Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking those links, I will receive a small commission from the sale at no extra cost to you.Skin of the Sea (Skin of the Sea #1) by Natash Bowen
Published by Random House Books for Young Readers on November 9, 2021
Genres: Fantasy, Mythology, Young Adult Fiction
Format: eBook (323 pages)
Purchase: Amazon • IndieBound
Add Book: Goodreads • Bookhype
An unforgettable fantasy debut inspired by West African mythology, this is Children of Blood and Bone meets The Little Mermaid, in which a mermaid takes on the gods themselves.
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 does the unthinkable--she saves his life, going against an ancient decree. And punishment awaits those who dare to defy it.
To protect the other Mami Wata, Simi must journey to the Supreme Creator to make amends. But something is amiss. 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 doesn't, then she risks not only the fate of all Mami Wata, but also the world as she knows it.
Proceed With Caution:
This book contains death, blood, kidnapping, and mentions of slavery.
Skin of the Sea is narrated by Simidele, a Mami Wata. She was reborn as a mermaid to bless the souls who have died at sea. Then she finds Kola who is still gripping to life. Instead of finishing her task, she rescues him. When her creator learns of what she’s done, she sends Simi on a quest of atonement. She must find a pair of powerful rings after returning Kola to his home. Unfortunately, the rings are gone, along with Kola’s siblings and the two must head out together to find them, or else Simi and the other Mami Wata will be unmade and the human world will be plunged into famine.
I feel like a broken record at this point, but I have to mention this again. I don’t like mermaid books, and yet I keep getting drawn in by pretty covers and amazing blurbs. I went into Skin of the Sea with simultaneously high and low expectations. Low, because no mermaid story has wowed me despite my love for the creatures. High, because it just sounds amazing!
Unsurprisingly, I didn’t enjoy Skin of the Sea. I was bored and simply not interested in Simi’s task. There was never any true sense of urgency as Simi and Kola’s travels are relatively uneventful. They always meet exactly who they need to in order to move on to the next task. The romance was also super low stakes, because it only exists in other characters’ heads. We’re told by the villain that Simi is in love with Kola, but that they are forbidden to be together. But Simi never tells us this herself. We don’t see any emotion from Kola’s side either. Even that supposedly heartbreaking ending was just lacking.
The only thing I did find interesting about Skin of the Sea was the mythology and some of the world-building. We’re told some pieces about how the different races came to be and that sets up for the slavery side plots. I also liked the twist on mermaids and other magical creatures, even though Simi spends most of the book in her human form. I just wish the emotion had been there to make me care about these characters.