Skin of the Sea by: Natasha Bowen

Skin of the Sea is a little mermaid inspired story intertwined with West African deities and mythology. As a Black woman who grew up loving the little mermaid, when I heard about this book I was excited to get it and will still buy it once it’s out in the world.

Skin of the Sea gets a very solid 4 stars from me.

Our main character is Simidele, a Mami Wata (mermaid) created by the goddess Yemoja. A Mami Wata is created by Yemoja when one of her people is dying in the sea.

She saves them, turns them into mermaids and gives them a responsibility: to ease the passing of the souls lost to the people kidnapping, buying, and then skilling West Africans.

Simidele trails the ships and when a person is thrown overboard, she goes to them, eases their soul and stores it in the gem that hangs around her neck until she can get to Yemoja’s island. There she sets the soul free with a prayer.

When Simidele is on land, she has legs and in the water, a gorgeous tail. On land, she has snippets of memories from her life as a human but they’re faded and in the sea, they aren’t there at all. She is one of only a handful of Mami Wata who find enslaved people in the ocean and ease their passing.

That was a lot to read. It was painful to think of my ancestors, those thrown over and those who jumped rather than be enslaved and tortured.

As the book goes on, Simidele is following a boat and a body is thrown overboard. She goes to it, swilling through blood, telling sharks to back away and she catches the body of a boy.

He’s not dead. And she can’t let him die, not when he’s still got some life in him.

So she takes him to Yemoja’s island, heals him and in doing so breaks a covenant between Yemoja and Olodumare, the Supreme God.

The boy she saved is Kola and he is desperate to get back to his home. He won’t sat why and in his first interactions with Simidele he is a bit aggressive. Enough to leave a bruise around her wrist. He’s traumatized, wounded, half drowned and frantic to get back home.

Yemoja tells Simidele what she will need to do in order to make the mistake right. She needs to get two rings and summon Olodumare so she can beg his forgiveness.

As far as the characters go, they were all really intersting and well fleshed. Some were a little weaker than others but they were side characters and by virtue they tend to be weaker on the page because of that.

I will say that as the book went on the pacing was great, it never felt like it was lagging or going to fast until the end. I almost got the feeling the author was in a rush to end it? It wasn’t paced as well as the rest of the book.

Then there’s the big twist. I saw it coming but still enjoyed it. It sort of made me feel smart and who doesn’t love that? But on the other hand, it was a little, not obvious but I could really see it.

I was a bit dissatisfied with the very end of the book. Like the last 5 or so pages. Because it was so, so, incredibly rushed. Then the story was over and I was starting at it like…can I have a few more pages please? Maybe it’s set up for a sequel, I’d love to see one.

Seeing so much African Mythology was amazing. Hopefully it’ll get some Black kids interested in learning about their heritage. And maybe instill understanding in other readers.

I’ll be getting my younger sibling a copy of this book.

4 stars.

I received this for free in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to Netgalley, the publisher, and Natasha Bowen for writing it.


Author. Reader. Reviewer. Interested in Sci-fi, Fantasy, and everything in between. Ya, and Adult. Looking for representaion where it matters! BIPOC, LGBTQ+, disabled, everything! We all deserve stories!

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