Mermaids, Forbidden Love, West African Mythology-all encompassed in a well-written historical fantasy that cuts deep into your soul.
I loved the idea of the Mami Wata, serving the gods as a mermaid, collecting the souls of those who die at sea-blessing their journey home. Simi is placed perfectly, doing what she was created to do. However, her past has a way of blurring her vision. Once human, she struggles to separate what she once was from what she has become.
And Kola..well, he doesn’t help matters! But he sure does make their love story one worth investing in.
“Even if Yemoja had told me never to meddle in a person’s life, I know I couldn’t have left him in the sea. My anger is layered with guilt, but none of my thoughts are stained with true regret.”
For some reason, I decided not to read any reviews of ‘Skin Of The Sea’ @natasha_bowen_ @penguinbooksya before placing it on my TBR. I generally prefer to have some idea of the overall themes and level of writing before I dive in and devote my heart to the story.
However, this time, I’m actually glad that I didn’t have any expectations. I was surprised at how quickly I was drawn into Simi’s story and how deeply I felt her pain. Very few authors can take the gross inhumanity of our past and successfully create a story that seamlessly weaves together fantasy and reality.
***There is a content note at the start of this book that provides a warning that this story could be triggering for some readers. There are depictions of violence, enslavement, death, and suicide.***
This brings me to the first location of importance: The Wilderness
“In Ile-Ife, the first city on earth, all men were created equal, but they craved difference and begged the Supreme God for it. In the end, Olodumare gave them what they wanted; can you guess what happened?”
The backbone of ‘Skin of the Sea’ is based on the beliefs of the Yoruba Religion of Southwestern Nigeria. Each character’s existence is deeply rooted in the Yoruba religion and also influenced by West African Mythology.
*Olodumare is the Supreme creator
*Yemoja is a deity celebrated as the giver of life
*Mami Wata is an African water spirit portrayed as a mermaid
*Included are the Senegalese fairies, the shape-shifting bultungin, and monsters such as the Ninki-Nanka and the sasabonsam.
I love this quote from author Natasha Brown:
“𝘐𝘵 𝘴𝘵𝘢𝘳𝘵𝘦𝘥 𝘢𝘴 𝘸𝘢𝘯𝘵𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘰 𝘸𝘳𝘪𝘵𝘦 𝘢 𝘣𝘰𝘰𝘬 𝘢𝘣𝘰𝘶𝘵 𝘉𝘭𝘢𝘤𝘬 𝘮𝘦𝘳𝘮𝘢𝘪𝘥𝘴 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘩𝘪𝘨𝘩𝘭𝘪𝘨𝘩𝘵𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘪𝘳 𝘈𝘧𝘳𝘪𝘤𝘢𝘯 𝘰𝘳𝘪𝘨𝘪𝘯𝘴. 𝘐 𝘸𝘢𝘯𝘵𝘦𝘥 𝘵𝘰 𝘤𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘵𝘦 𝘢 𝘴𝘵𝘰𝘳𝘺 𝘸𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘮𝘢𝘨𝘪𝘤𝘢𝘭 𝘤𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘵𝘶𝘳𝘦𝘴 𝘢𝘳𝘦 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘶𝘴𝘶𝘢𝘭 𝘌𝘶𝘳𝘰-𝘤𝘦𝘯𝘵𝘳𝘪𝘤 𝘰𝘯𝘦𝘴. 𝘛𝘰 𝘴𝘵𝘢𝘺 𝘵𝘳𝘶𝘦 𝘵𝘰 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴, 𝘪𝘵 𝘣𝘦𝘤𝘢𝘮𝘦 𝘪𝘮𝘱𝘰𝘳𝘵𝘢𝘯𝘵 𝘵𝘰 𝘮𝘦 𝘵𝘰 𝘪𝘯𝘤𝘰𝘳𝘱𝘰𝘳𝘢𝘵𝘦 𝘞𝘦𝘴𝘵 𝘈𝘧𝘳𝘪𝘤𝘢𝘯 𝘮𝘺𝘵𝘩𝘰𝘭𝘰𝘨𝘺, 𝘵𝘳𝘢𝘥𝘪𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯𝘢𝘭 𝘴𝘱𝘪𝘳𝘪𝘵𝘶𝘢𝘭𝘪𝘵𝘺 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘵𝘢𝘭𝘦𝘴 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘦 𝘴𝘱𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘥 𝘢𝘤𝘳𝘰𝘴𝘴 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘥𝘪𝘢𝘴𝘱𝘰𝘳𝘢.”
This brings me to the Second location of importance: The Sea
“Simidele. Listen to me. I know you will make things right. what is done is done. we cannot change the past, only learn from it. what happens next is up to you.”
When a story is rooted in a painful past, optimism and hope are problematic threads to weave. However, In ‘Skin of the Sea,’ the love story between Simi and Kola is diverting and empathetic.
By saving Kola, Simi compromises the fate of all Mami Wata. Breaking the rules set by the Supreme Creator is forbidden; Simi is now forced to go on a journey to ask for forgiveness.
Falling in love was never part of the plan. But Kola and Simi are drawn to each other-connected by shared experiences in life. Simi can’t fall in love, however. If she does, she will turn to foam, ceasing to exist at all…..