The Mermaid, The Witch, and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall

Posted June 3, 2020 by Amber in Reviews / 0 Comments

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The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea

The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea

by Maggie Tokuda-Hall

Publisher: Candlewick Press on May 5, 2020
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy, LGBTQ+, Mermaids, Pirates, Witches
Target Age Group: Young Adult

Rating: ★★★★★

Check out this book on Goodreads

Aboard the pirate ship Dove, Flora the girl takes on the identity of Florian the man to earn the respect and protection of the crew. For Flora, former starving urchin, the brutal life of a pirate is about survival: don’t trust, don’t stick out, and don’t feel. But on this voyage, as the pirates prepare to sell their unsuspecting passengers into slavery, Flora is drawn to the Lady Evelyn Hasegawa, who is en route to a dreaded arranged marriage with her own casket in tow. Flora doesn’t expect to be taken under Evelyn’s wing, and Evelyn doesn’t expect to find such a deep bond with the pirate Florian.

Soon the unlikely pair set in motion a wild escape that will free a captured mermaid (coveted for her blood, which causes men to have visions and lose memories) and involve the mysterious Pirate Supreme, an opportunistic witch, and the all-encompassing Sea itself.

 

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from LibraryThing Early Reviewers and Candlewick Press in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Wow.

This book was a ride.

You guys already know I pick up pirate books like a robin plucking up fat wriggling worms – I can’t get enough.  The grisly reality, the call of the sea, the code of the Brethren… bring it on.  Requesting The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea was an easy call, and I’m so glad I did.

At first, I wasn’t sure I would like this book.  I immediately did not love Evelyn – I found her stiff and selfish.  But I did like Flora/Florian, and so I was pulled in anyway.  And I wasn’t really, really sold on the book until about halfway through, when things started getting a bit gritty.  Every few chapters or so, and with increasing frequency toward the end, something shocking happened.  Shocking, like, something bad and cruel and gut-wrenching and unexpected.  But handled well.  And… refreshing in its utter reality.  I don’t want to give too much away, but there is quick, blunt gore in this book and while it’s a bit gruesome to admit it, it definitely held my attention.

And you know what?  It should be a bit dark and gory.  It’s a pirate book.  Many authors are quick comfortable with graphic, extended sex scenes.  I’m actually surprised there’s not more gore as well.

For those who can’t stomach that sort of thing, I understand, and I am warning you they are there.  Loss of body parts, loss of life.  However, these scenes are short and to the point – no drawn out discussions of suffering, just the blunt reality that bad things happen. I respected that about The Mermaid, the Witch, and the SeaMaggie Tokuda-Hall did not coddle her darlings, and as such, the stakes felt higher.

Ultimately, there ended up being five POVs in this book.  Everlyn and Flora/Florian were present the entire book, but Rake and Genevieve came in during the second half.  The Sea interjected here and there, but for the most part made for a transitionary chapter as the action turned.  I felt Gwenivieve’s POV was mostly unnecessary, but the other three were good.  If Maggie Tokuda-Hall is planning a sequel (and I do think there is room for something like that), including Gwenivieve would make a little more sense for a smooth transition.  The other three POVs are fantastic.  And the rep is really intersting.  There’s commentary on colonialism, racism, homophobia… casual hate plays into this book like it does in the real world, and it is handled so well.  It’s beautifully refreshing to see a gender ambiguous character in a starring role, and each of the characters are well-written (even Evelyn proved herself in the end).

The plot is riveting, the pacing good.  The stakes were high.  The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea is part adventure story, part fantasy, part folklore, and part high-seas action.  There’s so much going on in all the best ways.  Unlike many books with similar titles, mermaids, witches, and the sea are all key and important character.  And I liked the ending, because it was bold and unexpected.

The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea is an easy book to recommend.  Chock full of diversity and with a plot that will keep you hooked, it’s a wonderful new release and perfect for YA fans who like their books with a bit of romance and a dark twist.

Ratings Breakdown

Setting: ★★★★★
Plot: ★★★★★
Characters: ★★★★★
Writing: ★★★★★
Pacing: ★★★★
Personal Enjoyment: ★★★★ 1/2

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The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea Stays on the Shelf

Sometimes, books surprise me.

When The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea arrived on my doorstep, I’d forgotten I requested it.  In fact, I was a bit annoyed, because I didn’t want an ARC right now because I wanted to push through my upcoming TBR.  I went into this book vaguely annoyed by its existence (I know, unfair) so… my opinion basically started at -1 star.  The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea had to earn its way to the top.

And earn it, it did!  This book grabbed my attention and once I sat down and let myself be pulled in, I loved it.  I’ll definitely be reading it again.

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Do you enjoy books about mermaids or pirates?  Nautical-themed fantasy is my favorite, although many mermaid books are a bit cheesy.  If you read these types of books, which ones are your favorites?  Let me know in the comments!

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