Hello, friends! It’s my stop on the TBR & Beyond Tours for Soul of the Deep by Natasha Bowen, the second and final book in the Skin of the Sea duology and I’m excited to share my thoughts and favourite quotes with you today!
Thanks to Random House Books for Young Readers for providing an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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Soul of the Deep (Skin of the Sea #2)
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: 27 September 2022
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Rep: Black, West African (Nigerian)
The highly anticipated sequel to the New York Times bestseller Skin of the Sea, in which the world must pay the price for one mermaid’s choice, and a dark force reverberates across realms. Perfect for fans of Children of Blood and Bone and those eagerly anticipating the live-action film adaptation of The Little Mermaid.
To save those closest to her, Simi traded away everything: her freedom, her family, and the boy she loves. Now she is sworn to serve a new god, watching over the Land of the Dead at the bottom of the ocean.
But when signs of demons begin to appear, it’s clear there are deeper consequences of Simi’s trade. These demons spell the world’s ruin… and because of Simi, they now have a way into the human realm.
With the fate of the world at stake, Simi must break her promise and team up with a scheming trickster of a god. And if they succeed, perhaps Simi can also unbreak her heart along the way, and find herself again.
⚠️ CONTENT/TRIGGER WARNINGS
On-page deaths (many), violence, slavery, human trafficking, recounted child kidnapping, war attrocities, human sacrifice.
Note: The quotes below are taken from an advanced/unfinished copy and are subject to change in the final version.
TL;DR: I was very excited to dive back into this series and to see what comes next in Simi’s story following the vanquishing of the villain and the life-altering deal she made with the orisa who helped her make it happen! The cultural and spiritual elements that Bowen delves further into in the final book of her duology were fantastic and had me completely absorbed from the beginning; however, there were other elements that I wanted more from that sadly felt underdeveloped. Still, there was a lot to enjoy in this fast-paced and action-packed conclusion and I would recommend it if you’re looking for a diverse Little Mermaid retelling with a solid cast, a historically rich setting, and a powerful tale about roots, corruption and greed.
“Feel your courage rising, sisters, as we gather our energy in order to take what we need from the land and water. Keep us safe from the creature that snatches in spite, its fangs and body as large as the space it holds. Keep us safe from the Soul of the Deep.”
The story picks up several months following the events of the first book. Simi has somewhat settled into life in the darkest parts of the ocean, laying to rest the souls lost to the bottom of the sea alongside the orisa Olokun, though she still struggles to let go of the life she left behind and finds herself slightly embittered by the roll of fate’s dice. She has undergone so much since the start of the first book and she spends a lot of time reflecting on her decisions and an immense amount of guilt plagues her for the entirety of the story. For how much strength she displayed in the first book, I have to admit that it felt like she regressed a bit and it was disappointing to see her act so powerless and indecisive thanks to overwhelming guilt. I really wanted to see her exert a bit more agency!
“It is not a tale of what has been, but of what could be.”
“I think of all my own memories, reclaimed and mine. To know where you came from holds so much power over how you feel about yourself.”
Other than Simi, we are also reunited with a few other characters from the first book including Kola, Bem, the twins, Olokun, Yemoja, and Esu. I still loved the depiction of Yemoja and how she has so much heart and soul compared to other orisas. Esu is still his unapologetic “morally grey” self and although his entitlement was irritating, I had to respect how he didn’t shield his devious nature in any way, forcing people to acknowledge and accept him as he is. One of the main qualms I had is that none of the characters gets much development in this sequel. The one character that does undergo some kind of change is Kola, but the ‘reveal’ about his character felt like it was only added so that the (somewhat HEA) ending could be possible. This brings me to the romance between Simi and Kola, which I found angsty and cute in the first book, but I didn’t entirely connect with here because something felt missing! I didn’t feel the same level of investment in their relationship and since much of the book revolved around Simi’s feelings towards Kola, the romance and story kind of dragged on.
“This is the thing with wanting something you can’t have. The thought of it begins to grow.”
“Sometimes we have to choose something other than what we want.”
In terms of the plot, it took a bit for the story to get going but once the ball gets rolling, the action picks up incredibly fast and the story moves at a steady and unstoppable clip. Soul of the Deep takes a darker turn compared to the first book as we’re introduced to the terrifying anti-Gods—the deities of the underworld who would see the orisas vanquished and the world consumed and destroyed by corruption, disease and death. I loved the way Bowen wove West African mythology into the story and it was one of my favourite aspects of the story! We get vampires, the undead, and tree spirits that consume human flesh—it was creepy, disgusting and delightfully dark! The use of spiritual magic was also really interesting and I loved how the author tackled the effects of greed and corruption, particularly as a result of the effect of colonisation and the slave trade. In contrast to the slow build-up of the story, the ending also felt rushed and wrapped up too quickly and neatly. With how rapidly the pace progressed, it felt like there was no time to process any of the events that just occurred—both for the characters and the reader!
“I am Simidele and I choose to follow no one.
I choose to be me.
I choose to go home.”
Ultimately though, while the ending might not satisfy everyone, I was actually quite happy with it. There’s a glimpse of a hopeful future for Simi and Kola but Simi takes the step to prioritise herself, her happiness and her peace with the difficult decision she makes. This was a great diverse mermaid retelling and I’m really looking forward to what Bowen writes in the future cos I really enjoyed this duology!
Natasha Bowen is a New York Times bestselling author, a teacher, and a mother of three children. She is of Nigerian and Welsh descent and lives in Cambridge, England, where she grew up. Natasha studied English and creative writing at Bath Spa University before moving to East London, where she taught for nearly ten years. She is obsessed with Japanese and German stationery and spends stupid amounts on notebooks, which she then features on her secret Instagram. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, watched over carefully by Milk and Honey, her cat and dog.
Have you read Skin of the Sea? Are you looking forward to reading Soul of the Deep and seeing how the story ends?