A desperate orphan turned pirate and a rebellious imperial daughter find a connection on the high seas in a world divided by colonialism and threaded with magic.
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, a 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.
–from the back cover of The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea
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.
If you know me, then you know I love pirates. Pirate fantasies are my absolute favorite; I can’t get enough of them. There’s a reason To Kill a Kingdom was one of my favorite reads of 2020, after all. So, obviously, when I heard about The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea, I knew I had to read it. And now, I’m excited to share my review of this book with you!
Because I was so far from disappointed by this one. It definitely lived up to my expectations, and I really enjoyed reading it. So, let me tell you a little bit more about why.
Firstly, I loved the fictional world of this book. Tokuda-Hall put so much detail and work into developing it, and the end result paid off. Everything from the history to the places felt real. Plus, there was so much that made it unique. I’ve mentioned before that I also love mermaids, and that was definitely one of my favorite things about this book. Tokuda-Hall’s take on mermaids was both different and so, so interesting.
But I also found it amazing how she brought some more serious ideas into play. Themes of colonialism and the brutality of expansionism played a significant role in the story; so did ideas surrounding social status and classism. It’s always great to see fantasy authors talking about those kinds of issues in their books, it makes the story so much more meaningful.
Of course, I also loved the characters. Flora/Florian was my favorite; once again, Tokuda-Hall brought in real-world themes and issues with the gender-fluid aspect of this character’s character arc. Flora/Florian also contributes a lot to the debate about morality and right/wrong in this book; which was, simply put, amazing. Honestly, Flora/Florian’s entire self-discovery journey was just great.
But I also loved Evelyn and Rake. Rake’s perspective comes in later in the book, and it made me happy to see that added. The chapters told from his point of view gave a lot of context and insight to other aspects of the book, which I loved, of course. Also, even though we didn’t see her perspective, I really enjoyed Lady Ayer. But then again, who doesn’t love a badass villain à la Hela in Ragnarok?
Moving on from the characters, though, I do want to mention how beautifully written I found this story to be. Especially the parts written from the perspective of the sea. But there were also a lot of other great passages and quotes that I just absolutely loved.
Honestly, I don’t know why I hesitated to give this book five stars. The only flaw I found in this book was that the pacing was slightly odd at certain times. I think the brutality and cruelty in certain parts could also put some people off, but I personally believe that glazing over that would have taken away from the impact of the story. But whatever the reason, I didn’t fall in love with book quite enough to merit a five star rating.
So, I highly recommend this book. It was a truly excellent fantasy story, with so much to offer and so much to love. Pirates, mermaids, witches, magic, spies… The list just goes on and on. Seriously, I really loved The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea, I can promise that you won’t be disappointed if you give this book a chance.
And if you do, let me know what you think of it! I would love to hear your opinions.
Also, if you enjoyed this review of The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea, or if you want to find more books I recommend similar to this one, check out the recommended posts below!
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CONTENT WARNING: Torture, implied sexual assault