Review: The Seafarer’s Kiss – Julia Ember

After saving Ragna, a shield maiden and demigod, from dying on an ice shelf, Ersel believes that maybe she could escape her doomed fate after all. But when her former friend Havamal catches them together, Ersel cuts a deal with the Loki, the God of Lies, in hopes of escaping back to her forbidden love.


Why this book?: Norse, Bisexual F/F retelling of the Little Mermaid, written by one of my favorite people?? HOW COULD I SAY NO???

I would like to thank Loki for using their magic to grant me this ARC.

One reason why I’m usually wary of retellings is that you can see too much of the original in the retelling. I know Julia though, so I was pretty ready to get into The Seafarer’s Kiss when I got the opportunity to read an ARC.

The Little Mermaid with a fantastic twist

First thing to know is that this retelling is told from Ursula’s POV, AKA Ersel. There was so much originality in The Seafarer’s Kiss that at times I forgot I was reading a retelling. You got Julia’s nod to the original quite a few times, but few enough times that you could tell it was her’s, inspiration and all. Nothing felt copied, nothing felt wrong-the world was unique and diverse and earnest. You can also tell that Julia did a lot of research. I googled quite a few of the names used in the book, and, lo and behold, all were of Norse origins. Their names even hinted at their parts in the story. I won’t claim to say that her research is flawless (I only took a short class on mythology in general) but I will say it is noticeably thorough.

Although the plot felt confused at times, it all came together at the end and made sense. The book is about Ersel, not her interactions with other characters, so I thought it was interesting how characters floated (lmao) in and out of the narrative, not as they were needed, but as seemed logical to an actual life.

I loved all of the twists and turns that continuously broke my heart, and I really didn’t see that ending coming. It completely came out of the left field, and although I sometimes say that in a negative way, I loved how this one should have been expected with everything you knew about the characters and the setting.

Relatable and lifelike characters that make you fall hopelessly in love

Ersel is such an enthralling character, and I felt for every one of her struggles. I saw a lot of people I know in her, and that made her so realistic despite her literally being a mermaid. I also loved Ragna. Her fierceness, her bravery. Her lust for revenge, and how, when it came to morals, that didn’t matter. I almost wish there was more development between the two and their relationship, but everything in the book fell so perfectly together but still managed to break my heart that I don’t think I could stand changing it.

Havamal, mentioned in the summary as Ersel’s former friend, would probably have been my favorite if it hadn’t been for Loki. King Calder is also an interesting character, but I wish we could have learned more about him and why he acts the way he does. His actions weren’t really given meaning, except that he was evil. That’s something that usually irks me-character’s acting evil for no reason.

Now, lets get into the love of my life, Loki, God of Lies. Not only do they use they/them pronouns (like me!!) but they also don’t limit themselves to an androgynous look. I was concerned at first when they were first described, but later on they came in different forms, and they never *changed* over it. Julia once more took the care and research (and was completely open to critique on their rep!) needed for having a nonbinary, in this case genderfluid, character, and I will also appreciate the care and concern she showed when approached.

Final Rating: ★★★★★

Overall?

Julia’s sophomore novel blew me away, and for more than a few reasons. The Seafarer’s Kiss was unique, amazingly written, and incredibly heartfelt. It was so realistic and yet fantastical, and I will never get over reading this one.

Would I Recommend?

My loving this book was completely expected. I have loved Julia’s writing and characterization since reading her first novel, Unicorn Tracksand since then I’ve followed her on twitter and seen her sincerity firsthand. I had little doubts about this book. And you shouldn’t either.


Additional Information:

Published: May 4th, 2017

Publisher: Duet Books

Page Count: 230

Genre: Fantasy/YA/Retellings

Synopsis: via Goodreads

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 mermen’s glacier. 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 Loki. But such deals are never as one expects, 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.

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