*I received a copy from the publisher via Netgalley in return for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book.*
When aboard the ship and amongst the crew that saved her life, Flora becomes Florian, a former street urchin turned crew hand who is desperately trying to make a life for herself and her brother. But her voyage takes a turn when the captain decides to sell their unsuspecting passengers into slavery and assigns Flora as the guard to young Evelyn. Unaware of the captain’s plan, Evelyn believes she is en route to an arranged marriage and doesn’t anticipate the impact of meeting Florian. Together, they must work to fight for their own freedom without losing themselves to the depths of the sea.
The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea was rather interesting. It was quite a punchy, fast-paced read of two young adults desperate to do the right thing. I did come into reading this with very high expectations, and while a lot of them were met, I wasn’t exactly all too blown away with this book. But I still enjoyed this story. I consider it a solid and entertaining debut.
What I loved most about this book was the world. I believe it’s the book’s strongest point. At the time of writing this review, the author has stated it is currently a stand-alone, but I would be interested in seeing what else the author has to offer from this world. Even if we don’t continue Flora and Evelyn’s story, the brickwork that the author has laid down here has SO much potential. I love how dark this book was, and I wasn’t expecting it, so it came as an exciting surprise. I truly loved how the author uses the Sea as this dark mother nature figure who is wholly vengeful and protective over its inhabitants. This comes in the form of a mermaid who Florian and Evelyn work to save as the crew members terrorise the mermaid for its mind-altering blood. Florian then encounters witches and finds themselves delving deep into witchcraft in order to protect themselves. There is an excellent commentary on the impact of colonialism and imperialism. Flora strives to be free from imperialist forces and wishes to live without fear of capture alongside her brother. We are also introduced to side-characters who bring much-needed depth to where I think Flora and Evelyn fail to give due to their limiting world-view, this includes a fellow crewmate, which I would love to read more about, what we’re given about him is so intriguing, even a short story to delve into his past would be enough.
The story is fun, and the characters were engaging to read about. And while I did speed through this book, the pacing in this book is a little off, as it is split into three sections. Some moments are rushed through while other areas are given time, which I don’t think it really needed. What didn’t work for me in this story was the relationship between Florian and Evelyn, more specifically, their romance. This book is dependent on them falling in love, but it falls rather flat, which is why I had decided to rate this book much lower than I wanted. The duo meet quite late in the book, and coupled with the weird pacing, the impact of their relationship didn’t feel right or even believable because it’s all based on a handful of short conversations between the two and the rest of the development occurred off-page and told to readers in between chapters. I really liked Flora, they were such an interesting character, and I was genuinely rooting for them and their dream for a better life. Their relationship with their brother was so good, and it’s such a shame, we don’t get to delve deeper into it. Because of the length of this book, it meant so much is introduced and then discarded so the story can continue, and I left sorely disappointed that the narrative just doesn’t return to something that is set up to be necessary. The lack of tension is what led the stakes and story feeling sorely under-developed and lacklustre.
Overall, The Mermaid, The Witch and The Sea was an interesting read. I feel like this story has a lot of potential in its world and characters. I still enjoyed it for what its worth but I really wished we had more time which would’ve made the story feel more fluid and move more realistically. As I mentioned before, the world-building is a shining point, which is why I would recommend and I would definitely pick up any future novels set in this universe because I don’t think it was fully utilised in this book.