Book Review

Skin Of The Sea By Natasha Bowen

Skin of the Sea

  • Author: Natasha Bowen
  • Genre: YA Fantasy
  • Publication Date: November 9, 2021
  • Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
  • Series: Skin of the Sea #1

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

CONTENT WARNING: violence, enslavement, death, suicide, gore, blood, grief

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 goes against an ancient decree and does the unthinkable–she saves his life. And punishment awaits those who dare to defy the gods.

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 fails, she risks not only the fate of all Mami Wata, but also the world as she knows it.

You know that end of year sale that Barnes and Noble has? I had accumulated some gift cards a couple of years ago, and decided to get some books that I had been eyeing for a while. And I ended up getting a bunch that I wanted, but also a couple that just called me. And this book, with such a gorgeous cover and blurb that sounded so intriguing, wound up going home with me because I just couldn’t resist it. However, it’s just been hanging out on my shelf ever since then, until Leslie @ Books are the New Black and I decided to team up for a buddy read.

To start with, I was thrilled with the idea of the book. Reading about Black mermaids and African mythology already sounded fascinating, and the content note at the beginning of the book states that the story “blends fifteenth-century history with fantasy.” That made it sound even more intriguing, so I completely admit that my expectations might have been a bit high from the start. And initially, things were going well. There were a couple of things that I did like about the story.

Representation is so important. It took me a long time to see my own identities represented in books, and this book showcases Black identities so beautifully. It depicts African cultures prior to colonization by the Europeans, and directly fights the idea that Africans were primitive, uncivilized savages. I also loved seeing African mythology come to life as our characters encounter various deities on their journey.

There were also some things that I didn’t like about this book. The characters felt really flat to me, with only one of the side characters getting fleshed out at all, and there’s no characters development except the minimal amount that occurs for Simi. As a result, I found myself getting less invested the further I read in the story, because it’s tough to connect with flat characters. 

Another reason I struggled to get invested is because I could easily predict what was going to happen. There wasn’t much tension in the reading for me, since I knew what was coming before it happened, and plot twists are visible pretty far in advance, especially towards the end. In addition, there’s a sort-of romance between Simi and Kola, but it felt incredibly forced. Nothing about it was believable, so I wasn’t exactly rooting for them. Finally, even the situations that should be tense felt low-stakes to me. The situations were all resolved easily and quickly, with a minimum of risk or cost, right up until the end, but even then there’s a relatively simple solution. 

Ultimately, this book was a disappointment. Especially, since I had such high expectations going into it. I’m glad that I buddy read this with Leslie, otherwise I would likely have DNFd this one, although i’m super sad about how this one wasn’t a hit for us.   Hopefully we’ll love our next buddy read.

People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit.

Gasp Factor: 10

3 replies »

  1. This is a great review!! I am so glad we finally had our first buddy read but so sad that it was such a miss for us. Hopefully, the next one will be better. It was such an underwhelming book and I’m so confused because the reviews from others do not match up. Yes, I would have DNF’d this one if we weren’t buddy reading it together!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! I’m so glad we got to buddy read finally, even if this one wasn’t a hit. And I agree – all the reviews of this one are glowing, so I don’t know if we just got a different version or what 🤷🏻‍♀️ hopefully our next one will be better.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m sure our next will be better!! It’s kind of rare for 2-2.5 star ratings. Yeah, I’m not sure if we read the same book as everyone else. haha

        Liked by 1 person

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