cover image Skin of the Sea (Skin of the Sea #1)

Skin of the Sea (Skin of the Sea #1)

Natasha Bowen. Random House, $18.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-593-12094-1

In Bowen’s dazzling debut, rooted in West African mythology and mid-1400s history, Simidele is a mermaid, or Mami Wata, tasked by orisa Mother Yemoja to collect and usher to the afterlife the souls of deceased West African people thrown overboard from passing slave ships. When a living teen named Kola lands in the water during a violent storm, Simi defies Yemoja and Olodumare, the Supreme Creator, and saves his life. Haunted by the memory of the captured human girl she was before she was “remade” into a Mami Wata by Yemoja, Simi pleads with Yemoja for help returning the boy home, whatever the cost. To protect her Mami Wata family from certain death at Olodumare’s hand, she travels with Kola to make restitution. But there is something deadly pursuing Simi, and it has a terrible plan. Reinvigorating the image of West Africa as not merely a site of human suffering but a historical place of great invention, fellowship, and hope, Bowen relays a story as lushly described as it is cinematic, centering a brave, headstrong protagonist coming into her own power in an age of change. Ages 14–up. Agent: Jodi Reamer, Writers House. (Nov.)