Natasha Bowen fans fantasy 2021 skin of the sea—and anyone who loves stories about mermaids and West African folklore-will be delighted to hear more soul of the depths arrives this fall. io9 interviewed the Nigerian-Welsh author via email to find out more about the planned release; we also get a first look at her gorgeous cover.
First, here is a summary of soul of the depths. The main character Simidele is back and faces some rather intense new challenges.
To save her loved ones, Simi has sacrificed everything: her freedom, her family and the boy she loves. Now she has 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 that Simi’s trade has deeper consequences. These demons mean the ruin of the world. . . and because of Simi, they now have a way into the human realm.
With the fate of the world hanging in the balance, Simi must break her promise and team up with a god-scheming trickster. And if they succeed, maybe Simi can also break her heart along the way and find herself.
The next step is coverage; art is inspired by the work of Jeff Manning, with images used under license from Shutterstock.com.
And finally, here is our conversation with Bowen!
Cheryl Eddy, io9: skin of the sea was your first novel and it became a bestseller. What was this experience for you?
Natasha Bowen: It was wonderful and surreal. That my debut was so well received was a literal dream. It’s amazing to hear that my story has had such an impact on people.
io9: For people reading this interview who may not have read skin of the sea However, can you give us a brief summary of this book, its universe and its characters?
Bowen: skin of the sea is a story of magic, sirens and courage. We follow Simidele, a young girl remade into Mami Wata, a mermaid, responsible for gathering the souls of those who pass through the sea in order to bless their journey home. When she saves a boy thrown overboard, she breaks an ancient edict. To save the other Mami Wata and herself, Simi must travel to make amends and seek forgiveness from the Supreme Creator.
io9: Simi, the main character of skin of the seawill come back for soul of the depths. How has her character evolved since the first book, and what will be the main conflicts, challenges, and opposing forces she will face in the sequel?
Bowen: Simidele found herself in skin of the sea. Being able to get her memories back gave her the power of who she is. She is now stronger in many ways, but has remained true to her love and protection of those she loves. Simi’s sacrifice at the end of the first book colors the sequel. In soul of the depthsshe faces choices that test her loyalty and feelings.
io9: Who is depicted on the cover of the book? Can you set the scene for the cover illustration?
Bowen: Simidele is featured on soul of the depthsbut in a different way skin of the sea. I think this cover shows the depth of his personality and hints at the story to come.
io9: skin of the sea drew on West African mythology to help tell its story. Will we see more of this influence in the sequel?
Bowen: Absoutely! We see more myths, spiritual beliefs and customs already introduced into skin of the sea, along with other creatures I can’t wait for readers to discover. I won’t say too much, but in soul of the depths we have West African versions of other creatures that have long held places in our dreams and nightmares.
io9: What are some of your favorite themes or elements that you’ve taken from this specific mythology, and why do you think it works so well in a YA fantasy realm?
Bowen: The themes of transformation and spirituality work very well in the realm of YA fantasy. I think it’s because of the period of change that we all go through as young adults and even as adults. We all change, evolve as people, and so this theme of transitioning and finding the truth is universal to us.
io9: Why do you think mermaids hold such a fascination for us, from folklore to pop culture?
Bowen: The seas and oceans hide so much and I think we are often drawn to the unknown. Our imagination can run wild with what lies beneath the water. I think we focus on mermaids because they are we. Or at least a version of us. In essence, we see ourselves in them, our humanity but mixed with magical elements. Who wouldn’t want to escape under the sea and discover a whole new world?
io9: Did you always know you would write a sequel to skin of the sea? Will there be other books to follow after soul of the depths?
Bowen: I always knew that Simidele’s world would be more than a book. It’s too big and too rich to be just one story. Work on soul of the depths was like coming home to me, and I think there is still so much to explore. I would love to publish a book on Yinka and maybe another on yumboes.
by Natasha Bowen soul of the depths will be released on September 27; you can pre-order a copy here.
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