The mermaid, the witch, and the sea

Maggie Tokuda-Hall

Book - 2020

A desperate orphan turned pirate and a rebellious imperial daughter find a connection on the high seas in a world divided by colonialism and threaded with magic. Aboard the pirate ship Dove, Flora the girl takes on the identity of Florian the man to earn the respect and protection of the crew. The brutal life of a pirate is about survival: don't trust, don't stick out, don't feel. When the pirates prepare to sell their unsuspecting passengers into slavery, Flora is drawn to the Lady Evelyn Hasegawa, who is en route to a dreaded arranged marriage with her own casket in tow. The pair set into motion a wild escape that will free a captured mermaid (coveted for her blood, which causes men to have visions and lose memories) and in...volve the mysterious Pirate Supreme, an opportunistic witch, and the all-encompassing Sea itself.

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Location Call Number   Status
Young Adult Area YOUNG ADULT FICTION/Tokudaha Maggie Checked In
Fantasy fiction
Somerville, Massachusetts : Candlewick Press 2020.
Main Author
Maggie Tokuda-Hall (author)
First edition
Physical Description
357 pages ; 24 cm
Contents unavailable.
Review by Booklist Review

The Imperial army controls most of the known world, and all that remains free is the sea. In order to survive the cruel life aboard the Dove, a pirate ship that sells unwitting passengers into slavery, Flora disguises herself as male Florian. When Imperial-born Lady Evelyn Hasegawa boards the Dove on her way to an arranged marriage, Flora can't deny the forbidden bond that blossoms between them. A daring escape sets the two on a wild path to freedom, with the help of a mermaid, a witch, and the sea itself. In her debut, Tokuda-Hall minces no words, telling a brutal tale of pirate life and the impacts of colonialism. Moderate pacing and short stories peppered throughout balance out the more graphic scenes of violence and torture, which may be more appropriate for older readers. Though the romance develops quickly, readers will easily warm up to the tenacious protagonists as they grapple with identity, discover themselves, and stop at nothing short of freedom.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Set in a fantastical world devastated by imperialism, Tokuda-Hall's YA debut follows a diverse array of characters as they journey across a conscious and omnipotent sea. After her family falls on hard times, 15-year-old Imperial noble Evelyn Hasegawa is shipped off to a forced marriage in the colonized Floating Islands. Aboard passenger ship the Dove, she is assigned a guard, Florian, who has worked as a crew member for the past few years, hoping to afford a new start with his brother. As Evelyn takes to Florian, teaching him to read, he struggles to keep two secrets: gender-fluid Florian is also known as Flora, and the Dove is actually a slaver that will soon turn on its passengers, imprisoning and selling Evelyn and the other Imperials. When the crew captures a mermaid to be vended for her blood, Florian vows to free both the creature and Evelyn, but their attempt to escape exposes them to other dangers, truths, and betrayals neither had imagined. Tokuda-Hall aptly explores themes of gender identity and misogyny while illustrating colonialism's horrors, in which even children must steal from and harm each other to survive. Interstitials by the sea lend a global viewpoint that ripples through the story without disrupting the narrative. Ages 14--up. Agent: Jennifer Laughran, Andrea Brown Literary. (May)

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Review by School Library Journal Review

Gr 9 Up--Not just mermaids, a witch, and the sea, Tokuda-Hall also covers pirates, double agents, and the lure of forgetting. Evelyn, Lady Hasegawa, doesn't look forward to marriage, although the six-month sea journey to her betrothed offers her a delicious chance to be on her own. In alternating chapters, orphaned Flora, "the smallest sailor," relates why she's called Florian aboard the ship, the cruelties that Florian and the crew have perpetrated, and those they have had to endure. Florian and Evelyn strike up a friendship, and when the voyage turns especially nasty, make their escape, taking with them a mermaid who had been captured by the crew. Friendship turns to romance, and then to bitter separation, as Flora struggles with guilt over her past, Evelyn appears headed for a wedding after all, and the crew of the Dove faces their full share of retribution. This well-told tale has violence throughout: a slashed throat, a chopped finger, flogging, and torture. There are also allusions to sexual violence; for example, in what happens to mermaids who are captured. Few characters are what they seem, whether a pious Imperial noblewoman or a hardhearted, seafaring henchman. VERDICT When considering for purchase, note that descriptions of whippings and torture may distress some readers; this is a dark and creative story, laced with romance, and not for the faint of heart.--Maggie Knapp, Trinity Valley School, Fort Worth, TX

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

As the Nipran Empire seeks total domination of the Sea, a genderfluid pirate and young Imperial noblewoman fall in love. Fifteen-year-old Evelyn Hasegawa faces a long sea voyage that will end in an unwanted arranged marriage, so she jumps at the chance to make a friend when she meets Florian, the sailor assigned to guard her. Florian harbors resentment toward privileged Imperials, but Evelyn's wit and sincerity slowly melt his cynicism, though not enough for him to reveal that Florian is also Flora and that their ship, the Dove, is actually a slaver disguised as a passenger ship. Flora is determined to earn enough money to start a new life with her brother, and it is this dream that has driven her to carry out the Dove's cruel business up until this point. But as her relationship with Evelyn deepens, Flora's resolve starts to crumble. Careful prose juxtaposes gentleness and brutality, contrasting the tender emotions between Flora/Florian and Evelyn and the violence of a pirate's life. Set against the backdrop of colonial expansion, this nautical fantasy goes beyond mere swashbuckling to examine the impacts of imperialism and misogyny on a diverse cast of varying ethnicities, sexualities, and gender identities. Witches, mermaids, and secret operatives add layers of magic and intrigue to the queer romance at the heart of this book. Flora is black and uses he/she/they pronouns; Evelyn's homeland is a fantasy equivalent of Japan. Absolutely enthralling. (map) (Fantasy. 13-18) Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

PROLOGUE   Long after the sun had set, when the passengers were nestled neatly in their cabins, the crew gathered on the deck of the Dove . ­They'd been at sea for a fortnight, playing the role of any passenger vessel crew -- all "yes, sirs" and "no, miladys"-- seeing to the needs of the stiff-legged landsmen with exaggerated obsequiousness. But no more. Rake stood at the helm, just below the Nameless Captain, as was his place. ­ e ragged crew below them were the captain's men, chosen for their savagery, their drunkenness, and their predilection for thievery and murder. But it was Rake they answered to at sea. "It's time," Rake said, and the men scattered belowdecks. Sleep-fogged passengers were pulled roughly from their bunks and dragged, questioning and sputtering, to the foredeck. ­The captain scoffed; even their nightwear was finery, silks with careful stitching. As was ritual, the strongest man was pulled from the ranks of the passengers and forced to his knees. On this particular voyage, he was a spice merchant named Mr. Lam, headed to the Floating Islands without his wife and his children to see about the famous marketplace there. He could be no more than twenty-five. "Come on, then, Florian," Rake said. "Time to earn your britches." It had been Rake's idea: ­The name change. The men's clothes. Being a slip of a girl may have been tenable in Crandon, but it wasn't here on the Dove. Not among these men. In taking this man's life, Flora could start a new one. Her life as Florian. ­ The cost was simple. Rake slipped Florian a dagger. "Show them," Rake whispered. Not just the passengers, as was Florian's official charge, but the other sailors aboard the Dove. They needed to see who this child was, the man this girl had become. Rake could tell from the solemn nod Florian gave that he understood Rake's words exactly. ­ The child stepped forward, and though he was small-boned and skinny from strict rations, the passengers fell silent. ­The long, silver dagger in Florian's hand shone like the moon in an otherwise black night. ­ The Nameless Captain cleared his throat, all theater and cruelty. "It gives me no great pleasure to announce to you fi ne people that the Dove is no passenger vessel. She is a slaver. And all of you aboard are now her chattel." Sobs and cries of dissent rippled through the passengers. One foolish old man even cursed at the captain. A blow from Rake across the man's chin crumpled his aged and spindly legs for him, and he hit the deck with a crash of bone on wood. ­The scuffle only caused more shouting and wailing until the captain raised his pistol into the air and fired once. Silence returned, save for the sound of the sea lapping against the Dove . "If any of you are thinking of mutiny, I can promise you"-- he motioned to Florian, who slipped behind the trembling Mr. Lam, dagger poised --"we don't take kindly to mutineers." ­ Though the man begged for clemency at a whisper, Florian dragged the dagger across his throat. Lam's blood spilled down the front of his nightshirt, and his thick, muscled body fell to the deck. Two of the crewmen hauled the dying man up by the armpits and held him for passengers to witness how the last shudders of life left him. Florian wiped the blood from the blade on his sleeve. With the passengers now sufficiently terrified, the captain had them locked into the slave quarters, in the hold of the ship. ­ e Dove's spacious cabins would be used henceforth by the crew, who until then had been taking turns in the hammocks strung up in the stores. Belowdecks, the passengers wept. Abovedeck, the crew chanted, "Florian, Florian, Florian, Florian!" He was a captain's man now -- Rake had seen to that. As safe as he could be among his peers. ­The child had competently changed stories more than once, and swiftly, too. Rake had seen it happen. What was one more seismic shift? From child to adult. Innocent to murderer. Girl to man. And Florian, who still had Mr. Lam's blood on his sleeve, smiled into the darkness. Excerpted from The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.