ARC Review: THE MERMAID, THE WITCH, AND THE SEA by Maggie Tokuda-Hall

I recieved an eARC from the publishers through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. It has not affected my opinions.

Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: YA
Star Rating: 3.5 stars
Series: Standalone


Title in white on a painted boat

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.

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


THE MERMAID, THE WITCH, AND THE SEA (I am so happy there’s an Oxford comma in the title!) is a debut adventure set on the high seas. Full of pirates, vicious mermaids, and double-crossing characters, this is an f/f high-seas adventure who want a book at sea with a difference.

It is not your typical pirates-of-the-Carribean world. From the gorgeous settings to the mythology, this book Is deeply rooted in an East Asian setting (neither Goodreads nor the author’s site specifies which, so I don’t want to presume.) There are lots of “boat-books” (as I term them) out there, but this setting felt so different, a much-needed change.

There’s a lot of double crossing and betrayal, which naturally I loved. So many factions with conflicting goals, and Evelyn and Flora were caught in the middle of it. There are the slavers, the Imperials, the Supreme Pirate – and that’s only the major players. There are lots of smaller characters the girls cross paths with who have their own adgendas.

The middle act felt rather aimless, and very different in tone. The book was split over two locations and the Evelyn/Flora story line didn’t have an obvious goal or location. Flora’s story line was basically all exposition as she was told stories of the world. It didn’t really add to the plot, but was a nice stylistic choice. Evelyn at least was learning things and had a bit more of a goal. However, this section felt like it could have been significantly reduced.

There were also two new POVs added in the second and third acts. I really liked the inclusion of Rake’s POV. He was on the ship, detailing all the betrayals and pulling in the different pieces of plot line that lead towards the finale. His was the POV that kept the middle act going, the one that kept me reading to find out what happened next.

The final POV had only two or three chapters, and really didn’t feel necessary. The scraps of information that came from her POV could have come out elsewhere. Instead, it was rather jarring to suddenly have this new POV to contend with.

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