The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea
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.

The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea Details

TitleThe Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseMay 5th, 2020
PublisherCandlewick Press
ISBN-139781536204315
Rating
GenreFantasy, Young Adult, LGBT, Adventure, Pirates

The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea Review

  • Cece (ProblemsOfaBookNerd)
    January 1, 1970
    There may come a day when "it's about pirates and it's also queer" doesn't immediately make me click want to read, but it is not this day
  • may ➹
    January 1, 1970
    The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea follows a pirate named Flora/Florian and an aristocratic lady named Evelyn. Their paths intertwine on the Dove, a pirate ship, and when they fall in love, they must escape, deal with witches, the Sea, spies, mermaids, and more.It is with a heavy heart that I must admit that the face in the sea on the coverwhich I will never stop pointing out, by the wayis exactly what I look like right now: sad, vaguely whiny-looking, and most of all, ugly. (Thats in general, The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea follows a pirate named Flora/Florian and an aristocratic lady named Evelyn. Their paths intertwine on the Dove, a pirate ship, and when they fall in love, they must escape, deal with witches, the Sea, spies, mermaids, and more.It is with a heavy heart that I must admit that the face in the sea on the cover—which I will never stop pointing out, by the way—is exactly what I look like right now: sad, vaguely whiny-looking, and most of all, ugly. (That’s in general, though, not from the book.) The more power they gave, the higher the price. That was their power, but it was their burden as well. I’m going to start out with the positives! Because I’d like to begin on a good note before I start, you know, completely dissing it.This book has a lot of good commentary on colonialism, imperialism, and misogyny! The setting is inspired by our world, specifically as Japan being the colonizer/imperialist force. It also has some great representation, with a Japanese-coded sapphic main character and a Black genderfluid main character!I also was not expecting this to be a story on the darker side—and I loved it!!! (Whatever that means about me... we are ignoring that.) I enjoyed the aspects of the world where the Sea is a protective, vengeful force, like a mother, and the different, fun stories told about witchcraft.Unfortunately, that’s pretty much it for everything I liked. “I have loved you.” She smiled, a quirk of her tremulous lips. “That is enough.” My first problem with The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea is that the romance is woefully underdeveloped. In my notes, I wrote “their relationship was like: [rich girl teaches pirate how to read] BAM they’re in love” and... I am not wrong.The romance was a big part of the story, and it was in fact a large motivator for both of the main characters. So it was disconcerting when their relationship was written with a lot of finality and gravity when we had only seen them have Full Conversations approximately six times.My second problem, which I noticed when I was about halfway through the book, was that I... didn’t really care about the characters? In fact, when there were side characters whose POVs were included near the end, I was more invested in them than the actual protagonists. Which is an issue, to say the least!!I liked Flora and I thought her backstory and arc were both great, but I didn’t care a lot for Evelyn. And the ending is definitely supposed to make you feel emotion or touch you in some way, but I read the entire thing with an absolutely straight face because I 1) didn’t care, and 2) just wanted to be DONE with the book. She did not need to say: You’re home because you’re here with me.She did not need to say: I will be your home. The pacing was also terribly, weirdly off. The book is divided into three different parts, and it felt like each had their own separate mini arcs that didn’t mesh well together as one overall plot. For example, in the second part, witchcraft was introduced and it was actually so cool and one of the only things I was interested in reading. But nothing happened to it... like it was introduced and then used only two times... so what was the point...The middle of the book suffered from boring-dragging-middle syndrome, and the ending was rushed, which made the events that occurred feel tacky. I also hated how Florian’s love for his brother was made to be really important but then was also thrown away so many times. And I also didn’t like how a lot of things in general were left unresolved—it felt like lazy writing!!Overall, I’m quite sad that I didn’t love this book. It had a lot of potential, especially with the messages and representation it offered. But it lacked in a lot of areas, notably the characters, romance, and the plot itself. I really wish I loved this at much as I love the cover, but alas! I am but a moaning face in the sea. :o)*Edit: Just now realizing that making the Black main character a crew member of a slaver ship may not have been the way to go... If there are any Black ownvoices reviews I find talking about this, I’ll link them!:: rep :: Japanese-coded sapphic MC, Black genderfluid MC, Black side characters, nonbinary side character:: content warnings :: death, murder, torture, almost drowning, depictions of blood, drinking, rape/sexual assault (off-page)Thank you to Candlewick Press for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review! This did not affect my opinion in any way.All quotes are from an advance copy and may differ in final publication.
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  • Lex Kent
    January 1, 1970
    2.50 Stars. Im really disappointed to say that this book did not work for me. I was really excited to get the ARC copy of this. Pirates, witches, mermaids and a sapphic romance; what could be better? Well it turns out a lot since I almost DNFd this book. If this was not an ARC I would have permanently put it down. I hate to say this but this just did not click with me much at all. One of my biggest issues was the characters. Almost everyone in this book is a jerk or worse. Even the mains 2.50 Stars. I’m really disappointed to say that this book did not work for me. I was really excited to get the ARC copy of this. Pirates, witches, mermaids and a sapphic romance; what could be better? Well it turns out a lot since I almost DNF’d this book. If this was not an ARC I would have permanently put it down. I hate to say this but this just did not click with me much at all. One of my biggest issues was the characters. Almost everyone in this book is a jerk or worse. Even the mains themselves are not great. One is a pirate who is a slaver. How am I supposed to want to connect with that character? I’m someone who loves a good morally gray character but some things are just not redeemable. The other main is a “Lady” of the ruling class who is sleeping with her servant who is clearly in love with her. When the Lady is leaving does she make sure her faithful servant, best friend, and lover is looked after and actually has a job to feed herself? No she takes off like see ya later! And these are actually the two best characters in the bunch. The rest of the people are all awful and I was not happy to jump into a few of their POV’s. One character even looked like Tokuda-Hall was setting her up to star in a book 2, but that character is so unlikeable that I was yelling “No! Not her!” at the book. I had trouble getting into the plot. It seemed like it took so long to go anywhere that I just wanted the story to move on. For a fantasy book like this I was hoping for an interesting magic system. Instead that part let me down too. As a bookaholic you would think I would love magic based on story telling. Instead I found it boring and by the end of the book I didn’t even get why the magical witch character was needed. The only magical being in this book that I enjoyed were the mermaids. I actually think the mermaid was the best part of the whole book.I did like the queer rep of a lesbian main and a genderfluid main, but the romance was a disappointment too. The noble “Lady” character force-teaches the pirate how to read. A few pages later they instantly fall in love. In love so deep the pirate will leave their family for the “Lady”. I’m not saying there is any reason why the romance can’t be light and sweet, but at least make it feel like an actual romance and not just insta love.I was so excited to get this ARC that this was a pretty big letdown. Maybe my expectations were too high. If I was not such a character driven reader maybe this would have worked for me more. I don’t know the answers to those questions, I just know that unfortunately this was not the book for me. An ARC was given to me for a honest review.
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  • Tara ☽
    January 1, 1970
    *sniffs the air* Do I smell a sapphic pirate romance?
  • Charlie Anders
    January 1, 1970
    The Mermaid, the Witch and the Sea will take you on the journey of a lifetime. Maggie Tokuda-Hall has created characters that I've never seen before, and then put them into an adventure that feels more real than real life, and twice as unpredictable. I wanted to live in the world of this book forever, and I can't stop obsessing about the rich tapestry of pirates, mermaids, witches and conniving nobles who inhabit it. The Mermaid, the Witch and the Sea might just remind you why you fell in love The Mermaid, the Witch and the Sea will take you on the journey of a lifetime. Maggie Tokuda-Hall has created characters that I've never seen before, and then put them into an adventure that feels more real than real life, and twice as unpredictable. I wanted to live in the world of this book forever, and I can't stop obsessing about the rich tapestry of pirates, mermaids, witches and conniving nobles who inhabit it. The Mermaid, the Witch and the Sea might just remind you why you fell in love with adventure in the first place, and change how you think about the genre forever. I envy anyone who's getting to experience this incredible book for the first time.
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  • Ash
    January 1, 1970
    Thank you to NetGalley and Candlewick Press for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.DNF ~30%.For a long time Ive assumed the reason I dislike most fictional romances is that Im a bitter lesbian sick of having heterosexuality shoved in my face everywhere I turn. That may still be the case, however, The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea proves that I can dislike fictional lesbian romance just as much as I dislike fictional straight romance.Because that was my number one problem Thank you to NetGalley and Candlewick Press for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.DNF ~30%.For a long time I’ve assumed the reason I dislike most fictional romances is that I’m a bitter lesbian sick of having heterosexuality shoved in my face everywhere I turn. That may still be the case, however, The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea proves that I can dislike fictional lesbian romance just as much as I dislike fictional straight romance.Because that was my number one problem with this book: the romance. It was poorly developed and cliché. First, a quick background: We have two protagonists, Evelyn and Flora. Evelyn is a wealthy member of the Imperial ruling class shipped off to marry a man she’s never met. (There’s our first cliché.) Flora, called Florian, dresses as a boy (edit: as Isabel kindly informed me in the comments, (view spoiler)[by the end of the book Flora identifies as genderfluid (hide spoiler)], which I love to see) to fit in aboard the Dove, a pirate ship that masquerades as a passenger ship to lure in captives and sell them as slaves.Evelyn and Flora’s relationship begins with what I’m officially labeling the world’s laziest attempt at enemies-to-lovers. Flora hates the Imperials, and she tells us as soon as she meets Evelyn that she’s determined to hate Evelyn too. This doesn’t happen because Evelyn is “not like other rich people” (cliché). Cue insta-love, or something very close to it. Their feelings for each other have so little development I had to squint to find it. The only meaningful interactions they have before falling in love consist of Evelyn teaching Flora how to read (cliché).So I didn’t like the romance, and I didn’t much like the characters either. At first, Flora seemed like a well-developed and interesting character, a morally gray young woman determined to make her way in the world… until she met Evelyn. Evelyn bulldozed Flora’s convictions with the slightest effort, transforming Flora into a completely different person, one who only cares about Evelyn, who always does what Evelyn wants, even if it isn’t in Flora’s best interests. I was far more interested in Flora’s relationship with her brother, Alfie, or her mentor, Rake, both of which were sidelined to focus on her relationship with Evelyn.And Evelyn… I get that she’s a sheltered rich girl, but even that doesn’t justify her lack of common sense. She’s supposedly caring and kind, and in a way she is (to a fault), but she’s somehow simultaneously incredibly self-absorbed. She doesn’t consider how her actions will affect others, not even the people she supposedly cares about. She does what she believes is the right thing even when doing so is stupid and dangerous. And I know I already mentioned her “not like other rich girls” personality, but I have to mention it again because it is so grating.The worldbuilding was completely flat. Each of the various nations is clearly meant to resemble a real-world culture. The Empire is Japan. Tustwe, where Flora’s mother is from, is Africa. Quark is Europe. You’ll notice that both Africa and Europe are whole continents made of many distinct cultures. I know that. I’m not sure Maggie Tokuda-Hall does. She cherry-picks easily identifiable features of these geographical regions: kimonos and tea, antelope and braided hair, pale skin and sunburns. There’s zero nuance. If you’re going to borrow real-world cultures, do some actual research! Otherwise, exercise your creativity and come up with your own fictional cultures.The fantasy aspects of the story were equally disappointing. This book is called The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea. I expected magic! And there were traces of it, but not nearly enough to satisfy me. Maybe there’s more magic in the latter two-thirds of the book, but I’ll never know because nothing in the first third convinced me to keep reading. I was over one hundred pages in and the plot had barely started moving.The only reason I give this book two stars instead of one is that there were moments of inspiration when Tokuda-Hall explored themes of imperialism, identity, and gender. If she’d coupled these themes with more nuanced worldbuilding, I might have kept reading simply to see the concept fully realized. And I did like Flora, as long as Evelyn wasn’t around. I would read a whole book about Flora. But I didn’t want to read one more page about Evelyn.
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  • Elise (TheBookishActress)
    January 1, 1970
    thinking about being an ambiguously gendered pirate riding around the seas falling in love with a very cool pirate lady
  • Dahlia
    January 1, 1970
    My official blurb for this book is An utterly romantic and breathless adventure that wouldnt let me sleep until Id devoured every last word. Its a journey of love, magic, and self-discovery unlike any Ive ever read. My unofficial blurb is that no word of my official blurb is remotely an exaggeration - it's one of the most compelling books I've read in ages, and I absolutely could not put it down. I did not expect such an incredible gender self-examination in such a wild adventure, or for the My official blurb for this book is “An utterly romantic and breathless adventure that wouldn’t let me sleep until I’d devoured every last word. It’s a journey of love, magic, and self-discovery unlike any I’ve ever read.” My unofficial blurb is that no word of my official blurb is remotely an exaggeration - it's one of the most compelling books I've read in ages, and I absolutely could not put it down. I did not expect such an incredible gender self-examination in such a wild adventure, or for the romance to be so incredibly swoony, but this book does so much and achieves so much. Definitely for fans of Amy Rose Capetta, Emily Skrutskie, and E.K. Johnston.
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  • Lea (drumsofautumn)
    January 1, 1970
    [update feb 14th i also just found out this is a f/nb romance ]magic and mayhem set aboard a pirate ship yall know this was written for me, don't even pretend otherwise [update feb 14th i also just found out this is a f/nb romance 🥺]“magic and mayhem set aboard a pirate ship” y’all know this was written for me, don't even pretend otherwise
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  • anna (½ of readsrainbow)
    January 1, 1970
    adventures, pirates and a poc f/genderfluid couple...................... i literally could not ask for more
  • laurel [suspected bibliophile]
    January 1, 1970
    DNF at 23%I wanted to like this a lot more than I did, but pirate books, much less YA pirate books, are a very hard sell for me. Samesies with any books that mention corsets more than twice in the first ten pages. With #ownvoices rep, sapphic relationships, anti-colonialism and more, however, this tempted me to try again with the YA pirate drama (did not know about the abundance of corsets).It wasn't for me, but it might be the book for someone else!I received this ARC from NetGalley for an DNF at 23%I wanted to like this a lot more than I did, but pirate books, much less YA pirate books, are a very hard sell for me. Samesies with any books that mention corsets more than twice in the first ten pages. With #ownvoices rep, sapphic relationships, anti-colonialism and more, however, this tempted me to try again with the YA pirate drama (did not know about the abundance of corsets).It wasn't for me, but it might be the book for someone else!I received this ARC from NetGalley for an honest review
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  • Taylor Knight
    January 1, 1970
    This book is SO GOOD. I wasn't expecting it to be amazing as it is and I'm blown away. The diversity, the representation, the plot, the characters, everything about this book is 10/10. I did assume from the cover that this was middle grade, which it is definitely not. This book isn't slow at all and the action starts right away, which I loved. It's fast paced without being rushed and the plot is so engaging, I would being reading for hours and never get bored. I loved the characters so much. I This book is SO GOOD. I wasn't expecting it to be amazing as it is and I'm blown away. The diversity, the representation, the plot, the characters, everything about this book is 10/10. I did assume from the cover that this was middle grade, which it is definitely not. This book isn't slow at all and the action starts right away, which I loved. It's fast paced without being rushed and the plot is so engaging, I would being reading for hours and never get bored. I loved the characters so much. I enjoyed the diversity and representation so much. I can't remember the last time I read a diverse fantasy YA book thatI enjoyed so much.The writing was wonderful and the concept was fantastic. I honestly have nothing negative to say about this book, I enjoyed it so much. It's been such a long time since I've loved a YA book so much and The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea is everything I needed from a YA book and more. I highly recommend picking up a copy.
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  • Kelly
    January 1, 1970
    With a title like this, you would think I wouldn't get bored, right? I mean, there should be a lot to love...1. Mermaids2. Pirates3. Witchcraft4. And an LGBT romance + POC rep Well... Unfortunately, I didn't love this book. The biggest problem I had was that I never really got invested in the story or characters. I mean I did a little, just not enough in the long run. I knew if they died, it wouldn't have bothered me all that much. And when I don't care, I don't enjoy reading. There wasn't a lot With a title like this, you would think I wouldn't get bored, right? I mean, there should be a lot to love...1. Mermaids2. Pirates3. Witchcraft4. And an LGBT romance + POC rep Well... Unfortunately, I didn't love this book. The biggest problem I had was that I never really got invested in the story or characters. I mean I did a little, just not enough in the long run. I knew if they died, it wouldn't have bothered me all that much. And when I don't care, I don't enjoy reading. There wasn't a lot of depth to this book especially with the world-building and the romance. The lady taught the pirate how to read and they were in love. Just like that. I didn't feel the love and reading some reviews, I wasn't the only one. It was all very shallow. When Flora was with the Witch, I expected magic. However, I found that part so boring. We didn't even really had magic? Her learning should have been interesting but it was the worst part for me. That's when I knew I wanted to rush to get to the end. Also, can we speak about Genevieve's point of view came out of nowhere and was useless.This book was an anticipated release but it just didn't do it for me. The ending felt a little weird but at that point, I was already done with this story. At least, the story was tied up (perhaps too nicely) and since I pushed myself to finish it, I can say I read it...(Thank you for letting me read and review an ARC via Netgalley)
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  • ♠ TABI ♠
    January 1, 1970
    well of course magic and mayhem is what I expect of life aboard a pirate ship okay
  • Shealea
    January 1, 1970
    I brought The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea for my beach trip with Kate, and this definitely made for a perfect beach read!Full review to follow, but here are my initial thoughts:🌊 Genderfluid Black pirate and queer Japanese noblewoman fall in love aND IT IS GLORIOUS!🌊 Extremely fascinating mermaid lore!🌊 Witches and ~*magic*~ in storytelling🌊 Thoughtful critique about imperialism and colonialism🌊 Nuanced exploration of class differences🌊 Themes of self-discovery, sacrifice, ambition, and I brought The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea for my beach trip with Kate, and this definitely made for a perfect beach read!Full review to follow, but here are my initial thoughts:🌊 Genderfluid Black pirate and queer Japanese noblewoman fall in love aND IT IS GLORIOUS!🌊 Extremely fascinating mermaid lore!🌊 Witches and ~*magic*~ in storytelling🌊 Thoughtful critique about imperialism and colonialism🌊 Nuanced exploration of class differences🌊 Themes of self-discovery, sacrifice, ambition, and (found) family🌊 Also looks into survival, trauma, alcohol and substance addiction, and misogyny🌊 Excellent writing style🌊 Flora wanted to hate Lady Hasegawa, but the Lady made it difficult. (DELICIOUS PINING!!!)🌊 Fantastic ending!!!Highly recommended!* I received a physical ARC of this book from Candlewick Press in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Kristi Housman Confessions of a YA Reader
    January 1, 1970
    I really liked that this was a darker story than I usually find with pirates and mermaids.Florian was born Flora. Flora and her older brother, Alfie, were orphans that were desperate for a place to go. They found a ship, The Dove, and had to prove themselves worthy to be a part of it. Flora had to be Florian and hide that she was born a girl. Flora did feel like Florian a lot, too. The captain of the ship was a horrible man. So was a man named Fawkes. Alfie was still traumatized by what Fawkes I really liked that this was a darker story than I usually find with pirates and mermaids.Florian was born Flora. Flora and her older brother, Alfie, were orphans that were desperate for a place to go. They found a ship, The Dove, and had to prove themselves worthy to be a part of it. Flora had to be Florian and hide that she was born a girl. Flora did feel like Florian a lot, too. The captain of the ship was a horrible man. So was a man named Fawkes. Alfie was still traumatized by what Fawkes did to him. The Dove was no ordinary ship. They took in people as a passenger ship. Once they were on the sea, they took them as prisoners and it became a slave ship. They could sell them for a good price. Another thing they could sell was a mermaid. Mermaid's blood was highly desired. Men would drink the blood and slowly forget things. The Nameless Captain drank so much that he can't remember his own name. The Sea did not like when her mermaids were captured and she would punish anyone who drank from them.Evelyn was an Imperial with parents that never really loved her. They were quick to send her off to get married. She was to be on The Dove for five to six months before she would meet the man meant to be her husband. Evelyn was excited to leave, but she wasn't sure about being married to a man. Her father caught her kissing a girl right before she left. It wasn't ok for Imperials. On the ship, Florian is tasked to guard Lady Evelyn from Fawkes. Florian hated Imperials, but Evelyn was hard to hate. She started teaching Florian how to read and they spent almost all their time together. Florian realized that he was falling in love with Evelyn, but Evelyn didn't know the real Florian. He wasn't sure he knew the real Florian. When away from the boat, she went by Flora. But both felt right.Things don't go well and Florian and Evelyn escape along with a captured mermaid. They save the mermaid and the Sea rewarded them with help. They washed up on a shore and was taken to the witch. Florian was hurt and not awake. Evelyn was sent off to her fiance. Flora woke up and thought Evelyn left on her own. She was upset and confused. The witch decided to teach Flora to be a witch, too. Witches were thought to be evil and gone, but Xenobia was still alive. She taught Flora that magic had a price. She had to give something to get something. Most of the chapters were Evelyn or Flora, but there were a handful with other characters. There were interludes that were the Sea which I loved so much. She was powerful and controlled pretty much everything in the sea. The Pirate Supreme was loyal to the see and the mermaids. He wanted to take The Dove at some point and had an operative on board. That captain and his crew killed too many mermaids. The book flowed really well with three parts: The Mermaid, The Witch, and The Sea. I thought the pacing was good and I definitely adored both Flora and Evelyn. There were a lot of characters to hate and some twists and betrayals. Overall, I really loved this.I gave this book 4 1/2 stars rounded up to 5. Thank you to Candlewick Press for my review copy.Warnings for implied sexual assault, torture, blood, death, addiction, slavery, colonialism. I may be forgetting a couple things. The book definitely has some dark topics.
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  • Luupi
    January 1, 1970
    I saw that gorgeous cover...I read it's about a queer romance in a pirate adventure...now my life revolves around this book
  • vivika
    January 1, 1970
    "Powerful things, stories. If you care to listen to them." The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea follows Evelyn, the rebellious imperial and Flora (disguised as Florian), the desperate orphan turned pirate. Evelyn is sent to marry a man her parents picked for her, which is how she ends up as a passenger on the pirate ship called the Dove. Flora is orphaned with her brother Alfie, and in order to fit aboard as a pirate on the Dove, she must dress as a boy (Florian). But on this voyage, as the "Powerful things, stories. If you care to listen to them." The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea follows Evelyn, the rebellious imperial and Flora (disguised as Florian), the desperate orphan turned pirate. Evelyn is sent to marry a man her parents picked for her, which is how she ends up as a passenger on the pirate ship called the Dove. Flora is orphaned with her brother Alfie, and in order to fit aboard as a pirate on the Dove, she must dress as a boy (Florian). But on this voyage, as the pirates prepare to sell their unsuspecting passengers into slavery, Flora is drawn to Evelyn. Soon the unlikely pair set in motion a wild escape that will free a captured mermaid, involve the mysterious Pirate Supreme, an opportunistic witch, and the all-encompassing Sea itself. "Including herself. Or himself. Both were equally true to her. Neither told the whole story."The main thing that drew me to The Mermaid, The Witch, and the Sea was the promise of good representation and it did not let me down. Flora is a poc genderfluid person and Evelyn is a queer woman from a country inspired by Japan. There is also the Pirate Supreme, a nonbinary badass pirate who fights for and defends the Sea. The sapphic relationship was never questioned or ridiculed and the same goes for the genderfluid/nonbinary characters, which was really nice to see. "You've the feel of destiny about you."The plot is very fast paced and easy to follow. It's definitely a plot driven book, so if you're like me and prefer slower, more character focused books, this is probably not what you're looking for. For me it felt like i couldn't get to know the world and the characters that well, which means by the end i wasn't as invested. I loved the concept of the world and the lore behind the Sea especially, i wish this book would've been longer so that the author could have really developed them. "We don't just read to imagine better lives. We read to be introduced to all kinds of lives. Any kind. Not just for ourselves, but for everyone around us. To understand others better. It's escape, and it's also a way to become more connected to everyone around you. There's power in that, you know. In understanding. It's like magic."The writing style of this book is simplistic, yet beautiful. You can find many beautiful quotes and thought provoking inner monologues. It's especially beautiful seeing the main characters coming to terms with themselves and understanding each other. Now, for the characters. I was definitely rooting for Evelyn and Flora, but all the other characters felt very flat for me. I couldn't get attached to them in a way that i wanted to which is unfortunate, but if you're looking for a quick plot driven book this is it!Overall this is a really fun and quick read, if you're trying to get into fantasy i would definitely recommend this, it's easy to get into and understand. This would also be a great book to read if you're trying to get out of a reading slump!Big thanks to NetGalley and Candlewick Press for providing me with an arc of this in exchange of an honest review!
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  • Shauni
    January 1, 1970
    I received an arc of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.This book was such a unique spin on pirates, mermaids and magic. I enjoyed the dynamics of the characters and their relationships, but I felt it was a little rushed in some of the scenes. There were a few characters that I kept wanting more information about. More backstory and more internal reflection/emotions would have been nice. But overall, I enjoyed it.
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  • Vee_Bookish // in lockdown or not or maybe
    January 1, 1970
    Look at that coverLOOK AT IT.
  • Michelle Aschenbrenner
    January 1, 1970
    ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!This story ended up being different to what I was expecting. There were certainly elements I enjoyed, and then there were elements that fell flat. The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea follows two characters, Evelyn and Flora/Florian. Evelyn is an Imperial, which is essentially the wealthy ruling class of their region, who is sent to be with a man her parents picked for her to marry, thus quite literally ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!This story ended up being different to what I was expecting. There were certainly elements I enjoyed, and then there were elements that fell flat. The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea follows two characters, Evelyn and Flora/Florian. Evelyn is an Imperial, which is essentially the wealthy ruling class of their region, who is sent to be with a man her parents picked for her to marry, thus quite literally shipping her off like cargo. Flora is orphaned with her brother Alfie, and in order to get a job on the sea and fit aboard a pirate ship named Dove, she must dress as a boy (Florian).The story had an interesting premise, and the beginning pulled be in rather quickly with the interludes. The interludes were so lyrical and so beautifully written that it kind of set me up for that expectation of how the story was going to go, or at least how it was going to be written. I was expecting more magic and more interaction with the title of the book coming into play (yes, there was a mermaid, a witch, and the sea, but it felt very played down when it came to the actual story). In truth, it felt quite the opposite. The writing for the story of Evelyn and Flora/Florian wasn't terrible, but once they met everything felt very rushed, especially with their romance. From that point on, I drifted in and out of interest.What I enjoyed about the book was the various relationships between characters. You have Flora/Florian trying to keep a struggling relationship alive with her brother as he suffers from trauma. You have the relationship between Flora/Florian and her mentor, Rake, who is a father figure to her. And there is a brief relationship at the beginning with Evelyn and her handmaid, Keiko, which was raw and emotional enough to make me feel for Keiko, despite the shortness of her part in the story. I truly feel all the different characters and the different relationships that develop throughout the book were wonderfully expressed. Also, there really should be a trigger warning since there are some rather dark and gruesome scenes that were kind of blindsiding. There is a... I don't know what you would exactly call it, but there is a torture/punishment scene and mention of sexual assault, so just be aware before you delve into the book.
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  • Leelynn (Sometimes Leelynn Reads) ❤
    January 1, 1970
    Death, Violence, Alluded Sexual AssaultJapanese-Coded, Queer, Androgynous, POC-CodedDisclaimer: I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you to Netgalley and Candlewick Press for this free copy. All quotes in this review are taken from the Advanced Reader Copy and may change in final publication.Im really glad that I had the opportunity to read this book early, and I feel like I had a lot of ups and downs with this book. I dont Death, Violence, Alluded Sexual AssaultJapanese-Coded, Queer, Androgynous, POC-CodedDisclaimer: I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you to Netgalley and Candlewick Press for this free copy. All quotes in this review are taken from the Advanced Reader Copy and may change in final publication.I’m really glad that I had the opportunity to read this book early, and I feel like I had a lot of ups and downs with this book. I don’t even know how my thoughts are able to be coherent in this review, but I’m definitely going to try. From the time that I’m writing this now to the time that this ends up posting, who knows how long it’s actually going to take me, but I have been really trying to digest my thoughts for this novel to give my review the best representation as it could be. So let’s try it out, and let me know if any of these thoughts end up making sense to you.Totally seeing the Japanese influence in this novel and I dig it so muchThe Flora/Florian thing… I get it.Evelyn’s parents suck so hard. I literally hate them.I don’t know how I’m feeling about this book right now.Your sex doesn’t define youFlora had to take on the persona of Florian while she was employed on the Dove, which was a pirate ship that would sometimes disguise itself as a regular passenger ship. Throughout the book Flora and Florian would be interchanged based on I guess however they were feeling at the time, although there were some times were it would be changed in back to back sentences. That confused me a little bit, but then I realized that I guess it didn’t really matter because if that’s how Flora/Florian wanted to identify at the time, then that’s how we would refer to them. When Flora was Flora, there would be she pronouns. When Florian was Florian, there would be he pronouns. Never they since Flora was technically born a girl I guess? But there was a line where Evelyn sees that Florian is actually Flora – since all of their interactions were as Florian, and I just… really liked it.“There are those who are neither a man nor woman. Those who were born and called the wrong gender and must reshape their story for those around them. But you. You’re something else. You’re whatever is safe. Both, maybe, but not neither. Or interchangeable. Names are funny things, because they can feel like lies but tell our truths.You have the power to change your circumstances, and your fate, if you truly desire toYes, that was so dramatic but so true okay? Evelyn was pretty much sold off to some Commander on the other side of the empire to be his wife or whatever – which first of all really sucks to begin with but then the real reason why is even worse but that’s a spoiler okay – and at first she thinks that maybe this will give her an opportunity to start over with someone that will treat her better than her own parents but then… ugh is that going into spoiler territory?BASICALLY, both Evelyn and Flora find out that they are able to get out of these situations that they feel have defined their life and their being as a whole, and they find out just how strong they are individually, and together as a team. I was just so proud of them when they figured it out, and seeing how they were able to keep each other safe and loved throughout the entire thing.I think the more I sit on this review and think about it, the more I’m able to cry about how it ended up going, the ending, and just my overall love for Evelyn and Flora.What price would she have paid, in those days of stolen moldy bread, to know she could be free of that fear? To be free of that constant, terrible worry? Anything. She would have paid anything.Our two main characters Evelyn and Flora have the biggest character development in the entire book. Maybe that would have been a big obvious but not always. Evelyn had to learn how to fend for herself without having servants or anybody else to care for her, and she learned how to save herself from a situation that was not going to be good for her at all. She didn’t wait to be rescued from the Commander situation, and even did something that she never would have done in a million years! It was something that she felt could have been really superficial for her, and it was the one thing that she actually loved about herself physically, but she did it to give herself a better chance at being able to escape her circumstances and I was so proud of her for that.Flora also learned that it was okay to identify either as Flora or Florian, whichever one she was feeling like she needed to be at the time. And even though Florian was a killer because he needed to be, and maybe he didn’t want to have to kill innocent people just because he was a pirate, he was able to use those skills to save him and Evelyn from another situation that could have ended really badly. Flora also learned something from the Witch Xenobia as well, and while I don’t remember exactly how long they were together during the novel – it seemed like time was either going really fast or really slow when we heard from Flora so I really couldn’t tell at that point – it felt like she learned a lot of how to really believe in herself and find the strength within her to change a lot of things in such a short amount of time.A lot of the time I was feeling really confused. Maybe it was because I wasn’t very much into all of the other POVs besides Flora and Evelyn, or maybe it was weird for me how some characters would be mentioned a couple times and then not again? I don’t know, but I did end up ugly crying towards the end and I thought Tokuda-Hall was going to let me down after all that I went through in this journey, but she didn’t. I have to say that she didn’t and now I can safely say that I am okay with how this book turned out for me.I was sooooooo pissed off at Evelyn’s parents and I’m so glad I didn’t have to deal with them for longer than necessary. So freaking irritated with Alfie – Flora’s brother – because he was such an alcoholic. Like, I understand why and I do not blame him for finding a way to cope with the violence that he faced at the hands of Fawkes but then he didn’t just keep it to regular liquor, you know? He had to drink stuff that would legit get him killed by the Pirate Supreme and that just made me so angry because he knew better! Like, come on Alfie!! Come on, now!I feel like there was two different plots going on at the same time, and maybe that was okay but I think I was more okay with just the Flora and Evelyn plot. I get that there needed to be some sort of something happening while Flora and Evelyn were off the Dove and all that, but I don’t know. Maybe for me it was a little bit too much. Maybe the whole side plot about the Pirate Supreme wanting to end the Nameless Captain and then the whole Empire operatives on the side and then the witch stories….Maybe it was just a lot for me, but in the end, I liked the story so I guess that works out.I think the relationship between Flora and Evelyn is what really made this for me. Which I was so glad that I had the opportunity to read their romance and see them growth from learning about one another to themselves. I don’t know how I feel about that ending though… it does leave room for a spin-off basically but I don’t know if I even like that character enough to care about wanting to know if that person deals with their circumstances. But… maybe if there was more about Evelyn and Flora, or even more pirates and mermaids in something else, or even just another book from Tokuda-Hall. I’m okay with that. Give me more of this vibe and I’m good.
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  • Cindy ✩☽♔
    January 1, 1970
    ...a story of magic and mayhem set aboard a pirate ship... More pirates to add to my TBR!!!
  • Bon
    January 1, 1970
    Thanks to Netgalley for an advanced copy for review, but this was just...OK.Im finally getting over my fear of rating ARCs lower if I didnt like them, lol.Thishad promise, and ticked a lot of boxes in terms of diversity and own-voices representation but, um, at some points it did just feel like it was going down a list. Characters were of color, great, cool, characters were LGBT and established as such even before the story began in some cases, awesome, butThere was something missing. The main Thanks to Netgalley for an advanced copy for review, but this was just...OK.I’m finally getting over my fear of rating ARCs lower if I didn’t like them, lol.This…had promise, and ticked a lot of boxes in terms of diversity and own-voices representation but, um, at some points it did just feel like it was going down a list. Characters were of color, great, cool, characters were LGBT and established as such even before the story began in some cases, awesome, but…There was something missing. The main pairing felt very, very insta-love, something I hate. The book isn’t even very long, but somewhere between the ten and forty percent marks, the leads are deeply in love. Okay. Suspend disbelief there – but other things, like the fact that every plot arc was kind of wrapped up in a handy bow by the end. I disliked the ending, I won’t say more because spoilers, but…There could have been different things done. I hate that the fact that one plotline is a character learning magic, only for it to all feel kind of a moot point by the end. Very frustrating, given that the magic was super cool when it was shown. But their abilities sort of fizzle out in the wake of Something Else that happens at the end. Kudos for a few things.One, I love the nautical vibes and piracy themes. It was interesting with the Sea being sort of an all-knowing, sentient being, a call-back to elemental deities and all sorts of mother earth coolness. There was a scene where a ship, sanctioned by The Sea, is cruising along with like, sharks and sea creatures in its wake, and honestly that was an incredible image. The end conflict reminded me of a Pirates of the Caribbean movie, at least for a good minute! There is also some Good commentary on imperialism, colonialism, gender politics and the like. I really enjoyed the gender fluidity of one of the protagonists, as well – and other characters are given they pronouns and stuff. At one point a character directly asks what another would like to be called by, pronoun-wise, and that was good stuff. It just felt… I’m not sure, some of this stuff felt shoehorned in and not like organic plot inclusions or developments.I saw a fellow reviewer refer to this as something like, classy royal girl teaches other to read, and bam, they’re in love. Franky that’s pretty spot-on, something that disappointed me. I’m unsure if this is to be a series – honestly with the inconsistent worldbuilding, I think at least a duology would’ve been better. Some things are kind of left hanging, BUT other things that didn’t need to be tied up with a shiny bow could have been left. All in all, I felt like I was pushing myself to finish this because it was an ARC, not because I enjoyed it.
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  • aarya
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 starsCW: (view spoiler)[slavers, murder, torture, colonialism (hide spoiler)]I liked this! It became a little muddled in the middle (and OF COURSE there is a long romantic separation because fantasy likes to irritate romance readers), but overall its a promising debut. Nuanced depiction of colonialism, Black genderqueer MC/Japanese female MC (not actually Japanese, but the fictional empire is clearly inspired by Japan), mermaid folklore, witches, and more. I had major reservations/qualms 3.5 starsCW: (view spoiler)[slavers, murder, torture, colonialism (hide spoiler)]I liked this! It became a little muddled in the middle (and OF COURSE there is a long romantic separation because fantasy likes to irritate romance readers), but overall it’s a promising debut. Nuanced depiction of colonialism, Black genderqueer MC/Japanese female MC (not actually Japanese, but the fictional empire is clearly inspired by Japan), mermaid folklore, witches, and more. I had major reservations/qualms about the Black MC working on a slave ship (basically: Flora/Florian and the brother Alfie started working on the ship as poor orphan kids in order to earn some money. The way the ship operates is by pretending to be a legit enterprise and transporting paying passengers, but then eventually imprisoning those passengers and selling them to slavers). The other MC (Lady Evelyn Hasegawa) is on her way to an arranged marriage via sea. She meets Flora and they fall in love even though Flora feels guilty as hell about Evelyn's impending fate. So... yeah. The optics are not great in the beginning. I know that for some readers, a Black person working on a slave ship (even if the MC hates it and has moral qualms) is unforgivable. That is extremely valid criticism. I'm not the right reader to assess the book and say "this is okay," so I won't. What I will say is this: the book's POV is that 1) slavery is bad (all the enthusiastic slavers are unambiguously bad people), 2) Flora and Alfie are never happy about their circumstances (they're forced into this life out of necessity and poverty. The empire screwed them over, and they have no other opportunities), and 3) the book ends with Flora and Alfie safely out of their former life (all the slavers are dead/punished/gone). So if I look at the entire book, I think the arc about the slaver ship worked for me. I honestly don't know what else to feel, and would be interested in reading a dissenting opinion on this matter. The weakest parts are the POV scenes from secondary characters. There’s no rhyme or reason as to why they’re so non-linear; it feels jarring (and I like non-linear flashbacks in fantasy! I just don’t think they worked well here). Another complaint is that we don’t learn a lot about the mermaids. It’s certainly teased and they’re important to the story, but we never end up delving into the mermaid mythology. This is especially irritating considering the ending (which I will not spoil, but the details make the lack of mermaid info more frustrating).Most of the romantic development occurs in the first third. Second third is separation. Finally, they reunite, make heart-eyes, and save the day. I kinda wish there was more romantic development later on, but maybe that’s unfair considering this isn’t a romance novel. The ending took me by surprise. I was NOT expecting that, but it definitely is a HEA. The author then sets up a potential sequel with another character. THE MERMAID, THE WITCH, AND THE SEA isn’t perfectly polished but I had a hell lot of fun reading it. If this is Tokuda-Hall’s debut, I can’t wait to see what’s next.Disclaimer: I received a free e-ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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  • USOM
    January 1, 1970
    (Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.) TW: TortureI am obsessed with pirate books. And all things mermaid. So when a book is called, The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea you know immediately I am going to pick it up. There's this absolutely wonderful balance between character growth and action as both Evelyn and Florian have to figure out who they want to be. Evelyn's mother keeps telling her that she's basically worth (Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.) TW: TortureI am obsessed with pirate books. And all things mermaid. So when a book is called, The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea you know immediately I am going to pick it up. There's this absolutely wonderful balance between character growth and action as both Evelyn and Florian have to figure out who they want to be. Evelyn's mother keeps telling her that she's basically worth nothing and so seeing her grow as a character was so satisfying. At the same time, I was immediately drawn to Florian and her pirate lifestyle, but also to her careful observation of what moral costs she is willing to overlook and must make to survive. I wanna add that they're both queer - Florian is gender fluid and black and Evelyn is queer Japanese character. So while The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea features some very tender character growth - as they have to re-evaluate their life choices and fix their mistakes - it also has tons of action. There is exploration of colonialism and imperialism as Florian and Evelyn's story feed into a larger plot. We are immersed in a world of pirates, oaths, and witches. Yes, there are witches and mermaids! And not the mermaids who just brush their hair (although hair care is important) but the ones with some sharp teeth! I love me some mermaids.full review: https://utopia-state-of-mind.com/revi...
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  • Delaney 🏳️‍🌈
    January 1, 1970
    First off big thanks to NetGalley and Candlewick Press for the advanced readers copy to read and review. Now for the review: I give the Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea 4.5/5 stars. This story was beautifully written and had delightfully complex characters. The cast of characters were diverse and the lgbtq+ representation was beautiful. This was a love story but it was so much more. This story was about writing your own destiny and deciding your own story. This book details the power words and First off big thanks to NetGalley and Candlewick Press for the advanced readers copy to read and review. Now for the review: I give the Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea 4.5/5 stars. This story was beautifully written and had delightfully complex characters. The cast of characters were diverse and the lgbtq+ representation was beautiful. This was a love story but it was so much more. This story was about writing your own destiny and deciding your own story. This book details the power words and stories themselves hold. I also deeply enjoyed the sea being a character and all of her perspectives were beautifully written. I highly recommend this book to people looking for a swashbuckling fantasy with eloquent writing. The only thing I would change about this story is I want to learn more about the magic system. I do hope this isn’t a stand alone because wow I was not expecting the ending.
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  • Layla
    January 1, 1970
    I received an eARC of this through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.If you've been searching for an all inclusive fantasy with pirates, mermaids, witches all wrapped together with a bow made of love - then look no further! I cannot rave about this book enough! I have been waiting for more books that have gender neutral/fluid characters in them and not only does this wonderful story deliver on that, it is diverse with it's characters races and sexualities. A true story of self I received an eARC of this through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.If you've been searching for an all inclusive fantasy with pirates, mermaids, witches all wrapped together with a bow made of love - then look no further! I cannot rave about this book enough! I have been waiting for more books that have gender neutral/fluid characters in them and not only does this wonderful story deliver on that, it is diverse with it's characters races and sexualities. A true story of self discovery, overcoming adversity and the strength that one can find in the hardest of times. I really enjoyed the characters' journey's and their development. Hands down, one of the best books I've read this year so far, and I truly hope it garners the success it deserves.
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  • Frances Diederich
    January 1, 1970
    Did someone say genderfluid sapphic pirate?!
  • michelle (magical reads)
    January 1, 1970
    read on my blogrep: Black genderfluid protagonist, ownvoices queer Japanese-coded protagonisttw: mentions of rape, slavery Know your truth, not your story. I was so excited for this book (I mean, that cover!), and it did not disappoint! The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea tells a story full of stunning prose, quiet magic, and the soft sounds of the sea.Florian, born Flora, is a pirate on a ship that tricks wealthy passengers and sells them into slavery. Evelyn is an Imperial lady, who boards the read on my blogrep: Black genderfluid protagonist, ownvoices queer Japanese-coded protagonisttw: mentions of rape, slavery Know your truth, not your story. I was so excited for this book (I mean, that cover!), and it did not disappoint! The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea tells a story full of stunning prose, quiet magic, and the soft sounds of the sea.Florian, born Flora, is a pirate on a ship that tricks wealthy passengers and sells them into slavery. Evelyn is an Imperial lady, who boards the ship Flora works on, on her way to marry an important commander. They fall in love and escape, foiling plans unbeknownst to them.This book had such great worldbuilding. The center of it is an ownvoices Japanese-inspired empire, and the author makes sure to display the negative consequences of the colonialism with characters who suffered under its regime. There are also pirates and mermaids and the magic of the sea.There’s also so much diversity! Flora is Black and genderfluid. Although at first, Florian is just an identity she assumes, it is stated towards the end of the book that Florian is a part of her and that she feels comfortable using she, he, and they. Thus, this book takes the “girl dresses up as a boy” trope and turns it on its head. (Also, I use she to refer to Flora because that’s the pronoun used in her point of view.) Evelyn is Japanese-coded and queer. She had an affair with her maid, and she liked Flora when she thought she was male, as well as when she finds out that she is genderfluid.The writing was so beautiful! It lent a gentle tone to the book, like the soft sounds of the sea lapping against the shore. The romance was also so soft; they sacrifice so much for each other. What would you give? To have agency in this world? To see your will done, to control your own story? To be powerful? Free? Overall, The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea was a stunning debut, with its beautiful writing, lovely characters, and gorgeous prose. The worldbuilding was great, and the romance was so soft. I definitely recommend this book for fans of The Scorpio Races!original review:stunning prose, quiet magic, and the soft sounds of the sea
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