Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Having long wondered what lives beyond the ice shelf, nineteen-year-old mermaid Ersel learns of the life she wants when she rescues and befriends Ragna, a shield-maiden stranded on the merfolk’s fortress. But when Ersel’s childhood friend and suitor catches them together, he gives Ersel a choice: Say goodbye to Ragna or face justice at the hands of the glacier’s brutal king.
Determined to forge a different fate, Ersel seeks help from the divine Loki. But such deals are never straightforward, and the outcome sees her exiled from the only home and protection she’s known. To save herself from perishing in the barren, underwater wasteland and be reunited with the human she’s come to love, Ersel must try to outsmart the God of Lies.
Being an avid reader of the Fantasy genre myself, The Seafarer’s Kiss by Julia Ember had me intrigued as soon as I laid eyes on it. I find mermaids to be one of the most fascinating mythical creatures and yet I can hardly recall any Fantasy novels in which they play more than a supporting role. So, since the protagonist in this one is in fact a mermaid, I was really hoping that the author would grant a closer look into the society, customs and lifestyle of the merfolk. And thankfully I was not disappointed in the least!
The novel features a close-knit community of merfolk living inside a glacier far up in the frozen North with strict societal rules and traditions. As a reader you get to experience their way of life through the eyes of young Ersel from whose first-person perspective the story is told. World and lore building are one of the key aspects of Fantasy writing and I was immediately drawn in by the loving details the author used to describe how the merfolk lived and their society worked. The people of the sea really take the centre stage here and we are handed only small pieces of information on what the lives of humans are like in this world. I also very much enjoyed how the merfolk’s way of life was so closely entwined with the harsh and cold environment they lived in. The author did a good job in depicting the icy landscape and some of its inhabitants (most prominently a pod of beluga whales). A nice touch of magic and Norse mythology is added as well.
The novel features a varied cast of characters with the mermaid Ersel as its main protagonist. She does not want to lead the life dictated to her by the community’s traditions and laws but is too scared and timid to openly oppose them at first. A focus of the story lies on her personal development as she is repeatedly faced with new experiences and difficult decisions that impact her own future as well as others’. The most profound of said experiences being when she meets Ragna, a fierce young human woman bent on survival and revenge. Ragna acts in many ways as a mirror for Ersel: They both have dreams and goals they want to achieve but unlike her Ragna has the courage and will to actively work towards and fight for them. At the same time Ersel comes to Ragna’s aid and becomes the friend and support the human girl desperately needs. The relationship that starts to blossom from this encounter was a delight to witness and I found myself rooting for them to succeed in their ambitions as well as their growing feelings for each other. Their story is one of self-discovery, compassion, determination and sacrifices.
Other types of relationships are explored as well, especially the one between Ersel and her childhood friend Havamal with whom she used to share a strong bond before he decided on a different path in life than the one they had once dreamed of together. And then there is of course Ersel’s deal with the infamous trickster god himself who, while being a divine entity, displays some rather human-like traits as well. I also quite enjoyed the magical aspects of this part of the story.
Since this is a Young Adult novel the sex scenes are not described in detail but they are still teased enough to let the imagination run wild.
I had a great time reading this novel and enjoyed learning about the fascinating world the author had created. The characters, their motivations and interactions were very engaging as well. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for more from this author.
The intricate cover design by CB Messer is what drew me to this novel in the first place. It is probably one of the most beautiful book covers I have ever seen. The art and colour choices are truly lovely. It immediately invokes a sense of ancient legends and fairy tales.
ebook, 224 pages
Published May 4, 2017
by Interlude Press (Duet Books, a YA Imprint of Interlude Press)
Edition Language: English