Arc Review: Skin of the Sea by Natasha Bowen

Title: Skin of the Sea
Author: Natasha Bowen
Genre: YA Fantasy / Mythology / Retelling
Publication Date: November 9th, 2021
Publisher:  Random House Books for Young
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐✨

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for an earc to review! All opinions are my own.

“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.” (Goodreads)

One thing I enjoy about reading books like this one based on mythology or even historical events are that the author’s note is detailed. This author in particular told us the setting of the story and where it correlates with history, although this is fantasy. Because of that, she gives us more information on the mythology she is using as well. The author’s note really helped me put everything together and honestly made for a better read.

The author does have content warnings for this book so I will put them there: violence, enslavement, death, and suicide.

The book is told from one point-of-view and it comes from Simidele aka Simi. She is a Mami Wata or mermaid and helps the souls who die at sea pass on. I thought this was very interesting and liked how the first two chapters depicted her job and the feelings towards it. Simi also has flashbacks throughout the book as she tries to find out who she was before her transformation into what she is now. The flashbacks help to piece together her life and give us first hand knowledge as well. I always enjoy flashbacks or a past timeline and I thought it was done well.

If you are looking for a protagonist who is determined, caring, and strong, you will find all of these qualities in Simi. I could understand her choices, especially when it came to Kola.

The author does a fantastic job of creating a magical world and weaving in the mythology that had me intrigued from the beginning. I’m always down to learn more about other mythology I haven’t heard of before and this was no exception.

I only had a couple issues with the book and these may be solely based on my tastes. I wasn’t a big fan of the writing style and it did cause me to get through this one at a slower pace than usual. The writing can be quite lyrical and this is usually a hit or miss for me. I don’t think it takes away from the story in anyway because I did like the plot and characters. My other issue was the ending. If this is a standalone, as I have not seen anything otherwise, the ending is very open and it’s something I don’t like. It could be turned into a duology or series but I guess only time will tell on that one.

Overall, I like this one and thought it was a good debut.

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