I have been asking for years for more mermaid books. And my wish was granted. Skin of the Sea delivered mermaids, but it is also rooted in questions of right and wrong and questing. Keep reading this book review for my full thoughts.
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.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
TW: enslavement, suicide
I came to Skin of the Sea for mermaids and ended up staying for Simi. Because not only is she a mermaid, but she’s grappling with a conflict between her present and her past. Unlike the other mermaids ferrying the souls, Simi is determined to try to figure out her past. She finds it impossible to deny this pull to her past. And throughout it all, I wondered if we can ever truly move on, be in the moment, without knowing where we came from.
Thematically, I was entranced with this question. As Skin of the Sea progresses, Bowen opens up Simi’s world with new experiences, but also with more of her memories. As readers, we’re able to witness Simi’s quest to fix her mistakes, but also to get to know who she is. She grows as a character in front of our eyes. And her impulsive choice ends up revealing more about herself than she ever thought. Apart from my fascination with this theme and Simi, I loved the adventure in Skin of the Sea.
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The flashbacks feel organic and never take away from the present moment. It becomes easy to be swept away by the adventure. By a story of meddling gods and broken decrees. Skin of the Sea is not only Simi’s story, but also an adventure about how to do what’s right even when it’s hard. In these new experiences, Simi is challenged to figure out who she is when she isn’t even sure if she can trust herself. I adored watching Simi evolve as a character on the pages and it’s the element that’s stayed with me the most.