Genre: YA Fantasy Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
A West African retelling of The Little Mermaid with Mami Wata as the protagnist? YES PLEASE!
Skin of the Sea by Natasha Bowen is a debut novel that takes place in the 1400s when Africans were being forcibly taken and sold into slavery. This wonderful novel tells the story of Simidele, a girl who was recreated into Mami Wata by the Goddess, Yemoja. When Simi saves a boy from drowning she discovers that she broke an agreement that all Mami Wata must adhere to. Now she must go on an epic adventure to save herself, her fellow Mami Wata, and Yemoja. However, she quickly realizes that there is much more at stake then what she initially thought.
While the beginning of the novel is a little slow, it picks up quickly, and certainly keeps you on your toes. It was one of those novels that I got lost in while reading, and it truly transports you to another world.
I really enjoyed the way that Simi’s memories from her life as a human come back to her throughout the story. She struggles with feeling torn between life as a human and her reality of being Mami Wata. While I’m sure some readers will disagree with me here, I truly loved the ending of the book! This novel is the first in a duology, and I thought the ending was the perfect mixture of closure and leaving the reader hanging.
All of the characters were really likeable, but I particularly loved many of the supporting characters. The way Yemoja was depicted was really interesting because she is clearly a deity, and embodies everything that encompasses, but at the same time, she is really relatable and compassionate. This is definitely different than the way I’ve seen her and other orisas depicted in other books, and I really enjoyed this difference.
Also, Yinka and Issa are absolutely PERFECT! While they aren’t necessarily main characters, they are so well-developed and you can’t help but to adore them. Issa is so innocent and pure, while Yinka initially seems to be the opposite, but these two characters really stuck out to me.
Overall, I am extremely impressed by Natasha Bowen. Skin of the Sea sets the bar really high as far as debut novels go. I hope the second book is just as riveting!