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Skin of the Sea - Review


*I received the E-Arc copy from Random House Books for Young Readers publishers for TBR and Beyond Tours. All reviews are my own.*


When bookstagram started lighting up timelines about a potential story of a black version of The Little Mermaid, I was hesitant with the concept. Hear me out: As much as black lives and representation matter in stories, I wasn't too keen on having a black Ariel. That's like announcing that the next Superman will be black, or The Flash will be Asian. There is nothing wrong with it, but I would hope the concept would bring out an original story rather than a change of ethnicity with the exact forging.


Natasha Bowen gives us a substantial similarity of The Disney Princess in her new book, Skin of the Sea. Now I'm currently in the middle of a reading slump and had to DNF the title at this moment, but I still wanted to voice my opinions. These thoughts will likely change when I circle back for it in January, so don't crucify me.


"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."

Before I got into the first chapter, I read the author's note, which I thought was one of the most honest and purest things I've read this year. Bowen explains how even though The Little Mermaid was one of her favorite books as a child, she never saw any other mermaids she could relate to. Hence the creation of Skin of the Sea. Using the classic retelling of mermaid girl saving boy and falling in love as the guideline, Bowen used African lore and historical elements to replace Sebastian and his friends from under the sea. Instead, we're introduced to the Orisha Gods, rebels commandeering slave ships, African fairies, unicorns, etc. It's a wild spin on West African culture and European pop culture. I like that the author did this much research to ensure that, if anything, a little girl of color will see herself as a mythical sea creature and learn about facts that were lost over time. Our history did not begin with slavery.



I'm not quite in tune with the story, though. As fascinating as this story projects to be, I can't quite get into it. There are times I find myself wanting to skip a few pages. And the language doesn't help. Have your translators ready! I'll give Bowen credit for adding the Yoruba language in the passages and translating the longer sentences for us. But for smaller words and terms of endearment was lost on me. I also had a hard time imagining some of the characters. I don't think there was enough description to capture all the myths that were presented.

Overall I DNFed this book with a 3-star rating. Again, I will pick it up a little later once I get over my reading slump. I've only made it to 38% before I put it down, but I'm on the fence on whether I like the story or not.


Skin of the Sea debuts November 9, 2021



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