Saturday, December 26, 2020

Book Review: The Mermaid, the Witch and the Sea

The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea 
by Maggie Tokuda-Hall
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A wonderfully magical book set in a cruel empire, across a sea of mermaids (who play a minor role and are not the mermaids most think of), and where anything might hold a little magic. I adored our characters, yes even the cruel ones. Given I am terrified of water, especially the ocean, its surprising that the love affair this book has with the sea felt natural and right to me. Now that’s proof of good writing!

Stories Inside Stories
I always love books that have lore or stories inside of stories. Maggie Tokuda-Hall gives us this in the form of little fables or myths; as well as the stories the characters tell of their past. This writing technique is perfect for fantasy world's as it gives insight into the history or foundation of the world. Done well it's a delight every time; and I definitely was thrilled each time I encountered one here.

Gender Swap
A (perhaps) cliché piece of this story is that Florian, our lead girl, is hiding out on a pirate ship as a boy. This is not an uncommon trope if only because women have been legitimately doing this for thousands of years in our history. The reality is, for this fantasy world (and our own) that being a man is almost always safer and provides opportunity that being a woman does not. I like how Florian handles her identity of being a woman inside of being a man. Her own sexuality is at question throughout and it plays nicely with the gender question as well. I was unsure at many points what way Florian might lean and thus felt like I was discovering her as she discovered herself.

So there is some pretty heavy romance in this. It doesn't feel out of place, and it's handled beautifully; but it is there. So if you are hoping for an all out violent and brutal fantasy you will find that those pages are present as well; but that much of the over arcing story has a romantic tone to it. It felt genuine in The Mermaid, the Witch and the Sea for me. I liked how the Sea itself had a few moments to speak to us and expressed itself in a very lyrical, romantic way.

This may be one of my favourite reads of 2020. It's been a tough year to get into books and things have really distracted me from reading this year. So to find a story like Tokuda-Hall has given us was a huge relief; and allowed me to really enjoy the experience. There are fights, torture, and injustices in this gorgeous novel; alongside rescues, love, and pity. The magic of this book is that it has a little bit of magic laced into it; while still feeling realistic, harsh, and unfair. Just like our own world so often is.

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

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1 comment:

Leonore Winterer said...

Oh, what a fun find for the end of the year! This one goes on the list for sure.