THE SKIN by JE Hannaford (BOOK REVIEW)
‘You cannot fix this world alone, selkie.’
‘I know. But, when we die, all that is left are shadows of our lives preserved in the memories of those who remain. I plan on leaving an exceptionally long shadow, filled with ripples of moonlight for those I helped, and darker than the worst of nightmares for those who wronged us.’
When I received this beauty of a book, I wanted to delve in right away. However I knew an audiobook was in the making, and so I waited patiently a bit longer, so I could feast my ears on it. It was more than worth the wait!
Both the book and the narration are gorgeous! As much as the illustrations enrich the print (or ebook), the narrator enriches the audio versions. She brought the characters alive, and added some well done accents that felt smooth and natural, and not like the forced ones you sometimes have to suffer through.
The Skin is the first instalment in the Black Hind’s Wake series, and one of the best debuts I’ve read in a long while. It’s a spellbinding book that had me hooked body and soul, with the inevitability of nature changing the face of the world. There just was no stopping until I had devoured it whole.
A book that is as much about nature as it is about humanity. It dances on the waves as well as on the border between the human world and that of myths and legends. Especially through it’s hybrid protagonist who is a Selkie who has lost her skin, and therefore is separated from her natural existence and trapped on land until she is able to retrieve it.
Her unique tone and voice had me caught up in the story right away. She was foreign and strange enough to have me intrigued, while also being similar enough to easily identify with her fate and feel for her.
I haven’t read much about Selkies before, so I was looking forward to a fresh world to explore – and I was not disappointed in the least! It fitted well within the existing folk tales and lore and yet had enough new ideas and insights to feel like an original story I hadn’t read before.
The Skin takes place in our own world, but in the future, when humanity managed to mess up the planet so much, we have lost most of technology and are back to a very basic lifestyle, in a world changed by nature striking back.
The author clearly did a lot of research as well as drawing on scientific background which renders the whole world, above and below the waves, realistic and believable.
Biology, magic, mythology, politics, action, creatures, twists and prose that was easy to follow and pulled me along, all made for a gripping story.
Friendships and new found family at the heart of it all bind the different POVs and plot lines together. What felt like single strands ended up in a strong weave that easily kept me enthralled until I – the horror! – ran out of pages…
There is but the barest hint of romance in it, which slightly seasons the story instead of becoming a central driver of the plot. I usually detest romance in my fantasy, but this was such a well done little pinch, I am actually looking forward to seeing how and if it will turn out in the sequel. If that isn’t the highest of compliments, I don’t know what is.
I feel like I made many new friends within the nicely diverse cast of the book. I already miss my time with them, so I am very glad to know the sequel will be out later this year!
If you liked The Winnowing Flame by Jen Williams or Book of the Ancestor by Mark Lawrence, this might be perfect for you!
Writer of words, builder of worlds. J E Hannaford is powered by coffee, dragons and whisky. She teaches Biology in the real world and invents fantasy beasts to populate her own.
‘I have always loved books. I was the kind of child who thought they were reading sneakily, while my parents tiptoed past the cracks of light from under my bedroom door. Nights passed in a blur of words as I vanished willingly into their pages, lost for days, only coming up for air to deal with the real world when it called.
My imagination has always been sparked by my cultural mythology. From the creatures of The Mabinogion to modern folk stories, I devoured them all. I have a natural affinity for dragons too, after all, every sunset is merely the Welsh Dragon calling me home.
I fell in love with biology too. Marine biology to be specific. The weird and wonderful animals on this world and the legacy and hints of its previous occupants are endlessly fascinating.
All these things – these dreams and fascinations – were bound to merge one day, finding their blending in the Black Hind’s Wake series. I invite you to submerge yourself in a world filled with characters I’d both want to meet, and be afraid to, with deep, dark places, hidden secrets and wondrous creatures.
May my worlds and characters find a home in your heart, the way so many others live in mine.’