[ARC Review] The Mermaid, The Witch, and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall

[ARC Review] The Mermaid, The Witch, and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall

Title: The Mermaid, The Witch, and the Sea
Author: Maggie Tokuda-Hall
Genre: YA Fantasy
Format: eARC
Length: 368 pages
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publish Date: May 5, 2020

Death, Violence, Alluded Sexual Assault
Japanese-Coded, Queer, Androgynous, POC-Coded

Disclaimer: 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 much
  • The 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 you

Flora 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 to

Yes, 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.

7 thoughts on “[ARC Review] The Mermaid, The Witch, and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall

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