain her title.
Sulu is an underwater kingdom, one of many. Some clans live a tribal lifestyle out in the reefs and caves, while others create permanent cities like Sulu. The usurper that stole Asrai’s birthright was from one of the tropical reef tribes. Their reef was destroyed by tropical storms. They came to Sulu hungry and homeless. This betrayal fuels Asrai’s determination to kill the usurper and regain her throne. But, she will soon find there was more to the usurper and his desires to claim Sulu for his own.
I created Asrai’s character with the intention of showcasing a strong female lead while focusing more on ancient mer mythos rather than the sweet modern fantasies. I wanted Asrai to be a predator, like the Ancient Greek sirens; with claws and fangs. I wanted her to have less human qualities with visible gills, webbing, and fins. Making her into such a separate creature gives more risk for her trials on land.
Disney’s The Little Mermaid was already humanoid from the waist up. While her naïveté was charming and her lack of speech was a trial, it was still easy for her to blend in with humans. The original story gave the young mermaid a far more difficult trial with walking feeling like knives stabbing her feet and legs. As well as if she failed to woe her prince (which she did) she would turn into seafoam and die.
I drew inspiration from the original faerie tale, adding the trial of pain when Asrai is given a temporary human form. Though I feel mers being granted human form is also not a difficult enough trial. So, I had Asrai stay in her true form at first, then be granted legs later on. I also stepped up the naïveté of Disney’s Ariel with Asrai’s quick wit when dealing with unfamiliar human behavior and items. The humor is still there, but I also wanted to showcase how cunning Asrai is.
Truth be told, the struggle of Asrai’s magick is something my editor from Ink Smith Publishing initiated. The idea that while Asrai can manipulate people with her magick doesn’t mean she should. I love this added element to Asrai’s character development that winning back her throne with dishonest means will make her no better than the usurper. Asrai has been isolated with the sea hag Illyana for the better part of her life. This, coupled with that mers do not have human empathy, stunts Asrai’s sympathy for others.
To a certain degree, Asrai is a selfish character. However, she realizes these tendencies and begins working through them with Cormack’s guidance. I wanted to showcase that Cormack’s teachings of empathy do soften Asrai, but do not make her weak. In fact, it makes her stronger and better prepared to act as ruler of Sulu and sympathize with the needs of her people.
Asrai was a fun character to write, and I’m grateful to my editor for challenging me with some of the fine tuning on Asrai’s character development. I hope you enjoy reading about her in Love of the Sea!