The Seafarer's Kiss by Julia Ember

The Seafarer's Kiss

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....

Title:The Seafarer's Kiss
Author:
Rating:
ISBN:1945053208
Number of Pages:230 pages

The Seafarer's Kiss Reviews

  • Julia Ember

    I am the author, so obviously I have read this book many times! The edits are done and the book is now in the hands of reviewers <3 I hope all of you enjoy.

    I don't want to give *too much* away at this point ... but although I love all of my books, this book is truly the book of my heart. The protagonist, Ersel, is so much like me, and I feel the most connected to her of all of my characters.

    I hope you will fall in love with her and her under the sea world. I am so proud of this dark little

    I am the author, so obviously I have read this book many times! The edits are done and the book is now in the hands of reviewers <3 I hope all of you enjoy.

    I don't want to give *too much* away at this point ... but although I love all of my books, this book is truly the book of my heart. The protagonist, Ersel, is so much like me, and I feel the most connected to her of all of my characters.

    I hope you will fall in love with her and her under the sea world. I am so proud of this dark little roller-coaster book and I can't wait for all of you to read it.

  • ☙ percy ❧

    "a retelling of the little mermaid"

    oh for god's sake. i'm sick of the deluge of YA fairy tale retellings invading everywhe-

    "featuring ursula outwitting loki to save the woman she loves"

    GIVE. ME. IT.

  • Trina (Between Chapters)

    -Violence in the romantic relationship (goes unchallenged)

    -Infertile women referred to as "broken" and "damaged" (this idea is challenged, but still giving you a heads up since it's a sensitive topic)

    I was sent an early copy of this book by the author for review. All opinions are my own.

    My real rating of this book is 3.5 stars. I loved a lot about it, but had to lower my rating because the

    -Violence in the romantic relationship (goes unchallenged)

    -Infertile women referred to as "broken" and "damaged" (this idea is challenged, but still giving you a heads up since it's a sensitive topic)

    I was sent an early copy of this book by the author for review. All opinions are my own.

    My real rating of this book is 3.5 stars. I loved a lot about it, but had to lower my rating because the one thing I disliked was that it portrays violence in the romance we are supposed to support without ever showing it as wrong, and strengthening the relationship afterward. I'll talk more about this in detail in a minute, but first let me tell you what this book does well.

    This is probably my favorite retelling of The Little Mermaid that I have ever read, as far as the story goes. It's told from a different angle and the world is inspired by Norse mythology, both of which allow the story to have room for surprises. Even though it's very different, you can see how major plot points line up with the original tale. It's one of the better done retellings I've ever read because it's both loyal to the original but still feels new.

    I also adored the mermaid setting. So many TLM retellings turn the story into a contemporary and that usually loses me. I love mermaids and loved seeing this underwater world.

    The story was fast paced. It's a short book but a lot happens. It took me a few chapters to adjust to the underwater world (mermaids swim instead of walk places, which my brain was not used to) but once I did, I was hooked. It was very engaging and exciting.

    The setting has a dystopian theme based around the mermaids being valued for their fertility. As I mentioned above, I think some triggering language is used in showing this society, but I did enjoy that the story was challenging this sexist culture.

    This is #ownvoices bi representation. I can't personally speak to whether it's good representation or not, but other early reviews seem to be saying it's great. There's also fat rep, though as a fat girl, one line bothered me and I keep forgetting this rep was present because it was rarely mentioned. There's also a side character who uses they/them pronouns

    Back to this. As I haven't seen any other reviews point this out yet, this will be a bit long. Since I had an early copy of the book, this quote is subject to change, but here is the main scene I took issue with.

    Ersel and Ragna punch each other in the face:

    Further down the same page, this is the only discussion of the violence we get.

    Ragna's only sorry she drew blood. Ersel's more concerned that she doesn't punch as well as Ragna. No one acknowledges it as having been wrong, and the violence is excused away as a character flaw. This was not enough of a discussion about physical abuse for me because in real life habitual abusers promise to never do it again, and yet they are repeat offenders. A few pages later, Ersel intentionally causes pain for Ragna again, though it wasn't through punching.

    Physical abuse in the main ship is brushed aside quickly and the relationship deepens afterward, which you could argue romanticizes it. This is a harmful portrayal of romance, especially in a book marketed toward a young adult audience.

    I was sensitive to this because I have experienced an abusive relationship in my past (I really hate that I have to keep mentioning this and reliving it due to YOUNG ADULT books). If you don't think this was an abusive act, I ask you to picture either of the characters as male. Would you be upset then? There are so many other ways to show that characters are hot headed or show them having conflict without making them punch their romantic partner in the face. These lines could have been cut out and the scene, plot, and characters wouldn't have changed in any way. So why perpetuate an unhealthy ideal?

    I'm so irritated by this because I was REALLY shipping these characters together at first! And there are so few #ownvoices bi romances out there and many people are anticipating this book and some will pick it up already shipping this couple. There is definitely room for books to discuss abuse in relationships, but it deserves a much more nuanced examination than was included in The Seafarer's Kiss.

    I would highly recommend this as a Little Mermaid retelling. If you like The Little Mermaid, Norse mythology, or are looking for an #ownvoices bi main character, then you will probably like this.

    Sadly, I cannot recommend this as a romance, which is its main genre. It portrays an unhealthy relationship. If you are looking for a YA fantasy with a fairy tale feel that has an #ownvoices f/f romance that does not involve abuse, I would recommend

    .

    Tropes used include the love triangle (which I felt was only built up on one side), and the not-like-other-girls trope (which was challenged). Even if you hate these tropes, I do not think you'd hate their use in this book.

    Very mixed thoughts on this book. It had good and bad things, but unfortunately the bad thing was quite damaging and really lowered my rating.

  • Cait • A Page with a View

    3.5 stars. This f/f take on The Little Mermaid with Norse mythology is a really original and creative story!

    Ersel the mermaid collects human trinkets and doesn't want to do The Grading ceremony to find a mate like she's expected to...

    So she's looked down upon and asked if her eggs are frozen inside of her. The mage at the ceremony tells her she's super fertile, but nobody considers what she wants: "

    One day Ersel finds

    3.5 stars. This f/f take on The Little Mermaid with Norse mythology is a really original and creative story!

    Ersel the mermaid collects human trinkets and doesn't want to do The Grading ceremony to find a mate like she's expected to...

    So she's looked down upon and asked if her eggs are frozen inside of her. The mage at the ceremony tells her she's super fertile, but nobody considers what she wants: "

    One day Ersel finds a girl named Ragna on the glacier where the mermaids live. Privateers had attacked Ragna's clan and taken her prisoner, but then their ship sank. Ragna's covered in magical blue tattoos that move and show her whatever she needs to find (from the bloodline of the Norse god Heimdallr). Ersel brings her food & supplies to fix a boat and they bond after a polar bear attack.

    Minor spoilery plot points:

    The story's a pretty quick read, but the pacing is still strong, the writing's good, and all of the relationships and decisions worked. The imaginative worldbuilding was probably my favorite part! There were so many clever ideas... and Norse mythology is always awesome.

    Thank you to the author for sending me an ARC.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>

  • destiny ☠ howling libraries

    ---

    First of all, we've got a chubby, bisexual cross between the little mermaid and Ursula, who falls in love with a badass lesbian viking, and has to face down the tricks and scheming of a gender-queer Loki (proper "they" pronouns and all). Julia Ember can just keep on keepin' on with this awesomeness, because I

    for the rep and diversity in this book!

    The plot itself was never anything particularly mind-blowing, nor were the world-building or character development. I wished there was more back story to go off of in a few spots, too (such as in the case of Ersel's relationship with Havamal, which sometimes felt like it was more of a prop than a legitimate plot point). Ersel is a really delightful character, albeit simple. She felt very one-dimensional to me at times. She's a genuinely

    character who wants to do the right thing and take care of the people she cares for. Her "goodness" was even frustrating at times, because she seemed to view things in such a black-and-white manner that I had to roll my eyes at a few of the remarks she made and assumptions she jumped to.

    I also was mildly annoyed with her behavior towards Loki; she was fully aware that Loki is the god of tricks and lies, yet she was somehow shocked and dismayed at Loki's trickery? Even when Loki eventually did good things for her (that I won't divulge, due to spoilers and all that), she refused to give the god any credit, and I kept thinking, "Is spitting in the face of a god really a smart move?" and kind of expecting her to get the crap slapped out of her for doing it. I dunno, suspension of disbelief and all that.

    Ragna is a pretty awesome character, or so we're told, but again, there just wasn't a ton of character development to prove it. We really don't see a lot of Ragna, and when she is "on screen", so to speak, we're mostly just stuck listening to Ersel think to herself about how much she likes her, or how intrigued she is. This was the biggest point in the book that I would use as an example for why I would say that this book would have benefited tremendously from a lot less internal monologue, and a lot more actions and external dialogue.

    As far as other characters go, they were all pretty "meh". Honestly, I think my favorite side characters were the beluga whales, who, coincidentally, received more development and attention than any other side characters in the book, I think (no, I'm not joking, and I'm also not really complaining, because come on, BELUGA WHALES? They're adorable!).

    Despite the fact that it may sound like I have a bunch of complaints about this book, they're all honestly fairly minor. All in all, I really did enjoy this story a

    . I went into it expecting some LGBT retelling of the Disney version of the story, but instead was greeted with something that was much more true to the original Anderson tale, with a healthy dose of Nordic mythology that was so enjoyable. I always love reading about mythology, and the Norse gods in particular seem to be neglected in most of the fiction that I read, so that was refreshing! It was an easy, short read (I finished it in a day), and left me with that warm, fuzzy feeling of a fully satisfying ending.

    The single biggest "pro" for this book, for me, wasn't even the bi rep (though that was close!)... it was the fact that this book heartily addressed the outdated societal expectations of women to become mothers at all costs. I loved the fact that Julia was willing to tackle that topic head-on by breaking it down to its smallest pieces: some women do not

    to be mothers, and that does not make them broken, or incomplete, or "less than". It simply means that their wants are different from what society primarily expects of them, and

    . Ersel doesn't want to be shoved in a hole to spend the rest of her life breeding, and says more than once that she may never want any children at all. She is judged and chastised for her wishes, and even faces the very real fear that she may be forced into motherhood against her will. I saw so many of my dearest friends in Ersel's thoughts on the matter, and my heart ached for any woman who has suffered through similar problems, so I would call this a potential trigger warning for anyone who's been through that pain.

    At the end of the day, I would be more than willing to read future endeavors from Julia. I think once she nails down the whole character development aspect a little further, she's going to knock my socks off. I'd recommend this to anyone who enjoys a good LGBTQ+ story or retelling, or is just looking for a nice, heartwarming story to read.

    You can find this review (and more) on my blog

    !

  • ✨    jamieson   ✨

    She was a bisexual mermaid, she was a lesbian ice-maiden, can I make it anymore obvious?

    It's a retelling of The Little Mermaid, and also an Ursula origin story, featuring an f/f romance at the core between a mermaid girl and a human

    She was a bisexual mermaid, she was a lesbian ice-maiden, can I make it anymore obvious?

    It's a retelling of The Little Mermaid, and also an Ursula origin story, featuring an f/f romance at the core between a mermaid girl and a human girl. If this synopsis doesn't immediately interest you ... i dont know what will

    As soon as I started this I knew I'd like it. The pacing is really really good, with fun action scenes and a plot thats always moving. Never does this book seem to stagnate or lose itself and that made it go by really fast. Its short anyway, but it still felt like it went by so fast.

    . I was unsatisfied with how some of the tropes and themes were explored, and some rep concerns.

    . I love mermaids, but don't actually read that many mermaid books so this felt like something new and exciting. The descriptions of the mermaids, with their coral hair or blue bodies, as well as where they lived and what they ate gave it all a kind of fantasy flair. But the world is also very much grounded in reality, and it's clear that the mermaids exist in our world. Inclusion of sea creatures like beluga whales and orcas also fleshed out the cute underwater feel. The inclusion of

    , including having Loki play a large role in this book was also fun, and I liked how the Gods and mythology mingled with the plot.

    I loved that the main character was bisexual, and her relationship with Ragna, the human girl she falls for, was so cute. The two slowly develop a relationship, as Ersel asks for her help identifying the human trinkets she collects in exchange for thinks Ragna needs to survive, like wood and food. But then it all went bad. There was unchallenged physical violence which really really concerned me, and I'll get more into that soon.

    Despite all the good things The Seafarer's Kiss had going for it, thematically it just fell down to me. First of all, there is a lot of girl hating and general ugliness. I think it was supposed to be an exploration of the effect of patriarchy (they live in an intensely patriarchal society) but it didn't

    to me. The way that the main character thought about other girls was never really challenged or addressed adequately and I

    When the main character finds out a girl who has teased her in the past can't have children she thinks this.

    Referring to women who can't have children as "broken" is not only pretty sexist and cruel, but also really trans-exclusionary and implies childbirth = womanhood which it doesnt.

    This is then followed up by this quote, where one of the main characters friends explains Vigdis only has two eggs (very low).

    Like, you're laughing at a woman who just really wanted to be a mother ? can you fucking not?

    I also found a scene between the two love interests kind of troubling - the two punch eachother toward the end of the book, which is never addressed, and it was just really unnecessary and added nothing to the plot or their storyline. Can't you just show a healthy f/f ship aaaah. You can read the scene in the spoilers section.

    LET ME REITERATE THIS IS

    CHALLENGED.

    : Loki is gender-fluid and a shapeshifter which has raised some concern with the community so I'm attaching

    that explained it.

    I

    wanted to like this book, and don't get me wrong there are many good elements hence my 3 star rating. As norse based Little Mermaid retelling, I recommend. It has many unique elements built into it's worldbuilding and the pacing is really good.

    But some of the tropes and themes really didn't work for me, and I think they needed to be developed much further then they were. Thematically it seemed superficial and weak, and I

    the turn the romance took at the end. I cannot recommend this for a healthy f/f romance because of the ending scenes, and that is

    because prior to that I loved Ersel and Ragna.

    I wouldn't tell people

    to read it, maybe you'll think the themes worked better, and the main character is good bi representation despite her relationship, but I do think some caution is needed and this is

    But it was still a really fun and unique mermaid story, with an interesting and immersive setting. It has it's issues, but it was fun at the time.

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  • Catriona (LittleBookOwl)

    It was definitely a quick and fun read, but I think I would have enjoyed this a lot more if this had been a longer book. There were some scenes and character development I would have liked to have been more fleshed out.

    I would also like to direct you to Trina's review, with trigger warnings for violence in a relationship and harmful attitudes towards infertile women:

  • Emma Giordano

    3 stars! Overall, I enjoyed this read, but I have some issues. Ultimately, it had so much potential but so many aspects fell flat for me.

    (I’ll be discussing this book with my book club “The Biblio Book Club” on 8/17 at 9:30 PM EST at

    , come join!)

    I liked the beginning of the book the best. The first third of the book was fresh, exciting, new, and magical! I haven’t read a mermaid book since I was a kid and forgot how much fun they could be. The middle was

    3 stars! Overall, I enjoyed this read, but I have some issues. Ultimately, it had so much potential but so many aspects fell flat for me.

    (I’ll be discussing this book with my book club “The Biblio Book Club” on 8/17 at 9:30 PM EST at

    , come join!)

    I liked the beginning of the book the best. The first third of the book was fresh, exciting, new, and magical! I haven’t read a mermaid book since I was a kid and forgot how much fun they could be. The middle was fairly boring in my opinion, and the ending was far too fast paced and problematic in regards to the relationship for me to really enjoy it. Also, the ending felt like it was wrapped up in a bow. There’s obviously more work to be done in the world that we don’t get to see, but almost every issue seemed like it was fixed.

    I thought the world was particularly controversial and interesting. It feels as if it’s a commentary on the patriarchy where a woman’s worth is reduced to their fertility, and our main character aims to break from the system and live the life she chooses. I think for the most part, this viewpoint is expressed as being degrading and damaging, but there are some lines that promote these ideals that I feel should have been more harshly denounced. For example, infertile women are referred to as “broken” throughout the story, sometimes they are mocked for having low fertility, and I think the way it was addressed sometimes contributes to this ideology as opposed to critiquing it. Overall, it was a bold risk and for the most part, it was done well, but there were absolutely areas that could have been improved on.

    The story arc that really captured me was Ersel attempting to outwit Loki, to fulfill her wishes. I think they were the more clever scenes in the story, especially the final point in this plotline, and I really wanted more. I wish more of the story had been filled with quests from Loki and Ersel’s attempts to have them backfire on the god. It was fresh and unique, and I really enjoyed it.

    I have to say I’m a little disappointed with it as a retelling, which may have been a result of my expectations. This was sold to me as a “Little Mermaid” retelling, but I feel there weren’t enough Little Mermaid references for me to appreciate it for that reason. Honestly, if I hadn’t been told it was a retelling, I don’t think I would have known. (Did I not pick up on things that were relevant to the story? It's possible.) Firstly, I expected it to be Ariel’s story, when it is really Ursula’s (which is fine, finding that out was actually kind of exciting!) But then, I felt it wasn’t even connected enough to Ursula. At this point, I was expecting a sort of prequel to The Little Mermaid where we follow Ursula’s story of how she became evil (Heartless may have influenced my expectations on villain retellings a little bit too much). In the end, the plots weren’t similar at all to me. There’s no mention of any characters similar to TLM other than Ursula. I wanted little bits like “a mermaid with red hair” or “a yellow and blue fish” to be thrown in here and there so it would ignite the recognition of the story, but I felt none. (This is personally how I like retellings to be, so it may very well be different for you, and that's okay!) There’s also the fact that Norse Mythology was implemented in the story, which again, was cool in theory! I don’t know much about it, but again, the only recognition was the story of Loki/Thor. I could obviously be missing references based on my lack of knowledge, but it was underwhelming as well. Additionally, I heard it was Viking inspired, which I felt played into only a small portion of the story. Ultimately, I felt there were a lot of great concepts that gave me high hopes, but almost all of them fell flat in my opinion. Had there been more development on each of these or if only one main concept had been chosen, I think I would have enjoyed it more.

    I also was not a fan of the romance. I cannot tell you HOW DANG EXCITED I was for a Little Mermaid retelling that featured a romance between two girls. Fantasy with a fat bisexual main character and cutesy romance? SIGN ME UP. I really really enjoy the start of the romance. Ersel and Ragna meeting and the time they spent together in the first section of the book was so adorable and fluffy and it totally hooked me. Unfortunately, those feelings didn’t persist. Not only is Ragna not really involved for a huge portion of the story (so the romance can’t exactly grow) but when they are reunited, things have changed drastically, and for the worse. There is some really unnecessary violence that arose out of nowhere, and it goes virtually unchallenged. I found it to be very abusive and having this relationship displayed as a “great f/f romance” is very unsettling to me as I believe it normalizes unhealthy/toxic relationships. If you want to read more, my friend

    does a fabulous job at addressing it in her review. I really wish my original feelings towards the romance would have continued throughout the story. It had so much potential, but I definitely do not think this is a good romance for teens and young adults to look up to.

    There has also been some discussion as to why the trans representation in this novel is harmful. I would definitely recommend reading

    because it explains the issues SO WELL. It completely transformed my thoughts on this particular situation and I can’t recommend reading this with an open mind enough.

    All and all, it was an enjoyable read. I think it had so many great concepts to work with, but the execution wasn’t up to par in my opinion. I wish I could recommend it as a good f/f romance, but I just don’t think it’s a healthy relationship. I can understand why a lot of people really loved it, so I may be the odd one out here, but I stand by my critiques.

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