Continue below to read my review of the book and be sure to follow this link - [TOUR SCHEDULE] to check out the rest of the stops on the 'SKIN OF THE SEA' book tour brought to you by TBR & BEYOND TOURS and NATASHA BOWEN!
Skin of the Sea
November 2nd, 2021
Young Adult Fantasy
Random House Books for Young Readers
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.
rating: ★ ★ ★ (3 / 5 stars)
'Skin of the Sea' by Natasha Bowen is one of those books I was obsessed with reading from the moment I saw it announced. The cover is beautiful, the topic is a favorite of mine, and it boasts inspiration from West African mythology.
From a technical side, everything is where it should be. Major plot points, reveals, and dramatic moments are spread along at a solid pace.
Simi is kind and likable. She tries hard to do the right thing and has a lot of potential to be a deeply interesting character, as does Kola and the small found family he's surrounded himself with.
The gods we get to see her interact with, have intriguing origins and I would have loved to see a bit more of them in particular. In fact, I feel that's the book's biggest strength.. great elements.. be they mythological, magical, or otherwise. What each of these things really lack is depth. There's so much room to develop them for the reader and that never really happens. The author attempts it here and there, but ultimately those forays are a handful of pages buried within many more that feel unnecessarily long.
It's definitely a quick read, as I made my way through it in about 3 hours.. but I feel in part this is due to the book being largely filled with fluff. Little things like using the characters names seemingly every sentence or two at times, the drawn out semi-formal sentence structure more likely to be found in high school essays than novels, and scenes that are a bit of a waste dragging through multiple pages as characters engage in repetitive conversations or too much focus is put on peripheral events like the traveling or meals, rather than using those moments to really build connections.
As debut's go, this one is decent. Bowen has the pieces, she just needs the experience using them to build a robust story.. and I do think she could have a bright future in the genre of her choice if she shifts her attention to the meatier parts.
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.
Bright Ruined Things
February 15th, 2022
Young Adult Fantasy
Forbidden magic, a family secret, and a night to reveal it all...
The only life Mae has ever known is on the island, living on the charity of the wealthy Prosper family who control the island’s magic and its spirits. Mae longs for magic of her own and to have a place among the Prosper family, where her best friend, Coco, will see her as an equal, and her crush, Miles, will finally see her.
But tonight is First Night, when the Prospers and their high-society friends celebrate the night Lord Prosper first harnessed the island’s magic and started producing aether – a magical fuel source that has revolutionized the world. With everyone returning to the island, Mae finally has the chance to go after what she’s always wanted.
When the spirits start inexplicably dying, Mae realizes that things aren’t what they seem. And Ivo, the reclusive, mysterious heir to the Prosper magic, may hold all the answers – including a secret about Mae’s past. As Mae and her friends unravel the mysteries of the island, and the Prospers’ magic, Mae starts to question the truth of what her world was built on.
In this YA fantasy, Samantha Cohoe wonderfully mixes magic and an atmospheric setting into a fantastically immersive world, with characters you won’t be able to forget.
Though I've said it before, The Tempest is my favorite Shakespeare work.. so it should come as no surprise that when I spotted a new retelling in 'Bright Ruined Things' by Samantha Cohoe.. I was quick to want to read it.
While the original story is rife with those signature dramatic swings, Cohoe managed to put me through the emotional wringer with her take on the classic. I found myself in tears at times I didn't expect to be, wondering how I got there.. and by the end my eyes were just an aching, swollen mess.
Cohoe does a beautiful job of developing the reader's feelings toward her characters, both for better and worse. The relationships amongst the family and our protagonist.. Mae Wilson.. are all extremely complicated. Each character is richly layered in their own right and while we're learning about them, many of them are still learning about themselves as well.
There's no stated era, but somehow the story feels like it takes place in the Forties. Everything centered around the family has a glamorous sheen to it, in no small part I'm sure due to the abundance of Prosper wealth.. with anything beyond them seeming to be just a distant echo in the background.
I really enjoyed Mae and her struggle to carve out a better place for herself. She's a likable character even when she's self-pitying a bit and I wanted to cheer her on. Likewise, I love the depth reverberating within Ivo, Miles, and Coco. Almost no one is really what they seem to be and their truth is so much more interesting than their image.
The themes of betrayal were harnessed expertly, the magical elements were creative and distinctively rendered in the mind's eye of the reader, and there is such a feeling of loss that just builds throughout the story. There are lessons here to be learned.. perhaps about right and wrong, the many shades of unkindness, and most definitely about the pain of hindsight.
Sitting here now in the silent aftermath of this read, I am deeply moved by all of them. It's a beautiful book and I'd highly recommend it for anyone who might enjoy the story of power.. in its many forms.. that comes at a cost. If you enjoyed The Chosen and the Beautiful, These Violent Delights, or Where Dreams Descend.. this is probably the one for you.