The Mermaid, The Witch & The Sea - Maggie Tokuda-Hall (ARC)
"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."
TW/CW: swearing, graphic descriptions of torture - e.g. cutting off of a finger as punishment and waterboarding.
I received an E-ARC of The Mermaid, The Witch & The Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall for free on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you so much Maggie, Walker Books and NetGalley for this opportunity.
I've heard so many good things about this book - especially from Twitter! - and loved the look of it so much! I was so excited when I saw it was available on NetGalley, I requested it straight away and was so surprised and happy when I was approved.
In The Mermaid, The Witch & The Sea we follow our protagonists Flora/Florian and Evelyn as they are thrown together on a tumultuous journey across the seas. They have to overcome many obstacles including secrets, betrayals and magic that comes with a price. They discover more about themselves, love and the wonders of the sea. They may even begin to realise that the worlds they come from may not be as different as they once thought.
Flora/Florian is a gender-fluid pirate aboard the ship Dove and can I quickly just mention how much I LOVED writing that sentence! I'm not 100% sure about Flora/Florian's pronouns as in the book they said that 'she/he/they all feel right' so for the purposes of this review I'm going to be referring to Floria/Florian as 'they'. I'm so sorry if I am wrong, please let me know and I'll be more than happy to come back and correct it!
Flora/Florian is doing anything they can to survive. With a survival of the fittest mindset they're going along with the horrors that occur on the ship so they can save up enough money to get them and their brother, Alfie, off the ship for good. They've both had a hard childhood and they learnt to be tough so that they would never be disappointed, Flora/Florian knows that they haven't got time for something as silly as love until the fateful day when they are ordered to guard the Lady Evelyn from the other crew mates on their voyage.
Evelyn is a Lady under the new regime spreading across the world where the Emperor rules over all. She's fun, headstrong and empathetic. She has a rough relationship with her parents and is being wed to a random man high in the Empire in order to save the family from financial troubles. She just wants to make new friends and experience everything the world has to offer. Plus she loves books which as a fellow bibliophile and book blogger I can definitely relate to that!
I could instantly feel the chemistry between Flora/Florian and Evelyn and it was magical watching their bond blossom. I loved how they started off wary of each other which turned into a tentative friendship and eventually develops into them falling in love with each other. I was blessed with how sapphic this book was and it is the perfect way to start off Sapphic September! The story is so well written and so cute that it gave me all of the feels when reading. It was so enjoyable and full of action, if you like Pirates of the Caribbean this is on a whole new level - you'll love it!
The Mermaid, The Witch & The Sea is a story of love, hope and daring adventure, it was a joy to read!