Author: Natasha Bowen
Narrator: Yetide Badaki
Audiobook Length: 11 hours 28 minutes
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.
Skin of the Sea is the first novel in a series of the same name, which weaves together the 15th century and fantasy. Simi was once a human who became a Mami Wata (known as a mermaid in the western world), whose responsibility is to collect the souls of those who died at sea. Her tale takes elements of African mythology mixed with a retelling of the Little Mermaid and real historical events, such as the slave trade. The story opens with an introduction of Simi’s task and life. Events are set into motion when she rescues a man, Kola, instead of collecting his soul. To remedy her “error,” she now must go on a journey to collect two rings for Olodumare, the superior God.
There is some insta-love between Simi and Kola, but I enjoyed that there was a lot more to this budding romance. There are multiple factors that can keep these two from becoming a couple and I enjoyed how this is explored throughout the story. It was a nice unique take on a YA romance. Kola was a mysterious character for part of the story, which did make it difficult to connect with him for a long time. I did like when his backstory and motivations were eventually revealed, but I would have liked them slightly sooner. Each character has been through their own traumas, and I enjoyed how these were handled with care regarding the characters discussing their pasts. Simi’s past is revealed through flashbacks, and I enjoyed how these weaved together with the story which helped the writing flow well.
I love that the chants/songs/prayers that were written in another language where then translated into English. I loved this as I listened to the native version in the audiobook while also being able to understand what was said through the translation. I do not know how this was portrayed in the printed version, such as a pronunciation guide, but I loved listening to everything in the audio version. As there are passages with both languages, there are moments where nothing happens as one phrase is translated. This along with the flashbacks can alter the pacing of the main action, but it does all make sense for the story.
Originally, I thought this story was a standalone back in 2021, but I am glad I waited to read it when I found out there was a sequel. I think if I read this before, I would have been disappointed in not knowing if the ending were truly the end or there would be more to the story. The characters still need a little more exploration as I did not quite connect with them, but the potential is there to learn more in the sequel. The same can be said for the plot as it took a bit for everything to truly get going in this novel and there is a lot that remains to be wrapped up. I cannot wait to read the sequel, Soul of the Deep, when it is published later this year.