The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall
Published by: Candlewick Press
Pub Date: May 5, 2020
Format: e-arc | Source: NetGalley
Genres: young adult, fantasy, LGBTQ+
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, 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.
A bittersweet, lovely, melancholy, hopeful book full of magic and the ocean. The characters are vibrant and it is one of my favorite parts of a story well-told to see them all barreling towards each other as the plot tightens. It’s a hard book but it’s also magical and filled with love- familial, romantic, self. I really loved the romance between Florian and Evelyn and watching their relationship in general flourish. Not sure how Florian/Flora identifies but they are presented as nonbinary, and they are not the only character that is. The evils of colonialism are plain to see but Evelyn is so much more than “not just an Imperial”. Seeing her come into her own and really take charge was immensely satisfying. More POVs are added as the story goes on and at first I wasn’t a huge fan but seeing them become relevant and tie together was the best!! Rake was a fascinating morally grey character; I wish we got more of the Witch’s story but I loved the interludes with the Sea, and the whole mythology surrounding mermaids. There are a couple loose threads I would have like tied up but overall it was quite satisfying and a fascinating world. Plus, the Pirate Supreme is a really badass title!
Have you read The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea? Do you prefer books about pirates or witches? Let me know!