cover image The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea

The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea

Maggie Tokuda-Hall. Candlewick, $18.99 (368p) ISBN 978-1-5362-0431-5

Set in a fantastical world devastated by imperialism, Tokuda-Hall’s YA debut follows a diverse array of characters as they journey across a conscious and omnipotent sea. After her family falls on hard times, 15-year-old Imperial noble Evelyn Hasegawa is shipped off to a forced marriage in the colonized Floating Islands. Aboard passenger ship the Dove, she is assigned a guard, Florian, who has worked as a crew member for the past few years, hoping to afford a new start with his brother. As Evelyn takes to Florian, teaching him to read, he struggles to keep two secrets: gender-fluid Florian is also known as Flora, and the Dove is actually a slaver that will soon turn on its passengers, imprisoning and selling Evelyn and the other Imperials. When the crew captures a mermaid to be vended for her blood, Florian vows to free both the creature and Evelyn, but their attempt to escape exposes them to other dangers, truths, and betrayals neither had imagined. Tokuda-Hall aptly explores themes of gender identity and misogyny while illustrating colonialism’s horrors, in which even children must steal from and harm each other to survive. Interstitials by the sea lend a global viewpoint that ripples through the story without disrupting the narrative. Ages 14–up. Agent: Jennifer Laughran, Andrea Brown Literary. [em](May) [/em]