Book Reviews

Review: The Seafarer’s Kiss by Julia Ember

The Seafarer’s Kiss is a must read for anyone who ever wondered what merfolk eat, a reimagined Little Mermaid story arc, and an immersive underwater world. It has a vivid world, gripping characters, and playful belugas (which I will never get over).


Ersel has always been curious. She’s been collecting human artifacts from ship wrecks for years now and one of her dreams is to see one – alive. Her wish is granted when she stumbles across a ship wrecked shield-maiden, Ragna, and befriends her. But their friendship, as well as Ersel’s world, is put into jeopardy when she is caught with the enemy. Convinced that she cannot remain in the glacial strict kingdom anymore, Ersel makes a final plea to the trickster god, Loki. She soon finds out that there is reason for him to be called the god of lies. And what awaits Ersel is something she never could have imagined.


The atmosphere in the book is rich. As someone who will never dive, or even actually touch the ocean, reading The Seafarer’s Kiss was living on the edge. And what a joy it was. Ember transports us from the very depths of the ocean all the way up to the surface. It is descriptive and lush – although lush seems like the wrong word for a sea bottom novel. (And it was fantastic to read about the descriptions of underwater food, I was recently just wondering what underwater food would be like!).


Please give me more flawed characters like Ersel. She makes mistakes, is tricked, and gets burned by love (as much as you can underwater). Because of this, she seems so human and, more importantly, relatable. We understand how she has been led astray, how her betrayal feels, and, as a woman, the pain that we feel when we are reduced to our ‘capabilities’ and ‘biology’. There’s some serious social commentary going on here and I am a mega fan. Subtle similarities between our above sea level world and hers below makes you take a second glimpse.

There is also so much character depth and development for Ersel. She doesn’t have all the answers, not even close, and she makes deadly mistakes with consequences that ripple outwards. But the possibility for prevailing remains ahead, allowing Ersel the chance to atone for her mistakes and challenge the world. Even more so, Ersel is confronted with the question of individual versus society. In terms of diversity, she is bisexual and has an underrepresented body type.

(Also Ersel’s mom is the best. She is fierce, protective, and if I were ever a mermaid, I’d want her in my corner).

Ersel and Ragna

Ersel and Ragna may be my favorite ship (the pop culture term for a relationship that you love), because of the way Ember uses their experiences to examine the concept of monstrous women. Their relationship is amazing and deep, consisting of mutual memories and support. The concept is one of my favorite that I researched for my thesis and so I absolutely loved the ways that Ersel and Ragna interrogate and deviate from this idea. What is monstrous and what exactly makes women monstrous? Where is the line between fish and creatures? Is it monstrous for women to be brave and defy society – for them to determine their own fate?


The Seafarer’s Kiss is a quest for freedom, redemption, and a love that will move icebergs. There are humans, merpeople, and, most importantly, loyal belugas. I’d feed a pod of those any day. I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants a lovely mermaid story with a fierce heroine, loved the Little Mermaid, or wants to see the god of lies in action.

You should pick up The Seafarer’s Kissfrom Amazon(US), a local indie near you, or add it to Goodreads.


PLS GIVE ME ALL the mermaid book recs like NOW

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