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Skin of the Sea

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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. "Riveting." --NPR "Evocative." --Entertainment Weekly "Remarkable." --Buzzfeed A way to survive. A way to serve. 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. "Riveting." --NPR "Evocative." --Entertainment Weekly "Remarkable." --Buzzfeed 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.


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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. "Riveting." --NPR "Evocative." --Entertainment Weekly "Remarkable." --Buzzfeed A way to survive. A way to serve. 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. "Riveting." --NPR "Evocative." --Entertainment Weekly "Remarkable." --Buzzfeed 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.

30 review for Skin of the Sea

  1. 5 out of 5

    Nenia ✨ I yeet my books back and forth ✨ Campbell

    WHY YES I WOULD LIKE TO READ A BOOK ABOUT A BLACK MERMAID THANK YOU FOR ASKING

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    During a time when representation is so important, this book really spoke to me. Mermaids are beautiful creatures and my whole life, I never thought they looked like me because I never saw a mermaid that slightly resembled me. But Natasha Bowen has created a world where mermaids look like me, my Momma, my sisters, my grandmother... they have natural kinky, curly hair and skin in every shade of brown that represents my family.  "Skin of the Sea" is a beautiful book that is a blend of history, Afr During a time when representation is so important, this book really spoke to me. Mermaids are beautiful creatures and my whole life, I never thought they looked like me because I never saw a mermaid that slightly resembled me. But Natasha Bowen has created a world where mermaids look like me, my Momma, my sisters, my grandmother... they have natural kinky, curly hair and skin in every shade of brown that represents my family.  "Skin of the Sea" is a beautiful book that is a blend of history, African mythology, and a fantastical world that will ensnare readers.  Black history is so much more than pain and trauma.  This book celebrates all the positive and uplifting aspects of African culture and history during a time of great tragedy.  It showed me the resiliency of my people in the face of unspeakable pain.  This book moved me and it should be shared with the world.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Dannii Elle

    Actual rating 4.5/5 stars. Simidele is one of the Mami Wata. She is a mermaid tasked with collecting the souls of those who die at sea and blessing them for their journey to Olodumare. However, memories of her time as a human haunt her and she spends as much time as possible reverting back to her four-limbed form. Perhaps that is why she is more inclined to save the drowning boy rather than waiting for his life to end? Perhaps that is why she neglects her role and sacrifices the safety of her sis Actual rating 4.5/5 stars. Simidele is one of the Mami Wata. She is a mermaid tasked with collecting the souls of those who die at sea and blessing them for their journey to Olodumare. However, memories of her time as a human haunt her and she spends as much time as possible reverting back to her four-limbed form. Perhaps that is why she is more inclined to save the drowning boy rather than waiting for his life to end? Perhaps that is why she neglects her role and sacrifices the safety of her sisters for a stranger? Perhaps that is why she will prove to be the kingdom's, both above and below, only hope. This was such a flawless and well-crafted story. It took a few pages to orientate myself in this world, as the reader is introduced to Simidele and her watery abode with no other, prior introduction. I quickly caught up with all that was occurring and was hooked from then on. Events moved at a fast-pace but Bowen never neglected one element when crafting this fantastical world and her setting proved as seamless a creation as her writing of it was slick. The characters that roamed there were treated with the same intricate and authentic production and I fell in love with them all. Simidele stole the show though, and proved immediately herself a feisty, fearless, and fabulous heroine I adored reading about. The only element that did not enthral me was the quickly-budding romance that featured. Little was acted upon and the romance did in no way overshadow the plot, but I thought emotion was built too quickly to be truly believable, for me. However, this minor negative was a very small one in the grand scheme of this wonderful debut novel. I'm hopeful that a sequel is forthcoming and Bowen has ensured a faithful reader of anything she produces in the future, with the high-calibre of all I have read here. I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to the author, Natasha Bowen, and the publisher, Penguin, for this opportunity.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Alexis Hall

    Source of book: NetGalley (thank you) Relevant disclaimers: None Please note: This review may not be reproduced or quoted, in whole or in part, without explicit consent from the author. This is a West Africa re-working of The Little Mermaid, set in the 1400s when the Portuguese first began taking African slaves. The heroine, Simi, is a Mami Wata—created by the Goddess, Yemoja in order to guide the lost spirits of the taken to the afterlife. In true Little Mermaid fashion, when a boy falls from a sl Source of book: NetGalley (thank you) Relevant disclaimers: None Please note: This review may not be reproduced or quoted, in whole or in part, without explicit consent from the author. This is a West Africa re-working of The Little Mermaid, set in the 1400s when the Portuguese first began taking African slaves. The heroine, Simi, is a Mami Wata—created by the Goddess, Yemoja in order to guide the lost spirits of the taken to the afterlife. In true Little Mermaid fashion, when a boy falls from a slave ship, Simi can’t let him die. But her choice to rescue him inadvertently breaks an ancient covenant between Yemoja and Olodumare, and sends her on a quest that could change the fates of gods and mortals alike. There was a lot I really loved about this book, particularly the way the reality of the slave trade is neither denied nor allowed to dominate the narrative. While there is no flinching from the atrocities committed, Skin of the Sea spins its tale around myth, folklore and religion as a way to remind us that the story of West Africa is not and should not be solely a story of suffering and loss. I have less than zero standing to talk about the portrayal of, well, anything in this book but I will say—from my position of zero standing—I found the world vivid, well-realised and gorgeously described. Where I struggled a bit was that the book unfurls at such a breakneck pace that I lost some nuances of characterisation, especially when it came to (extensive) supporting cast. I adored the heroine—her complex relationships with the sea, with Yemoja, and with her own fragmented past are all woven together wonderfully—and whenever she was interacting with one of the orisha those scenes positively crackled, but I wish there’d been more time for both Simi and the reader to get to know the companions who accompany her on the journey. Particularly Kolo, who is her Prince Eric, and yet I never really got as much of a sense of their connection as I tend to like in my romance arcs. It is, however, only the first book in the series so there’s plenty of time for further development. Also with my nerd hat on, I was mildly irritated nobody remembered the first rule of dealing with a trickster god. Or, indeed, the second rule. Ultimately, though, this is an incredibly impressive debut: a beautifully written adventure, that grapples fearlessly with loss, on both personal and cosmic scales, and still finds its way towards hope.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Charlotte (Books and Bouquets)

    omg this looks so good!! the cover 😍

  6. 4 out of 5

    destiny ♡⚔♡ [howling libraries]

    I know it's already been said, but this has to be one of the prettiest covers I've ever seen in my life. ♥ I know it's already been said, but this has to be one of the prettiest covers I've ever seen in my life. ♥

  7. 5 out of 5

    ✩ Yaz ✩

    3 - ⭐️⭐️⭐️ All that you need to do, all that you must do, is to gather any souls of those who pass in the sea, and we will say a prayer to ease them on their inevitable journey back to Olodumare. This is your purpose. Nothing more, nothing less. Skin of the Sea is an imaginative take on the Little Mermaid fairytale weaved with lush West African mythology. We follow Simidele who is a Mami Wata—a water spirit whose purpose is to gather the souls of those who pass in the sea to bless and help them to 3 - ⭐️⭐️⭐️ All that you need to do, all that you must do, is to gather any souls of those who pass in the sea, and we will say a prayer to ease them on their inevitable journey back to Olodumare. This is your purpose. Nothing more, nothing less. Skin of the Sea is an imaginative take on the Little Mermaid fairytale weaved with lush West African mythology. We follow Simidele who is a Mami Wata—a water spirit whose purpose is to gather the souls of those who pass in the sea to bless and help them to return to Olodumare. Simi was made into a Mami Wata taking the form of a mermaid after she departed her past mortal life. One day—Simi is swimming in the sea seeking out souls to collect but she discovers a boy who fell from a slavers ship and was drowning to his death. Instead of awaiting for his death, Simi rescues the boy—Kola—unknowingly breaking an ancient decree could mean the end of all Mami Wata. To remedy this grave mistake, she embarks on a journey with Kola to save her kind and Kola's world. What I appreciate about this book is the fact that it takes place at a time Africa was at its darkest age because of the slave trade, but the author did not allow it to overshadow the rich African culture because that tragedy does not take away the vibrancy of this rich culture and its mythology. As a fan of mythology, this book sparked my interest in learning more of African mythology because in the media we are exposed more to European and Chinese mythology and have little to no knowledge about African mythology. Now, let's talk about this book: • It had a rich fantastical setting and was quite atmospheric. • The writing style was immersive and poetic. • It had excellent pacing. • I liked the characters but they felt one-dimensional to me so I struggled to connect to them. • I felt like there was more traveling and less plot so sometimes I feel myself lost in the story. • The ending was... just that? I was surprised and disappointed to see the acknowledgements page after flipping the page. However, I'm very happy to see a fantasy novel starring a black mermaid as it celebrates diversity and creativity. Especially with the Little Mermaid live-action in the works and casting Halle Bailey as Ariel—there was some ridiculous outrage of having a black mermaid and even the author Natasha Bowen had a random person telling her mermaids are white not black; I am truly happy for all the little girls and every mermaid fans that can finally see themselves through beloved characters and mythological figures. Diversity and representation is always a plus.

  8. 4 out of 5

    ~ a foray in fantasy ~

    It’s just a typical YA fantasy plot. I love the mythology woven into the story, but the rest is just too typical. The characters don’t really have much personality.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jasmine from How Useful It Is

    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. 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! xoxo, Jasmine at www.Howusefulitis.com for more details Many thanks to Getunderlined and Penguin Random House for the opportunity to read and review. Please be assured that my opinions are honest.

  10. 5 out of 5

    keira

    this cover has me SHOOK

  11. 4 out of 5

    Aly

    All I had to read was "West African spin on The Little Mermaid" and I was in. I love seeing more POC centered stories and the author's addition of African mythology was amazing. There are several magical beings in this that I haven't heard of but would like to learn more about. I hope stories like this keep getting told and receive the recognition they deserve! Simidele isn't a regular mermaid, she's a Mami Wata who finds the spirits of those lost at sea and guides them to the afterlife. I liked All I had to read was "West African spin on The Little Mermaid" and I was in. I love seeing more POC centered stories and the author's addition of African mythology was amazing. There are several magical beings in this that I haven't heard of but would like to learn more about. I hope stories like this keep getting told and receive the recognition they deserve! Simidele isn't a regular mermaid, she's a Mami Wata who finds the spirits of those lost at sea and guides them to the afterlife. I liked that she could turn her tail back to legs when she wanted and tried to hang on to her humanity instead of forgetting her past life. Her relationship with Kola is sweet and not a big part of the story. It was nice to focus on the journey and saving the Mami Wata from a rogue god. There's also a cute friendship with a young boy named Issa and a bit of a found family vibe. This was a bit slow in the beginning but the second half really picked up the action. I got emotionally invested in the characters and wanted to see them all make it out safely. The ending felt abrupt and surprised me when the next page was just acknowledgments. I'm not sure if the author is planning for a sequel, but I'll keep my fingers crossed! I voluntarily read and reviewed this book and all opinions are my own. Thank you to Random House Books and NetGalley for the copy.

  12. 4 out of 5

    ale ☽

    oK, BUT HEAR ME OUT. THIS BEAUTIFUL COVER AND THE SYNOPSIS? I NEED IT RIGHT NOW. I MUST READ IT INMEDIATELY!!!!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    There was so much I loved about this book: - West African culture and mythology - the concept of Black mermaids shepherding the souls of those thrown overboard from slave ships is something I will always love - I really liked Simidele as a character But I just could not let go of the casting of Esu as a villain. As I read the book, I really hoped that it would turn out to be a misunderstanding. That there would be some kind of old miscommunication between Esu and Yemoja that just needed to be solved There was so much I loved about this book: - West African culture and mythology - the concept of Black mermaids shepherding the souls of those thrown overboard from slave ships is something I will always love - I really liked Simidele as a character But I just could not let go of the casting of Esu as a villain. As I read the book, I really hoped that it would turn out to be a misunderstanding. That there would be some kind of old miscommunication between Esu and Yemoja that just needed to be solved and laid out and that would be the central plot point of the book. But that was definitely not the case. In this book, Esu's arc as an antagonist is literally that of Satan, in that he's a deity in a pantheon that envies the power of the supreme creator and goes against his wishes by subjugating humans. Not only that, but his punishment at the end is exactly the same as well - being dragged downward to a prison deep beneath the earth. I feel like this is reinforcing the depiction of Esu as a satanic figure that came about because of colonization, and that's really counterproductive to so many decolonization efforts to sensitively and accurately portray Esu and what he actually is the deity of. Another reason I was so uncomfortable with all of this is that Esu is the real deity of a real religion being practiced in Africa and Latin America. Esu literally has present-day real life worshippers, and I just feel that it was incredibly disrespectful to them to cast the deity they worship as a power-hungry, greedy villain. Especially when these worshippers probably already have to deal with people misunderstanding their deity and their religion in real life, and maybe even committing violence toward them because of that misunderstanding. So yeah, all of that is pretty much why I just felt so uncomfortable as I read this book. Even though I really did love literally everything else about it. Please take everything I say with a grain of salt as I myself am not a member of the religion that worships Esu. For further reading from a more appropriate and knowledgeable reviewer, check out Louly's review. 🌿 Find more at my blog, Your Tita Kate! 🌿

  14. 5 out of 5

    Sherwood Smith

    I was given a copy of Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales when I turned seven. Books were rare around my house and I read everything I could get my hands on. Including this gift, though toward the end I started dreading each new tale, as even at seven I could see that little girls just did not come to good ends in Andersen's tales. That put me off fairy tales for years. (I loved fantasy, a different animal.) Anyway, when scrolling for books, I saw "The Little Mermaid" and nearly passed on by, b I was given a copy of Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales when I turned seven. Books were rare around my house and I read everything I could get my hands on. Including this gift, though toward the end I started dreading each new tale, as even at seven I could see that little girls just did not come to good ends in Andersen's tales. That put me off fairy tales for years. (I loved fantasy, a different animal.) Anyway, when scrolling for books, I saw "The Little Mermaid" and nearly passed on by, but screeched to a halt when I saw "West African Mythology". I fell in love with Senegalese music decades ago, which caused me to delve into the mythology, which is complex and vivid and wild and wonderful. So I plumped for this book, and I'm so glad I did. First of all, there's that cover. It shimmers with that breathtaking sense that good fantasy gives you--that anything can happen, and the book itself matches that beautifully. I would say that some of the bones of the story are familiar YA tropes, but that is not a bad thing, just a thing. Further, actual young adults reading this book (and I hope they do!) might not recognize where the story is going, even if I did. (Sometimes you know a twist is coming and you look forward to it happening. This was true here.) Simi, our mermaid, is a terrific central character, strong and compassionate. Compementing her is Kola, wild and fiery, but his arc is satisfying as experience plunges them deep into danger and mystery. The writing is rich, assured, full of resonance with the brilliant mythology of the region, deftly dealing with some pretty rough stuff, slavery being at the top of the list. This book is definitely for the more mature teen, or younger readers who are ready to deal with less savory parts of human history. I really hope this book will reach school libraries--back when I was teaching I would have made sure to get a copy for my free reading shelf. Copy provided by NetGalley

  15. 5 out of 5

    Yodamom

    4.5 stars Mystery, mythical, lyrically written with bits of history, it was magical. The setting for the story was Africa, with some of its customs, myths and some of the horrendous history around the slave trade. The characters where both human and mythical, tied to each other in this world. The Main Character Simidele is of the Mami Wata, mermaids who guide drowned souls to their maker. She is newly made, and struggles with what’s left of her time before memories and her new being. When she fi 4.5 stars Mystery, mythical, lyrically written with bits of history, it was magical. The setting for the story was Africa, with some of its customs, myths and some of the horrendous history around the slave trade. The characters where both human and mythical, tied to each other in this world. The Main Character Simidele is of the Mami Wata, mermaids who guide drowned souls to their maker. She is newly made, and struggles with what’s left of her time before memories and her new being. When she finds a body thrown from a ship she takes it to deliver to the gods when he opens his eyes. This one is alive, what is she to do ? She can’t kill him, right ? So it begins, there are alway consequences. She had her feet in both worlds and it’s not allowed or safe. This was such a fish read. I loved the history, the mythology and the honest interactions between the characters. I could believe in them, they acted as one would in that situation, no unrealistic relationships or responses, just honest feelings and doubts. Oh that ending, sigh. It’s so seldom to find a book with vintage African myths and they are fascinating. The culture is so rich I hope I read more authors cover this country in the future. Thank you to the publishers for gifting m this book for an honest review

  16. 5 out of 5

    Maddie

    TW: blood, confinement, death, injury/injury detail, kidnapping, physical abuse, slavery, torture, violence. I really enjoyed this, though I wish I had liked it just a bit more. There were so many incredible things about this book, such as the seamless inclusion of West African mythology and the way the author wove in aspects of 'The Little Mermaid'. I am always on the look-out for books with mermaids, and the Mami Wata were fascinating to read about. The mythology was definitely my favorite part TW: blood, confinement, death, injury/injury detail, kidnapping, physical abuse, slavery, torture, violence. I really enjoyed this, though I wish I had liked it just a bit more. There were so many incredible things about this book, such as the seamless inclusion of West African mythology and the way the author wove in aspects of 'The Little Mermaid'. I am always on the look-out for books with mermaids, and the Mami Wata were fascinating to read about. The mythology was definitely my favorite part of the story. With that being said, there were some things that fell flat for me. The characters all felt extremely one-dimensional and the connections between them extremely sudden. This was a fairly short book so that might have had something to do with it, but I couldn't help feeling like I was missing something. Similarly, when something sad or dramatic happened, it was almost done as if this was the last book in a series and I was expected to have a deep, emotional connection to characters that I knew very little about. The plot seemed to mirror this, as I felt like very little happened for a very large portion of it (lots of travelling) and then it ended so abruptly that I was actually shocked for a moment that it was over. Overall, I still liked this and I definitely recommend it to anyone with a love of mermaids and/or mythology.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Booktastically Amazing

    I was set on giving this book three stars. But dang, that ending! *Video evidence of me after this book, trying to find the second one* I was set on giving this book three stars. But dang, that ending! *Video evidence of me after this book, trying to find the second one*

  18. 4 out of 5

    ness

    2.11.2021 — i hosted an interview with the lovely author, natasha bowen, on my blog!! check it out here ♡ ! <3 30.11.2021 — 3.5★ skin of the sea is the luscious story of simidele, made into a mami wata—a black mermaid of west africa—by the goddess yemoja, in the 15th century when the slave trade had just begun. i absolutely loved the blend of west african folklore in this retelling of the little mermaid. the world-building and story felt so real and fleshed out, but i also enjoyed the character 2.11.2021 — i hosted an interview with the lovely author, natasha bowen, on my blog!! check it out here ♡ ! <3 30.11.2021 — 3.5★ skin of the sea is the luscious story of simidele, made into a mami wata—a black mermaid of west africa—by the goddess yemoja, in the 15th century when the slave trade had just begun. i absolutely loved the blend of west african folklore in this retelling of the little mermaid. the world-building and story felt so real and fleshed out, but i also enjoyed the characters so much. this is a much darker retelling of the childhood story we all know, but it is much richer with the depth of inclusion of history and lore. the things the characters experience in the story is sad and keeps you interested in how they'll end up. my only thing is that i wish this was a longer book, i wanted more from it—i don't know what exactly but something was missing in the storytelling for me. however, i really did enjoy the story with all its turns and crevices and i can't wait for the sequel! content warning: violence, enslavement, death, and suicide. — thanks to the publisher, penguin random house, for the digital copy of this book via netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Asteroeides ° ☆

    I loved - adored this book!!😍🧡 💐CONTENT NOTE: before reading, please be aware that parts of this book may triggering for some readers. Skin of the sea blends fifteenth- century history with fantasy, and there depictions of violence, enslavement, death, and suicide. ^This is from first page before first chapter. Natasha brown weave beautiful story of west Africa mythology, history, culture. In skin of the sea. Opening us up to Mami wata mother of water. Senegalese fairies, bultungin shape-shifters I loved - adored this book!!😍🧡 💐CONTENT NOTE: before reading, please be aware that parts of this book may triggering for some readers. Skin of the sea blends fifteenth- century history with fantasy, and there depictions of violence, enslavement, death, and suicide. ^This is from first page before first chapter. Natasha brown weave beautiful story of west Africa mythology, history, culture. In skin of the sea. Opening us up to Mami wata mother of water. Senegalese fairies, bultungin shape-shifters, and the ninki nanak other creatures both deadly and magnificent. I found myself looking each one up just learn more about them, and would recommend it for those wanting to read this book. 🤗 Doing so I become enchanted me even more and help me better understand story and the characters as well. I couldn't help but fall in love with the characters and the story; the writing is descriptive, flows, and is straight to the point. Ps: my heart still aches and cries at certain parts when I think of them. 😭💔 I want to know what happens in the next book already!!!! Now to become a mermaid 🤔

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sabrina

    That ending was powerful - not what I'd expected at all and felt quite bravely different to most YA books I've read before. It makes a haunting close to a standalone but leaves plenty open for a sequel, which I hope is really happening! Full RTC. Pre-review: Yes! Another book with content warnings at the front! I love it when authors/publishers take the time to do this. That ending was powerful - not what I'd expected at all and felt quite bravely different to most YA books I've read before. It makes a haunting close to a standalone but leaves plenty open for a sequel, which I hope is really happening! Full RTC. Pre-review: Yes! Another book with content warnings at the front! I love it when authors/publishers take the time to do this.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Simone

    I'm a huge fan of mermaids, so when I heard that there was a book out there that combines The Little Mermaid with Children of Blood and Bone, I knew I had to check this out. I'm so glad I did because I found myself a new favorite. Thanks to Get Underlined for a gifted copy of the book. The story follows Simidele, a young Mami Wata, or mermaid, who's only job is to bless the souls passed at sea. However, being a newly minted mermaid, she's been having a tough time coming to terms with her new life I'm a huge fan of mermaids, so when I heard that there was a book out there that combines The Little Mermaid with Children of Blood and Bone, I knew I had to check this out. I'm so glad I did because I found myself a new favorite. Thanks to Get Underlined for a gifted copy of the book. The story follows Simidele, a young Mami Wata, or mermaid, who's only job is to bless the souls passed at sea. However, being a newly minted mermaid, she's been having a tough time coming to terms with her new life glimpsing at memories of her life as a human for clues to who she used to be. When she accidentally saves a boy, that's when the story really starts to begin because as a Mami Wata, your only job is to bless the souls. Because she wanted to save a life, Simi sets off on a quest to speak with the Supreme Creator in hopes of remedying the situation. And let tell you that the adventure is so much fun. From pirates who took over an enslavement slave ship to save other enslaved Africans to meeting mythical creatures to entertaining a riddle-filled trap of an island to save two children, this story just keeps moving from this point on. I loved Simi and Kola so much. While I wasn't a huge fan of the romantic elements going on, I loved their dynamic. Simi is this intelligent person with strength that surprised me to read. I loved that she uses her knowledge to help Kola get back his twin siblings. I also love Kola because of how much a leader he is. At first, I thought he was just a teenager who liked to get in trouble, but the moment he gets back to his village, he's transformed into this man with a plan to get back his siblings and fight against Esu, the orisa who stole them. The story itself is wrapped in so many layers. You have Simi who's looking for some remnants of her past. You have Kola who must get back to his village to protect his siblings. But then they go on this adventure meeting mythical creatures, friendly allies, scary creatures, and the gods of this West African tale. And on top of that, you have these orisa making visits, secret deals being made, and so many faces that appear throughout the story. Honestly, you're in for a ride that doesn't let go not even at the end! I mentioned this a second ago, but the only thing I wasn't a huge fan of was the romance. It was fine, but a little forced and I much rather would see Simi and Kola be allies as they fought against Esu. However, I also know that this story is loosely based on The Little Mermaid, so there needs to be that romantic element to keep that basis still true. The only other thing I wasn't a huge fan of was the bits and pieces that kind of fell off. I was intrigued by Yemoja, Simi's creator, and her abilities. I'm hoping that the second book will dive further into these, especially since the ending left you wanting the second book right away! Overall, this was such a good story that combines so many mythical creatures, legends, gods, and people into a beautiful narrative. The characters are so interesting and you want to find out about them and you'll fall in love with them (even the side characters!). I truly loved this one and can't wait for book 2.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Aj ⭐️

    2.5 I barely enjoyed this, I was counting down until the last page even during the last 100 pages when things started getting interesting :/

  23. 5 out of 5

    Natasha

    4.5 stars This absolutely stunning and captivatingly unforgettable fantasy debut blends West African mythology with one of histories’ darkest chapters to create a powerfully poignant and thought provoking tale of love, courage and resistance. It’s an absolute MUST READ! Simidele is a Mami Wata, a mermaid duty bound to collect the souls of those who die at sea, blessing heir journeys back to the supreme creator, Olodumare. But when a living boy is thrown from a slave ship, Simi saves his life which 4.5 stars This absolutely stunning and captivatingly unforgettable fantasy debut blends West African mythology with one of histories’ darkest chapters to create a powerfully poignant and thought provoking tale of love, courage and resistance. It’s an absolute MUST READ! Simidele is a Mami Wata, a mermaid duty bound to collect the souls of those who die at sea, blessing heir journeys back to the supreme creator, Olodumare. But when a living boy is thrown from a slave ship, Simi saves his life which goes against an ancient decree bringing danger to the Mami Wata. Now, Simi must journey to Olodumare to make amends—a journey of vengeful gods, dangerous lands and legendary creatures. If she fails she risks not only the fate of the Mami Wata, but also the world as she know it... Honestly, Skin Of The Sea is a beautifully written, I was absolutely enthralled. I loved the detailed setting and spectacular world building—the way in which the culture and customs were portrayed (through Simidele’s past memories as well as through Kola and his village was so vividly immersive. It really added depth and brought the world (and characters) to life. I absolutely adored Simidele and couldn’t help but cheer her on especially after seeing how much she’s had to endure. Her strength, determination and sheer fierceness as a protagonist makes her my favourite character, though I also really loved little Issa. It’s hard to believe that this is Natasha Bowen’s debut book, the writing is just flawless and utterly awe-inspiring. Though Bowen touches upon the horrific (and very real) beginnings of one of the darkest eras of history,she also highlights fascinatingly rich and complex, ancient African history, culture and knowledge, which truly deserves a wider audience to appreciate just how incredible it is. I absolutely loved learning about the Mami Wata and the Yumbo (seneagalese fairies) —honestly, I’m soo excited to see what Bowen writes next! Overall, Skin Of The Sea is a richly diverse and captivatingly addictive YA fantasy that I urge everyone to read—it’s just so Amazing! If you love mythology inspired stories or just love mermaids, then you should definitely give this a read. Thanks to Penguin UK and NetGalley for the arc.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Deja

    I was sold the second I saw black mermaids. Skin of the Sea is a gorgeously culture-driven historical fantasy that drops readers directly into a vast, magical world based on African mythology and blends the ideas flawlessly. Lovers of the classic Little Mermaid story will no doubt be drawn to this beautifully written book. The detailed description is so immersive and transports you directly into the setting with ease, which is always a plus in fantasies like this. This book is definitely more of I was sold the second I saw black mermaids. Skin of the Sea is a gorgeously culture-driven historical fantasy that drops readers directly into a vast, magical world based on African mythology and blends the ideas flawlessly. Lovers of the classic Little Mermaid story will no doubt be drawn to this beautifully written book. The detailed description is so immersive and transports you directly into the setting with ease, which is always a plus in fantasies like this. This book is definitely more of a direct retelling than I expected it to be, and for that reason, the plot is very easy to follow and predict for the most part, but those who enjoy fairytale retellings will not see that as an issue. I am also a sucker for books that teach me something new without feeling educational. The amount of African mythology and magical creatures I learned about from this book will stick with me for a very long time, and I love how each aspect of the history and culture was incorporated so naturally in Simi's narration. Her perspective as a human turned Mami Wata is an excellent POV to tell this story from. My only qualms lie in the sudden and insistent romantic plot, which felt necessary to the overarching story, but the characters simply lacked the natural chemistry and development I would have liked to see. That, and the suddenness of the ending, which was so jarring that I'm still reeling from it, though the snippet of the planned sequel does make me feel better knowing that it wasn't the end.

  25. 5 out of 5

    ♠ Tabi⁷ ♠

    this sounds and looks absolutely FABULOUS when can I hoard it

  26. 4 out of 5

    Louly

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. 2-it-was-ok-stars. ⭐⭐ As a story, it was a pretty average young adult book. The characters weren't that fleshed out or likable. They felt like repeats of archetypes. The funny/comedic one, the serious one, the naive/endearing child (who’s also the team mascot), the dutiful prince, etc. I didn’t buy the romance either. It wasn’t that groundbreaking. I don’t have much to say. I’m mainly here to review the (mainly) Yoruba-inspired part of the story. I want to note that I’m just one Yoruba person revi 2-it-was-ok-stars. ⭐⭐ As a story, it was a pretty average young adult book. The characters weren't that fleshed out or likable. They felt like repeats of archetypes. The funny/comedic one, the serious one, the naive/endearing child (who’s also the team mascot), the dutiful prince, etc. I didn’t buy the romance either. It wasn’t that groundbreaking. I don’t have much to say. I’m mainly here to review the (mainly) Yoruba-inspired part of the story. I want to note that I’m just one Yoruba person reviewing this book and I do not speak for all. This was my experience reading this book. What I Liked: - I liked the use of actual Yoruba names for the characters. Many Yoruba-inspired fantasies in the West weirdly refuse to use actual Yoruba names for the characters, instead opting for names that sound vaguely ethnic or African in some way. - Sometimes the author used diacritics when using Yoruba words. Yoruba is a tonal language, which means that some alphabets like “e” can mean two things. The inclusion made words easier to recognize or pronounce. I do wish she used them for all Yoruba words, including the names. - The mention of Yoruba foods like iyán and ẹgúsí, ẹ̀fọ́ rírò. Or Nigerian dishes like pepper soup. Though pepper soup was described as being eaten with rice?? And ẹ̀fọ́ was just eaten by itself with no accompaniments??? What I Didn’t Like: - The use of Yoruba language wasn't that good or accurate. There was a part in the first chapter that was pretty good, probably because the author said (on Twitter) that she got help for that part. However, the rest was... not good. It felt like the author just used google translate. There was a part where two characters refer to each other as "ẹ̀gbọ̀́n ọkùnrin" and "àbùrò ọkùnrin" which according to the book was supposed to translate to “big brother” and “little brother.” However, in reality, this translates to "older (sibling) / (of a) / man" and "younger (sibling) / (of a) / man." There is no older brother or sister in Yoruba just “younger sibling” and “older sibling.” The words “ẹ̀gbọ̀́n” and “àbùrò” can be used to refer to non-biologically related people who are close too. I suppose this was supposed to denote a sense of solidarity or familiarity between the two characters but it just came across as strange and confusing to someone that understands the language. Even more so when you realize that these two characters quite literally just met.There’s a scene where a mother refers to her daughter as “ọmọbìnrin ìn mi”. This makes no sense. It’s also why I said it felt like she was using google translate. This literally translates to “child / girl / ? / mine.” In Yoruba, “ọmọ” refers to “child” and “obìnrin” refers to “woman.” Added together, “ọmọ” + “obìnrin” = “ọmọbìnrin”, i.e meaning “girl child.” A parent is more likely to refer to their child as “ọmọ mi” (my child) in Yoruba which indicates closeness rather than super-specifying. The term “ọmọbìnrin” is more formal and is likely to be said by someone older than you, someone you’re not close to, or someone that’s trying to condescend or belittle a woman. The person being spoken to is a little girl. Also, the “ìn” in the middle of the sentence makes no sense and serves no purpose.Characters call their mothers “ìyá” which is odd because it translates more to “older woman” than it does “mother.” While it can also mean the latter, it denotes a sense of formality in it, not something a child will casually call their own mother. “Màámi” would have sufficed, a combination of “mama” and “emì/mín/mì” which translates to “mother / me (or mine).” It’s also informal, so it's equivalent to “mum” or “mummy” in English. Perhaps if the characters had said “ìyá mì” it would have been less awkward?There’s also a translation of “ìyá àgbà” to mean “grandmother” when it just means “older woman/mother.” However, there’s no actual word for “grandmother” in Yoruba so I understand the substitution.There are also other little mistranslations I’m not bothering to include. I don't understand why the characters needed to speak Yoruba in the first place. The author doesn’t speak Yoruba and it seems she wanted to add ‘authenticity’ to the book? However, it just came across as annoying when you’re constantly noticing the mistakes. It takes you out of the reading experience. Most of the sentences didn’t even need to be in Yoruba in the first place. Especially since they were (mostly) translated to English right after they were spoken. They probably would have landed and flowed better if they were in English in the first place.The author tried to use the Yoruba call and response in storytelling, in which a narrator calls out (in Yoruba) “álọ o” and the audience responds “álọ!” at the beginning of a tale being told. (At least this is what I think she's trying to achieve.) However, she used “Here is a story. Story it is…” This doesn’t really translate well in English. Especially since the person narrating the story is the one calling out AND also responding. It would have been easier if her audience were the ones to respond “Story it is…” Also, in reality, we already have an English translation in which the narrator calls out “Story, story o!” and the audience responds “Story!” (with enthusiasm). This is a thing storytellers do particularly with children. Though it might seem out of place in high tension scene, cause it's meant to be a playful introduction. **This is not a nitpick but more of an advice. I did a search on the internet and found this article that talks about it.[1]- The story also sorts of (unconsciously) reinforces the western-influenced characterization of Èṣù being depicted as an equivalent to Satan/the Devil. Èṣù is way more complex than “bad diety that does bad things just because.” In Yoruba cosmology, he is an intercessor to Èlèdumarẹ, which devotees of all the other Òrìṣàs have to pay homage to.[2] Long story short, due to mistranslations in the mid-nineteenth century (1830 - 1860), Èṣù was translated to the devil/Satan (in the Christian bible) and this has unfortunately stuck. Èṣù is quite neutral in his dealings and though he is a trickster, he does not seek harm to anyone, Òrìṣà or human.[3] For more information seek the sources I’ve listed below and the Wikipedia page.[4] In the story, he outwardly states that he wants to overthrow Eledumare because… he wants power? Even though he already has power as an Òrìṣà, he wants more? He’s also a bit of a narcissist. “Why should I be content with being a mouthpiece? A joker? Keeping the balance between the ajọgùn and Òrìṣàs? I need more than that. More than passing on the needs and wants of man. More than bargaining with the anti-gods. I want to be powerful, strong. Our lands will never survive without an Òrìṣà like me… Look at what is happening on earth. Òrìṣàs have no true freedom to use what they were given, what they were created for… To rule. To be worshipped. To reward if we so chose, and to discipline those who deserve punishment.” Being worshipped, being powerful/strong, doling out punishments, these are things Òrìṣàs already are. Already do. While the book makes several attempts to depict the duality of the deity, it ends up falling. The author says that he isn’t “evil” and “he shows respect when shown respect (rephrased)” but doesn’t deliver. The Èṣù in this book is malicious and narcissistic. He thinks he deserves more admiration and respect than he deserves, and doesn’t give an iota back to anyone he encounters. He looks down not only on humans but his fellow Òrìṣàs (who are trying to do the right thing). He kidnaps children, physically scars women, insults the downtrodden, and is all-around bad. It’s hard to see the side that supposedly “shows respect when shown respect (rephrased)” when all you see is an asshole of the greatest degree. I don’t think the author did this on purpose. For her story to work, she kinda needs Èṣù to be the villain, which eventually backs her into a corner. However, this is a fantasy book. Accuracy doesn’t really matter (no matter how much it would be appreciated). In fact, several non-Yoruba fantastical animals come into the story.[5] “Skin of the Sea also has legendary creatures, mainly from West and Central Africa. Exploring the stories of the bultungin as shapeshifters who turn into were-hyenas and Yumboes, Senegalese fairies, added to my desire to write a book where we see alternate versions of the usual mythical creatures. I also included the Ninki-Nanka, a river monster, as well as the sasabonsam, who are like giant vampire bat-like creatures. For me, blending these creatures only added to the magical world of Skin of the Sea and stayed true to the land and time in which the book is set.”Conclusion: Even though it fell through on some parts, you could tell that the author did a lot of research which I appreciated. It was fun reading the book in anticipation of a part of Yoruba culture being referenced. According to an interview, though the author has a Nigerian-Yoruba father, she grew up with little exposure to her Nigerian-Yoruba heritage, and she used writing this book to connect to it in some way??[5] She also said she did a lot of research to be able to write this book. I want to note that I don’t have a problem with the author exploring her heritage in whatever way she sees fit. I just hope that Western readers don’t take African-inspired fantasy books like this as historical accuracy and a precise depiction of real-life cultures, religions, or places. And even if they do, it won’t be the author’s fault. I’m glad for the rise of African-inspired books, Yoruba ones in particular. However, I wish that they were more accurate linguistically and culturally. Sadly, this is not the first Yoruba-inspired YA fantasy book I've read, in which the language was botched (looking at you COBAB). I also wish that pre-Colonial African gods and cultures do not only appear in fantasy books. And that more opportunities are given to African people that grew up and live on the continent to write their own stories too. I’m glad that more and more, Black people in the diaspora are gaining attention and notoriety for their works. I’m especially glad that Black women are at the helm of this advancement too. I’m glad that Black kids are getting to grow up with stories and tales that not only feature them but place them front and center. [1] https://www.tampabay.com/archive/1996... [2] https://www.okayafrica.com/yoruba-esu... [3] https://alamojayoruba.com/esu-is-not-... [4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eshu [5] https://www.bookweb.org/news/indies-i...

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ms. Woc Reader

    A truly beautiful book deserving of all the hype and praise it's received. Skin of the Sea combines Yoruba culture with pieces of history from the trans-Atlantic slavery and Han's Christian Anderson's The Little Mermaid into a gorgeous historical fantasy. We follow Simi who is a Mami Wata, on an adventure after she saves a boy named Kola who has been tossed off a slave-ship into the sea to die. Though it is forbidden, she rescues him anyway and is told her actions will have detrimental consequen A truly beautiful book deserving of all the hype and praise it's received. Skin of the Sea combines Yoruba culture with pieces of history from the trans-Atlantic slavery and Han's Christian Anderson's The Little Mermaid into a gorgeous historical fantasy. We follow Simi who is a Mami Wata, on an adventure after she saves a boy named Kola who has been tossed off a slave-ship into the sea to die. Though it is forbidden, she rescues him anyway and is told her actions will have detrimental consequences for her kind. So she sets out to help Kola return to his village and find his siblings who have special abilities and get these very powerful rings they possess. Some authors would've allowed the slave trade to dominate the narrative and instead taken this story in a different direction and I liked that while it was mentioned and greatly affected the lives of some of the characters that the white colonizers were not the main focus. This wasn't just a story about the suffering and loss West Africans felt at their hands. Instead we are thrown into a battle involving a power hungry god. Natasha Bowen's writing style is so lyrical it's easy to get sucked in. I never found myself bored while reading. And I love that there was a works cited page at the end including all the sources she used during her research. I felt the time and love she poured into this story.

  28. 4 out of 5

    AziaMinor

    Overall Rating : B+ If I'd known what heartache I was going to suffer, I might have been more hesitant going I to this (not really, but at least I'd be able to brace myself). Thank God this is a series! Overall Rating : B+ If I'd known what heartache I was going to suffer, I might have been more hesitant going I to this (not really, but at least I'd be able to brace myself). Thank God this is a series!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Adah Udechukwu

    Skin of the Sea was a difficult read as every iota of action was destroyed by the writing style. The novel was too descriptive. Too, too descriptive.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Basma

    Actual Rating: 3.5 This was an incredibly captivating book and I absolutely loved the world and the concept. I just think there was more character development that needed to happen for me to be attached. Also, the ending left me unsatisfied? I think the author was going for cliffhanger but I just felt like pages were missing. TW (some provided in the book): violence, enslavement, death, suicide, abuse, manipulation, trickery

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