I received this book for free from Random House Children's Books and TBR & Beyond Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you buy the book using that link, I will receive a small commission from the sale.Skin of the Sea by Natasha Bowen
Published by Random House Children's Books on November 2, 2021
Genres: Juvenile Fiction / Fantasy & Magic, Juvenile Fiction / Historical / General
Source: Random House Children's Books and TBR & Beyond Book Tours
Buy on Amazon, Buy on Bookshop
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 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 doesn't, then she risks not only the fate of all Mami Wata, but also the world as she knows it.
I am so happy I had the opportunity to read Skin of the Sea by Natasha Bowen! I am now released from a perspective that is only informed by Greek mythology! Thank you to TBR and Beyond Book Tours for inviting me to be a host.
Skin of the Sea is a beautifully written historical fantasy. You will find yourself immersed in the story. Check out my top 3 reasons you should read Skin of the Sea by Natasha Bowen along with a bonus, my favorite quotes from the book.
1. Black Mermaid Tales Should Be Told More Often
If you have been waiting on a book that features Black mermaids, then you need to check this out. Simidele is my girl/mermaid! Ariel is cool, but there is another chick on the block now and she is part of the Mami Wata. I know I said I would discuss three reasons in the title, but here are some sub-reasons to read this book, just because I love Black mermaids.
Reason #1, the book cover is super beautiful and if I ever get my hands on a cover print, I’m going to frame it. Reason #2, Simi is on a mission to honor the souls of those who are tossed from the slave ships. She is connected to the orisas and was created by Yemoja, the mother of all orishas. (Google some images of her and you will be blown away, by the way.) Simi follows behind the ships and if someone is thrown overboard, she collects their spirit and takes it to Yemoja to be blessed.
Simi is strong and fierce. When faced with sticking to her task or allowing Kola to die she chooses what is right in her heart. Mermaid tales often have dark elements to them, hence the trigger warnings I mention at the end of this review. But I love the portrayal of Simi.
2. African Mythology is Amazing
For me, this was my first introduction to the world of Yoruba mythology. Don’t get me wrong, there have been other books published, especially in the past few years that feature orishas and other African mythology. But this was my first. And I have to say Ms. Bowen did an A+ job of creating this world where humans and orishas interacted.
The introduction of Oya and Sango was just, chef’s kiss! This Black god couple just ripped from the heavens ready to take this supposed slave ship out! My imagination was flying into overtime at the description of both of them appearing in the sky, ready to attack! Sango: “Sango opens his mouth to roar, the long twists of his hair standing on end as he glares down at the ship. In one hand he wields a giant double-headed axe, its edges crackling with blue lightening.” Oya: “She floats next to her husband, hair a mass of black that almost eclipses the last of the sun.”
Also, THERE ARE BLACK FAIRIES! They are called the Yumbo. I am so glad my ignorance about the existence of fairies in African mythology has been revolved.
3. It’s a Tale of Resistance, Strength and Power
This book was beautifully written. It dealt with the slave trade from a perspective I had not read before. The horror of the trade is still there. But the beauty of the people and their fight to resist the dark changes that are racing over their lands is not overshadowed by the horror. There are acts of resistance from both the people and the gods. For those who read and research Black history, this is a reminder that Black American/diaspora history did not start with the slave trade. We have a full and rich history that comes with its own traditional stories and mythology.
I thought it was important that this story begins with a focus on those who did not make it across the ocean. Simi’s one task is to rescue the souls of those who are tossed dead overboard callously by their captors. Simi also has connection to those on the ships and her memories haunt her from when she was human. Kola, the boy Simi rescues, represents those who encountered but escaped. He is desperately trying to protect his family after being taken. I won’t go much more into it to avoid spoilers!
This book combines 15th century history with fantasy. There are depictions of violence, enslavement and suicide.
Fave Quotes from Skin of the Sea:
“There is another reason to keep this body. Humans can often be cruel in their curiosity about the unknown. Do not trust them.” – Yemoja
“It is known as the Courting Star; lovers would use its nightly emergence to arrange secret trysts. Something I will never be able to do with Kola.”
“She floats next to her husband, hair a mass of black that almost eclipses the last of the sun.”
“Also known as the Bakhna Rakhna, Good People, the fairies live underground in secret hills, fishing and stealing corn from humans.”
“I’ll Keep my promise if it’s all the same to you.” – Kola
Book Links: Goodreads Amazon Barnes and Noble Book Depository Indigo IndieBound
About the Author:
Natasha Bowen is a writer, 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. Her debut book Skin of the Sea was inspired by her passion for mermaids and African history. 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.
The Book That Inspired Me to Read Skin of the Sea!
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This is indeed a nice take upon the African cultural heritage. Creating something new with existing materials that are not first filtered through a Western perspective.
Yes, it is so refreshing!