The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall
Expected Publication: 2020 by Candlewick Press
Genre(s): Young Adult, Fantasy, Adventure
Thank you so much Candlewick Press for sending me a copy of this ARC in exchange for an honest review! The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall will be available at all good bookstores.
Okay, I have to admit that I was a little reluctant to read this book because pirates are not my thing, but after thinking what the heck? and going for it anyway, I am so so happy I did. The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall is a journey of self-discovery and acceptance, love and magic. Told in alternating points of view, it is a book with incredible diversity and perhaps one of the most in depth self-examinations I’ve read in a while.
There is a lot room for expansion when it comes to the world building in this book as we are limited to the places and cultures the characters are familiar with, though this is not to say that it hasn’t already been done well here. I find the magic system fascinating and am entirely appreciative of how Tokuda-Hall doesn’t gloss over it as some authors tend to do.
The characters, on the other hand, are solid and believable. In my opinion, Flora’s growth as the story progresses is the most substantial one. The other important characters, including minor ones, do grow and change as well, but I feel that theirs weren’t as weighty as Flora’s, which is a little disappointing considering how this book is told in alternating points of view. Character reiteration is strong here as well, which helps as a continuous reminder to reader of their individual identities, though it was a little ramble-y at some parts. The characters also got a little muddled up in my head while I was reading because when they’re examining themselves, they start to sound like each other as they share similar philosophies.
The pacing is perfect for this book. It’s not too slow and not too fast, and the plot unraveled nicely. However, I feel that the impact of the main plot is somehow not there? I don’t know how to explain myself well here, but the most major plot (which I believe is the romance between Flora and Evelyn) doesn’t have a strong enough presence. All the plots—including mains and subs—have this equal amount of importance which felt too widespread and thus, was distracting for me.
For example, Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao has a main plot where Xifeng does all she can to become empress (as mentioned in the book’s summary). We know throughout the story that this has the most importance and thus, the impact of certain subplots are elevated and vice versa by this knowledge. In The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea, the main plot which I believe is the aforementioned romance, is at times, placed aside and outshone by subplots which thus weakens the impact of it and also vice versa.
Everything considered, I think that this book is really well written and would definitely be a title I’d recommend. The interludes are brilliant, by the way. 10 out of 10, definitely my utmost favorite parts of this book!