Synopsis from Penguin Random House:
INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The must-read Black mermaid fantasy series that #1 NYT bestselling author Nicola Yoon calls “epic and original,” in which one mermaid takes on the gods themselves. Perfect for fans of Children of Blood and Bone and Beasts of Prey.
A way to survive.
A way to serve.
A way to save.
Simi prayed to the gods, once. Now she serves them as Mami Wata—a mermaid—collecting the souls of those who die at sea and blessing their journeys back home.
But when a living boy is thrown overboard, Simi goes against an ancient decree and does the unthinkable—she saves his life. And punishment awaits those who dare to defy the gods.
To protect the other Mami Wata, Simi must journey to the Supreme Creator to make amends. But all is not as it seems. There’s the boy she rescued, who knows more than he should. And something is shadowing Simi, something that would rather see her fail. . . .
Danger lurks at every turn, and as Simi draws closer, she must brave vengeful gods, treacherous lands, and legendary creatures. Because if she fails, she risks not only the fate of all Mami Wata, but also the world as she knows it.
About: Skin of the Sea is a young adult fantasy written by Natasha Bowen. It was recently published on 11/2/2021 by Random House Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Random House, hardcover, 336 pages. The genres are young adult fiction, fantasy, retelling, mermaid, African mythology, and romance. This book is the author’s debut and it is intended for readers ages 14 and up, grades 9 and up. According to the publisher’s website, “Penguin Random House is the international home to nearly 275 editorially and creatively independent publishing imprints. Together, our imprints publish over 70,000 digital and 15,000 print titles annually, with more than 100,000 eBooks available worldwide.” Please see below for more information about the author and publisher.
My Experience: I started reading and listening to an audiobook for Skin of the Sea on 11/28/2021 and finished it on 12/15/2021. Reading this book with a narrator’s voice in my ears was amazing. I enjoyed this narrator’s foreign language and unfamiliar names pronunciation. The narrator did a good job with different voices as well as panic fast read. Forbidden love! Yes please! It was so good to see Simi fighting her urge to love him when knowing she couldn’t. I can’t wait to read his views, hopefully his views will be in the sequel. I enjoyed following Simidele’s adventures. Issa was a cute character. I liked the villain. There were some good twists I didn’t see coming from the villain. The riddle Simi gave Esu to solve was good but too bad there were no answers in this book. I worried for Issa’s grandfather’s reactions to Issa’s whereabouts. I enjoyed listening to the author’s note to learn more about the story. It’s awesome knowing that it took place in the mid-1400s. This book was my first African mythology read. However, I’m not new to African books because I recently read a memoir called The Girls in the Wild Fig Tree and loved it.
This book followed Simidele, a mermaid. She’s a Mami Wata and her job was to collect souls of those who passed in the sea to be blessed (aka collect the dead). As she swam and watched a ship cruised by, she saw a dead woman in the water and quickly prayed for her. Her necklace glowed to informed her that one of her kind is nearby and sure enough Folasade arrived. She comforted Simidele on her grief for that dead woman because the woman reminded Simidele of her own mother. On Simidele’s free time, she liked to go to her Creator’s island to transform herself back into her human self so that she could relive the memories of her mom. Her memories of her human life are wiped clean when she stayed in the sea. Yemoja, Goddess of the Sea, Creator of Mami Wata, told her that what she did for the dead was an honor and she shouldn’t do anything more than pray for the dead. Later another ship went by and a guy named Adekola aka Kola, around 17, was dropped into the ocean left for dead. She swam to him and found that although there were a lot of blood around him, he was still alive. She decided quickly to save him by swimming to the Creator’s island. She busied her inspection of his wounds and he was able to witness her transformation from mermaid to human. This whole situation was against the rules for Simidele. The guy knew of her boss and asked her to summon Yemoja and have Yemoja help him to get home. Simidele feared she would be in trouble for saving Kola’s life than praised by Yemoja. Yemoja answer to a Supreme Creator called Olodumare. Her enemy is Esu, Messenger to Olodumare, who is an orisa similar rank as her. This book is a retelling of the Little Mermaid African mythology style.
Skin of the Sea was well written and narrated. The start caught my attention immediately. It’s unlike anything I have read before. Often I couldn’t put down. Simi’s job was different. It was good to meet another Mami Wata. I liked the mentioned of banana trees because I grew up near them for a short time. I enjoyed the humor. Kola sounded like a great guy. He loved his siblings. Normally I don’t like flashbacks in books unless it was delivered in a separate chapter following a timeline but in this book, it was ok. I can tell when I’m not in the present day. It was useful in this case because that’s when readers got to know more about the main character’s past. It was interesting to follow Simi solve a puzzle to cross a so-called bridge using stories she had heard growing up. The ending was bittersweet. My heart felt calm in knowing that there will be a sequel and hopefully love will be in the air! A great read and I highly recommend everyone to read this book!
I rate it 5 stars!
About the Author:
Natasha Bowen is a New York Times bestselling author, a teacher, and a mother of three children. She is of Nigerian and Welsh descent and lives in Cambridge, England, where she grew up. Natasha studied English and creative writing at Bath Spa University before moving to East London, where she taught for nearly ten years. She is obsessed with Japanese and German stationery and spends stupid amounts on notebooks, which she then features on her secret Instagram. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, watched over carefully by Milk and Honey, her cat and dog. Follow her on Twitter at @skinofthesea (Photo and info obtained from Penguin Random House’s website).
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***Disclaimer: Many thanks to Penguin Random House and Getunderlined for the opportunity to read and review. Please be assured that my opinions are honest.