Skin of the Sea is the debut novel of novel of Natasha Bowen. Steeped in the traditions of the Yuroba, a Sub-Saharan ethnic group, this novel combines aspects of traditional oral storytelling with elements of creation, religion and folklore. All these elements are blended in a masterful and intricate telling of a young Mami Wata, essentially a mermaid, and her self-sacrificial love for both her maker and a human.
This novel is filled full of the stuff that just makes readers of folklore and fiction go crazy. There are gods and goddesses. There are creatures like mermaids and hyenas that transform into people and horrendous bat-dragon like creatures with a thirst for blood. Bowen weaves together an action-packed harrowing adventure across sea and land into a page-turning book that really keeps you on your toes. Just when I thought I had everything figured out, the plot turns, and I was left saying…didn’t see that coming.
There is also a little bit of romance throughout the book as we see a genuine love develop between Kola and Simi. But I don’t think folks who aren’t romance readers will be turned off by this. It’s this beautiful, classic literature love and not the burn fast and hot passion of modern-day romance novels. It also is poignant in its self-sacrificing nature which highlights the almost Aesop-type morals the story is laced with.
The biggest drawback I found in the book is that I wish there had been a pronunciation guide for the translated names. While the Yuroba language is sprinkled throughout the book, there is usually a translation that doesn’t’ leave you wanting for the meaning. But I felt like I was maybe missing out on some of the beauty of the translation in some of the names because I was stumbling over pronunciation.
Overall, I would recommend this novel to fans of both classic fairytale, folklore literature as well as readers who love a good action-packed thriller. It won’t disappoint either audience. Younger readers be cautious based on content.
Review of a Digital Copy Provided by the Publisher
Violence/Gore: Multiple instances of dead or dying bodies being thrown into ocean; depiction of graphic wounds from shackles, manacles and beatings; multiple injuries from punches, kicks, slaps; depiction of scars from previous cuttings; multiple instances of kidnapping; recall of death via gunshots and unknown methods; depictions of piles of fairy bones and rotting animal and human corpses; multiple lengthy scenes of battles with magical creatures or gods that are graphic in nature with blood, wounds and death; two instances of attempted murder by strangulation; multiple instances of attempted or accomplished drowning, jumping or capturing in sea.
Sex/Nudity: Four instances of hugging or embracing; one instance of hand-holding; hand on wrist; hand on waist.
Racial conflict between tribes; death; war; separation from family; slavery; ethics of saving a life versus not intervening.
Alcohol and Drug Use: