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The Seafarer's Kiss #2

The Navigator's Touch

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After invaders destroyed her village, murdered her family, and took her prisoner, shield-maiden Ragna is hungry for revenge. A trained warrior, she is ready to fight for her home, but with only a mermaid and a crew of disloyal mercenaries to aid her, Ragna knows she needs new allies. Guided by the magical maps on her skin, battling storms and mutiny, Ragna sets sail across the Northern Sea.

She petitions the Jarl in Skjordal for aid, but despite Ragna’s rank and fighting ability, the Jarl sees only a young girl, too inexperienced to lead, unworthy of help. To prove herself to the Jarl and win her crew’s respect, Ragna undertakes a dangerous expedition. But when forced to decide between her own freedom and the fate of her crew, what will she sacrifice to save what’s left of her home?

Inspired by Norse mythology and J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, this companion novel to The Seafarer’s Kiss is a tale of vengeance, valor, honor, and redemption.

256 pages, Paperback

First published September 13, 2018

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About the author

Julia Ember

6 books740 followers
Julia Ember’s books include The Seafarer’s Kiss duology, a Norse myth inspired retelling of The Little Mermaid, published by Interlude Press (Duet Books), and Ruinsong, a standalone high fantasy reimagining of The Phantom of the Opera, published by Macmillan Kids (FSG) in November 2020.

Ember’s work has been featured in USA Today, Bustle, Book Riot and Autostraddle, among many others. Julia has a lifelong appreciation for history and classic literature, and holds an MLitt in Medieval Literature from the University of St. Andrews. She currently lives in Seattle with her wife and two very fluffy cats. When she isn’t working on her prose fiction, Julia writes for video and app games.

You can find her on Instagram.

NOTE: I no longer actively review books. If loved something, I may rate it a 5 and leave a small note, but I believe that other authors are my colleagues and I don’t leave critical reviews nor do I accept books for review purposes. I also do not read or respond to messages sent to me through Goodreads.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 75 reviews
Profile Image for Julia Ember.
Author 6 books740 followers
May 23, 2018
I wrote this!! It's about:

Seafaring Viking Warrior Women who take no bullshit

A hoard of Norse gods

How Captain Hook originated

Queer ladies


The Navigator's Touch takes place after the events of The Seafarer's Kiss and can be read either as a sequel, or as a standalone companion. The book is told from Ragna's perspective and is very much her tale. You do not need to have read the first book to understand it. Some of the characters from the first book will appear, but there are lots of new ones as well. I am really proud of this book and I hope you guys will love it!

It is primarily a story of ambition and revenge.

Updated: There is an official “content warnings” in the book that lists, chapter by chapter, what the trigger warnings are for the book. Most of these are for violence, as this is a vengeance narrative. This is hyperlinked in ebooks, and printed at the back in print copies.
Profile Image for Sarah.
3,336 reviews1,017 followers
November 24, 2018
The Navigator's Touch is a companion novel to The Seafarer's Kiss rather than a direct sequel, those who have already read the first book will be familiar with some of the characters but you could start with this book without getting lost. Ragna was the shield-maiden who rescued Ersel in the first book but this instalment is really her story, it starts before The Seafarer's Kiss then there is a small amount of crossover before it continues on past events we've already read about. We get to find out more about her childhood, what happened when her village was attacked, how she lost her hand and see if she manages to get revenge on the people who wronged her.

I love the way Julia Ember has used Norse Mythology for the base of this series, then the first book is her take on The Little Mermaid story while this one is more of an origin story for Captain Hook from Peter Pan, with a female Hook which just makes it even better! Ragna is a brilliant character, all her life she dreamed of becoming a warrior so it's something she trained hard for but when her village is attacked and she is captured by her enemy she has to use those skills to make her escape. She is absolutely consumed by her need for revenge which makes her come across as quite a hard character in the beginning, she is utterly ruthless and even when she manages to get her own ship she doesn't trust her men because they are all mercenaries.

What I really enjoyed was seeing how much Ragna changed and grew throughout the story as she slowly learned how to be a better leader, one who inspired loyalty through her actions rather than by fear. Ragna does treat Ersel quite badly in the beginning but she comes to realise how she affects the people around her and she does try to make amends for her bad behaviour.

Once again this story has a diverse cast of characters, there is an FF relationship and gender neutral characters who are just normal members of the group and not treated like they're there as part of a box ticking exercise. We are introduced to all kinds of creatures from Norse legends too which I really enjoyed.

The Navigator's Touch was everything I had hoped it would be and a wonderful companion to The Seafarer's Kiss, I already mentioned that you can read these books in any order and I'm very happy to recommend both to fans of mythology and retellings.
Profile Image for Harker.
503 reviews51 followers
September 7, 2018
Content Warnings: from the publisher's website (interludepress.com/content-warnings):

Part 1, Chapter 4: Murder of a child, beating with a belt
Part 1, Chapter 11: Discussion of torture
Part 2, Chapter 1: Animal death, graphic depiction of battle injuries
Part 2, Chapter 4: Depiction of a human-eating monster, graphic execution
Part 2, Chapter 5: Imprisonment of children
General warnings: violence, depiction of kidnapping

Note: I have not yet read The Seafarer's Kiss. This review is based solely on the content within The Navigator's Touch without regard for character actions in previous works.

Mythology has long fascinated me as a source of inspiration for novels. I devoured them when I was younger, mainly anything that drew from Greek myths because the first book I remember reading was Edith Hamilton's Mythology in school.

Julia Ember's The Seafarer's Kiss and now The Navigator's Touch draws from the Norse pantheon and features gods, sea creatures, and Viking shield maidens, all fiercely written and strongly upheld on the page as they storm into adventure across ice fields, through frozen seas, and more.

Fraught with tension, The Navigator's Touch takes Ragna, Ersel, and the crew of their commandeered ship through treacherous seas and across the frozen land on a quest. Ragna wants vengeance for her family and to save whatever is left of it; the men, the mercenaries, gold she promised to secure their tenuous loyalty; and Ersel, the opportunity to see a world unlike the one she was born to.

Following them across the sea, through narrow straights full of icebergs that could destroy them at any moment, under the threat of Loki on Ersel's trail, was epic. There were flashbacks to Ragna's village before it was raided, her imprisonment by Haakon's men (the previous leader of her crew), her origin with Ersel, and more. This informs the reader of Ragna's motivations and why she's willing not only to sail through such treacherous waters, but to take on the added danger of a crew that may or may not turn on her at any moment.

As much fear, worry, tension, and other horrible things as there are in this book, there were also moments of respite. Ragna and Ersel share some moments that could almost be termed tender, though a relationship is not exactly how I would describe their situation. Perhaps it is the beginning of one, a foundation, because there is still much to learn, such as communication. Ragna takes liberities with decisions regarding Ersel's abilities and while she attempts to make up for them later, her rashness is a violation of the freedom that Ersel has and needs as she makes her way into the world and away from the potential prison she faced at the hands of Loki back beneath the sea. There was something in the these occurrences that made me think these two would need to work a lot out before coupledom was something they could claim.

Besides the more severe parts of the books, there are also some moments of pure wonder on Ersel's part as she travels inland for the first time and experiences things like seeing a horseshoe on a pony or touching a three-man-wide pine tree. Things that seem so simple to us, but to someone who's life is based on the bottom of the North Sea are incredible and entirely new. Julia Ember conveyed Ersel's joy, even told through Ragna's perspective, in a lovely way.

There are many themes found within The Navigator's Touch. There is love (in various forms), fear of mortality, vengeance, comradeship, sacrifice. These themes weave the characters together and, at times, away from each other, making for an engaging experience to read about.

The Navigator's Touch is book two in The Seafarer's Kiss series, but can be read as a standalone. Book one gives more background information on the relationship between Ersel the mermaid and Ragna the shield maiden, such as details on how they met, the origin of Ersel's shape changing abilities, etc.

I received a copy of this book as part of the Chapter by Chapter Book Tour in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Jamie (Books and Ladders).
1,336 reviews190 followers
May 16, 2018
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book and chose to review it. This in no way impacts my opinion.

Actual Rating: 4.5*

LOL THAT'S NOT HOW THIS ALL ENDS. That's not fair. There is going to be another book right?? Because this was good - and getting to the best part. So like no, there is more. Full review to come on Books and Ladders closer to release date!
Profile Image for CR Daylex.
72 reviews
June 13, 2018
Listen, this is what I wanted from Sky in the Deep.

Ragna is a cruel, ruthless Viking captain. This book is all about her revenge on the people who destroyed her home and kidnapped her in The Seafarer’s Kiss. In this book, we leave Ersel’s undersea world behind and instead occupy the Viking world.

I loved Ragna. She is ambitious af and flawed, but self-aware in a way that makes her still likeable. Even as she’s doing terrible things, she knows she’s walking down a dark road, she just sees her ultimate goal as worth it. Ersel was flawed too, in that she was naive and quite selfish at the beginning of the first book. There is nothing naive about Ragna, if anything she is too guarded and slow to trust. This book isn’t really a romance at all, there is a f/f pairing, but the story is about Ragna and how she comes into her own as a leader.

Aslaug is my new fav from this series. I know there was a lot of discussion about the nonbinary representation in the first book of the series. As an enby, I personally enjoyed Loki in the first book, but I understood the discussion. Aslaug is a cinnamon roll. They are super sweet, and loyal almost to a fault. Loki is in this too, but softer.

It could have been a little longer, but I still liked it.

No way around it: this book is violent. READ THE CONTENT WARNINGS IN THE BOOK IF THIS SORT OF THING AFFECTS YOU. BUT BUT I don’t think it’s darker than the first one. Just dark in different ways? There is no dystopian society, mermaid despot king or discussion of infertility.
Profile Image for Natasha.
475 reviews378 followers
July 22, 2018
Review on my blogTwitterInstagram

Rep: sapphic mc, f/f romance

I received an arc from the publisher via netgalley in exchange for an honest review

The Navigator's Touch is the sequel to The Seafarer's Kiss, following a pirate with the element of Norse mythology. I read The Seafarer's Kiss last year and I liked it enough, though it wasn't my favourite.

So, pirate books and me tend to not get along. I don't know what it is about them but I have trouble enjoying them, and I didn't know this was a pirate book going in. 

I would say that this book was only okay for me. The plot was interesting but I wasn't on the edge of my seat. 

I kind of don't get why this book exists. It feels like a companion because it's from someone else's point of view, but it also feels like a sequel. But it doesn't really work as either. The previous book ended in a way that there could be more story to tell but it doesn't feel like the story you would've expected. The story of this almost felt out of place. 

I did like Ragna as a character and it was cool to see more of her and her backstory. But I didn't really love this, and nothing happened for the most part. It was only okay.
Profile Image for Alex.
609 reviews66 followers
September 19, 2018
I received an ARC through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

To lead this crew, I had to promise them the world and dangle their nightmares from the top of my silver hook.

Before I learned that The Navigator’s Touch was a retelling of Peter Pan, specifically Captain Hook, I wasn’t sure if it would be a sequel, or more like a companion novel that tells the story of what Ragna was doing while Ersel was fighting for her own freedom. In the end, it was both. It’s mostly a sequel, but a few flashback chapters tell us how Ragna lost her hand and got her own crew… that she doesn’t trust.

A lot of this book is about Ragna’s relationship to her crew, which I really enjoyed. Their development in the second half of the book makes you wonder about how reliable Ragna is as a narrator, and whether she was really judging her crew correctly up until that point.

Ragna is a flawed person in many ways – she is motivated by revenge, trauma holds her back from trusting people, and she has the tendency to treat those around her quite badly, including her crew and Ersel. This changes somewhat towards the end, and her progression was interesting to see.


Overall, I enjoyed both The Seafarer’s Kiss and The Navigator’s Touch, and I actually ended up rating this one a star higher than the first book. I am eager to see where the story goes, because it didn’t sound like the end is anywhere near.

(Also: I would love to see good fanart of Ragna’s marks, because damn.)

Read the full review on A Thousand Worlds.
Profile Image for S.E. Anderson.
Author 26 books134 followers
May 31, 2018
RAGNA AND ERSEL ARE BACK! When the opportunity came from the author for me to read the latest installment, The Navigator’s Touch, I dropped everything to see what happens next!

Unlike in the first book, The Navigator’s Touch follows Ragna’s perspective, as she vows revenge upon the men who raided her village and killed her family. It can be read either as a sequel or a companion novel, and you don’t need to read the first book to understand it, but I highly recommend you do, since The Seafarer’s Kiss is such an outstanding read. Not to mention you’ll understand Ersel’s background in much more detail.

Ragna is a Shield-Maiden, fierce and fiery, with vengeance on her mind. She lost her hand and gained a hook since we first met her, and her relationship with Ersel (the shapeshifting mermaid) has deepened. She has also got a ship and a reluctant crew: is that going to be enough to retake her village and save what’s left of her family?

I was instantly drawn into the world of Vikings and Norse myths. Ragna’s ever-shifting tattoos (the navigator’s touch which gives the book its name) and Loki’s manipulations remain a great mystical element that brings this world to life. We also learn more about Ragna’s mother, a horse breeder, and warrior training, which is so absolutely fascinating. The reader is fully immersed in the world, and the subtle imagery keeps you sucked in.

The Navigator’s Touch has a completely different tone from the first book. Ragna’s perspective is different from Ersel’s, as their two personalities are so different. It’s also a vengeance-driven story, so it’s violent. There’s a torture scene near the end of the book that is particularly vicious. However, a great touch from the author and her publisher is the official “content warnings” in the book that lists, chapter by chapter, what the trigger warnings are for the book. Most of these are for violence, as this is a vengeance narrative. So if you need to look away, you can.

I found the pacing to lag at times, but it wasn’t an issue. I was so caught up in the characters I didn’t want to put the book down. However, I wish we could have seen more of Ersel! At times I felt like she was just an afterthought to Ragna, though I have a feeling that’s what the author wanted us to see. Ragna’s relationship(s) suffer under the weight of her plans for revenge. So although I want to complain (give us more mermaid awesomeness!) it’s part of a bigger arc which I can’t wait to see. And I hope we get more Ersel in book 3!

Speaking of book 3, The Navigator’s Touch isn’t even out until September, and I already NEED to know what happens next. The author sets up the ending so fantastically that I’m dying to read it. Holy cow, it can’t end like this!

All in all, if you liked Sky in the Deep (but wanted more action), and if you devoured The Seafarer’s Kiss, then this is the book for you! Action packed, with a fierce heroine and sublime myths, The Navigator’s Touch is a masterpiece of Viking fiction. Bring on book 3!
Profile Image for Megan  (thebookishtwins).
527 reviews171 followers
October 1, 2018
Disclaimer: I received this free from the publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Ragna is a skilled warrior and is on a quest for revenge and to save her home. She was dragged away in the middle of the night, her family murdered, her village destroyed. Now she is back, ready to reclaim her home and free the children who are held captive. However, she only has a mermaid and a disloyal crew to aid her in her mission. She crosses the Northsea in hope of aid from a Jarl in Skjordal. However, the Jarl only sees an inexperienced leader, not quite yet worthy of aid. In order to gain her help, she must gain the respect of the Jarl and also of her own crew.

I read The Seafarer’s Kiss just the other week, and you can read my review here, and I liked it but didn’t love it. But, The Navigator’s Touch is a little bit of an improvement for me. The Navigator’s Touch has a different character as the protagonist than The Seafarer’s Kiss. It follows Ragna, our Viking shieldmaiden, rather than Ersel, our mermaid/human/Kraken.

While The Seafarer’s Kiss was a retelling of The Little Mermaid, The Navigator’s Touch takes inspiration from Peter Pan. Most obviously, Captain Hook as Ragna loses her hand in battle with the man who was responsible for the destruction of her village and her kidnapping and she then replaces it with a Hook and then captains her own ship.

The romance was between Ragna and Ersel was healthier than it was in The Seafarer’s Kiss, and Ragna became aware of how she was treating Ersel as just a weapon to keep her crew in line and to gain favour with other people rather than treating her as a person. The romance wasn’t really much of a focus in The Navigator’s Touch as the story focused more on Ragna and her quest for revenge. The Navigator’s Touch also featured another non-binary character aside from Loki, they are called Aslaug and is the Jarl’s right-hand warrior.

My favourite part of The Navigator’s Touch was both the world-building, as it was very atmospheric, and I also really loved the Norse mythology and how Julia Ember weaved the mythology into the character’s worldview. Ragna was also a fierce and formidable protagonist. What really let me down a bit was the plot and pacing as it went over a lot of what I already knew from the Seafarer’s Kiss and actually repeated some of the stuff that had happened. Because of this, The Navigator’s Touch actually probably could be read on its own if you haven’t yet read The Seafarer’s Kiss.

But other than that, The Navigator’s Touch was a relatively fun read full of mermaids, mythology, and Vikings!
Profile Image for Kelsey.
303 reviews66 followers
September 21, 2018

Julia creates such fun and adventurous stories!! I love all the mythology! Any story that has gods and mermaids is a win for me!! I think I actually liked this book better than the first of the series, and I hope it's not the last! There is SOOO much more of the story left!!!!

This is a quick read and it could definitely be read as a standalone, but I highly recommend you read "The Seafarer's Kiss" first, just to get the background of Ersel and Ragna.

Vikings, man. They are brutal. I loved all the relationships in this book. The crew and Ragna interacting and actually becoming a real crew was great to read about. I'm really glad Ragna had some revenge for what happened to her family, it was still pretty sad and I hate for her to feel so alone. Hopefully her friendships with her crew and Yarra will help ease her loneliness.

And I love her warhorse pony!! He's so awesome!!
September 11, 2018
I really enjoyed the first book in this series, The Seafarer’s Kiss, which was some of the best F/F fantasy I’ve read, so when I saw that there was going to be a sequel, I was very excited! The Navigator’s Touch is an excellent addition to Ragna and Ersel’s story.

Where The Seafarer’s Kiss was from Ersel’s perspective, showing us the intricacies of life under the sea, The Navigator’s Touch is from Ragna’s, and we follow her on her journey to get revenge on Haakon, the man responsible for the sacking of her village. I loved getting to see the backstory behind how Ragna ended up on the ice shelf where we met her. It really fleshed her out as a character for me, where she was a little bit aloof in the first book, and I loved her voice. Mirroring this, Ersel became a lot more mysterious in this book – I thought it was very clever not to have the two viewpoint characters quite understand each other.

Ragna was a fascinating character for me, with her magical tattoos and the way she was learning to cope with having one hand. I really liked that she didn’t lose any of her power by losing a hand – I was worried that it might turn out she’d have a bit of map permanently missing, but her disability is not used as a plot point like this. This is definitely ‘a little bit inspired by’ Peter Pan rather than ‘a retelling’ or ‘a prequel to’. I loved the nods to it (realising why Smyian had been included made me laugh), but this isn’t an outright Captain Hook backstory. In fact, there’s really only hints at it in the final few pages.

What you get instead is an interesting revenge story, with a great balance of adventure and introspection. I would have liked the mermaids to feature much more – in the first chapter, it looked like they might, but the majority of this story takes place on land. I did love how much more prominent Loki was in the storyline this time, and I think this went a really long way to addressing the issues that some reviewers raised about The Seafarer’s Kiss (namely that having the only genderqueer character be the antagonist was problematic). In The Navigator’s Touch, not only is Loki much more sympathetic, proactive, and three-dimensional, but there is also another genderqueer character, Aslaug, who is equally complex. I don’t know if this was a direct reaction to the criticism, but the expansion of the roles of genderqueer characters is brilliant to see.

Ooh, also, it’s slightly spoilery, but I really applaud Julia Ember’s decision not to give Ersel and Ragna a strictly happy ending. Too often, especially in YA, characters will throw away all their personal goals for the sake of a relationship, so I loved seeing both women stick to their convictions. Although seeing them ride off into the sunset would have been fulfilling in one way, I found the open-ended-ness extremely satisfying and believable, and it made me love both characters more.

I loved returning to this world, and I think if you enjoyed the first book, you should love this. F/F fantasy is really making strides and this is an excellent example of a character-driven work that is still really magical. I highly recommend picking it up!
Profile Image for Rachel.
Author 10 books56 followers
September 5, 2018
The sequel to The Seafarer’s Kiss is a fun, quick read. The story picks up with Ragna on the ship she commandeered after defeating the man who ransacked her village, losing her hand in the process. Now she and the mermaid Ersel, blessed by Loki with a changing form, set off to retake her home. But Ragna’s anger and thirst for vengeance do not endear her to the crew, who she distrusts and resents, nor to Ersel who she begins to take for granted. Running low on supplies, Ragna is forced to postpone her plans for revenge to resupply at a nearby village and ask their leader for help in retaking her home. But if she’s to have any hope, she’s going to have to find some way to gain her crew’s trust (and learn to trust them in return) and possibly make a deal with Loki in the process—the one thing Ersel made her swear to never do.

I enjoyed this book—not quite as much as The Seafarer’s Kiss, but still a fun, quick, and imaginative read. It was fun to see many of the gaps in Ragna’s story filled in and see things from her perspective. Especially since she had a lot of growing to do in this book. I also liked the high seas adventure aspect of this book and the even deeper exploration of Norse Mythology. And as always, these covers are just to die for.

I was a bit disappointed that the story didn’t seem to track more with the Captain Hook / Peter Pan legend until the very end. I really enjoyed the aspect of fairy tale retelling mixed with Norse mythology in the first book because it was just so unusual and interesting. This book still had the Norse mythology—which was great—but only very tenuous connections to fairy tales / retellings until the end, save for Ragna’s hook and her captaincy. I would’ve loved to see that aspect more fully woven throughout the story. Of course, the book left us on a bit of a cliff hanger so it’s entirely possible (and, frankly, likely I think) that there is going to be another book that delves more deeply into the Peter Pan / Captain Hook myth.

Overall a good, light read. Not as much a retelling as The Seafarer’s Kiss, but still a fun, Norse-inspired, LGBTQ adventure story. 3.5 stars rounded up to 4

**Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review**
Author 4 books50 followers
September 19, 2018
The Navigator’s Touch is the continuation of the story begun in The Seafarer’s Kiss; although you can read this one all on its own without reading the first book, why would you? I mean, more books, amIright?

I’m going to be brief, because the novel itself contains enough of the backstory for you to understand what’s happening (and, even better, you can read the first book, The Seafarer’s Kiss, which is a new telling of the original Norse myth which Disney’s The Little Mermaid bastardized). Ragna is fierce. She’s also got a very special gift (she’s “gods-touched”): her arm contains a tattoo-like map that changes as she moves or as she wills it. In other words, she can find her own way from or to anywhere in the world, and she can even use the map to locate towns, people, things of value.

She’s not the only one with this gift, and in an effort to kidnap the children who might possess it, a warlord burned her village and killed the adults (including Ragna’s family). Ragna’s own cousin is among the kidnapped, and part of Ragna’s quest in this novel is to find her.

Along the way, she falls in love with a mermaid, becomes captain of a sea vessel (and its disloyal crew) stolen from her captor, outsmarts the trickster god Loki, and does it all one-handed (she’s got a hook to replace a severed hand). It reminds me of that old saw about Ginger Rogers, who did everything Fred Astaire did, but backwards and in high heels. Ragna does everything the other sea captains do, but as a woman and with one hand. I’m pretty sure she wears boots, though.

Before I address the story itself, let me quickly address how it’s told: it’s a page-turner. The narrative voice melts into the story, and Ragna is such a smart, powerful character, one can’t help but want to hear her speak more and more. Neither overly dry nor too flowery, the prose just whistles through the adventure.

This strikes me as a particularly feminist novel. Not simply because it stars a woman in charge (though that certainly helps), but because it’s the story of Ragna figuring out how to be in charge without being oppressive, how to wield power without dumbly blunt force.

The love story between Ragna and Ersel, too, seems feminist: they are each independent beings who love each other, but that love does not cancel out all other duties or desires. There is longing, and there is cleaving (both to and from), and there is desire and beauty, but this is not a story in which everything is put aside for the romance, in which romantic love conquers all. It’s a story in which love helps the heroine conquer all, but it’s not just romantic love. There’s self-love, familial love, loyalty, friendship, intelligence (that is a way of loving the world, you know)… all of it drives Ragna, and all of it helps her get where she winds up.

I’ve read numerous reviews of this book that exclaim over its violence and, yes, there’s some intense violence described, but really, how do you read a book about pillaging pirates and war and not see the violence coming? It would be disingenuous if there were none, I think. When I think back on some of the “classics” I had to read in junior high and high school, I have to laugh at the statement that young folks should not read anything violent because that’s not how we did it in the 1980s. I also remember lots of repression, lots of denial on the part of adults who told me that the violence I experienced in real life (as a daughter, as a young woman in the world) was not fit to be discussed, or did not happen, or was not a worthy social concern. Denying the violence is a big lie, and it sets young women (in particular) up to fail when they inevitably meet it. How much better, then, to give them the gripping story of strong heroes like Ragna who meet, survive, and even triumph over that violence?
Profile Image for Leslie.
521 reviews13 followers
September 18, 2018
Shoutout to NetGalley and the author for an eARC of this in exchange for an honest review. Buckle up, because I really liked it and devoured it in 2.5 days.

First, can we just talk about the cover for a minute? This book and its predecessor have the most beautiful covers art, and I could post like 800 pictures of them on Instagram. Okay, now that’s out of the way, onto the review.

The Navigator’s Touch is the follow up to Ember’s 2017 release, The Seafarer’s Kiss, and we pick up at the end of the first book. I only discovered the first book a couple of months ago, so fortunately, I didn’t have to wait long for more of Ersel and Ragna’s story.

Mermaids, Vikings, and Norse gods. Really what more do you need to know? This is a Viking/Norse re-imagining of The Little Mermaid, and I am 100% here for it. The first book is mostly Ersel’s story and her introduction to Ragna, a shipwrecked Viking warrior and the lengths she goes to not only to protect her new friend, but more importantly, to gain her freedom from an oppressive society where she’s judged by her ability to procreate. Oh yeah, and not only is Ersel a mermaid, but Ragna has map tattoos bestowed on her ancestors by the gods that always guide her. There’s some romance, but it’s more about the journey.

If the first book is Ersel’s story, The Navigator’s Touch is Ragna’s. We follow the pair as they head back to Ragna’s homeland, which has been burned and pillaged and where children are being held captive, one of which is Ragna’s cousin. Ragna has fought her way back from freezing and starvation to defeat the leader of the people who pillaged her village and took her captive for her tattoos. She’s out for revenge, but along the way, she’ll find unlikely allies and her pride might just lose her Ersel’s favor.

I liked this book. I liked it a lot. I don’t think I liked it quite as much as the first one, only because Ragna is pretty immature, and though this book is her journey to becoming herself and realizing her shortcomings, she’s a bit annoying at times and takes Ersel for granted a lot. Ersel is all around a nicer person, and her journey was all about gaining the courage to break free. Ragna’s journey is about learning to trust people and accept help and to not take things and people for granted, so she has more of an uphill battle in the personality department. However, I did love her journey, and just like the first book, I was left wanting more.

Think we could persuade Ember to write another one?

Bonus points for gender nonconforming representation, both in humans and in gods and for flawless use of they/them pronouns. Some solid lady romance in here, as well, but I appreciate that, again, it’s secondary to the plot and character development of the women individually.

This one is out now (so go read it!), and though I read the ebook, I really want both books in print to show off on my coffee table (and to probably devour again and again).
Profile Image for Ruthsic.
1,763 reviews13 followers
September 11, 2018
Warnings (as provided on publisher's site, and in the book): murder of a child, beating with a belt, discussion of torture, animal death, graphic depiction of battle injuries, depiction of a human-eating monster, graphic execution, imprisonment of children, violence, depiction of kidnapping

Companion to The Seafarer's Kiss, this book continues the story from Ragna's perspective as she seeks to get revenge on those who harmed her village, as well as hoping to find her lost cousin. Since being a captain on her own ship (well, which she won), she has to decide how to effectively lead her crew into what promises to be a battle. Additionally, she also has to gain allies to defeat the people who invaded her village. Her one currency in this whole thing is her god-given power to have maps to what she seeks, and with Loki seeking to use this power, it is a battle of wills and deals.

The world-building in this book is naturally quite different to that in the previous, and has Ragna growing into a leader from a warrior. She is hard, and bitter, and constantly paranoid of her crew, which doesn't make for a good voyage. Additionally, her superstitious crew is afraid of Ersel's presence, which is at times an asset to Ragna, but also drives a wedge in their relationship as Ersel is tired of being used for herself. Their romance is significantly better developed this time around, which is funny because this is the book that is NOT focusing on their romance. Anyway, between Ersel's fear of Loki, Loki seeking out Ragna, and Ragna seeking a Jarl's alliance, it makes for an interesting multi-layered plot.

There are many new characters introduced in this book, prominently Aslaug and Honor, the latter being the Jarl Ragna seeks favor from, and the former being Honor's right-hand warrior. The book shows further inclusion by having Honor being a black woman Jarl, and Aslaug as a non-binary character, who is in love with Honor. Through Honor, Ragna learns how to be a better captain for her crew, and manages to free her village's kids from captivity. The ending again leaves on an open note, but Ragna's story is still resolved well enough.

Shortly, a good companion novel with an interesting plot.

Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from Interlude Press, via Netgalley.
Profile Image for Ry Herman.
Author 3 books34 followers
October 24, 2018
A worthy follow-up to The Seafarer's Kiss, focusing on Ragna instead of Ersel this time. It turns out she's just as fascinating a character in her own right. Based on the ending, it certainly seems like more sequels are coming, and I'm definitely looking forward to them.
Profile Image for Naomi Tajedler.
Author 5 books11 followers
September 22, 2018
The Seafarer's Kiss had swept me away in a world of wonder, magic, and self-discovery.
In the same vein and with the same talent, Julia Ember took me away in The Navigator's Touch, with something poignant underlying the whole story.
Where Ersel's journey took my heart because it was about finding herself, Raga captured me because I read it as a journey to rebuild yourself after a tragedy, to find out who you are after something vital was taken away--not her hand, but her innocence.
I loved it all, and i am definitely a member of the Julia Ember fanclub (where can I sign up and do we get badges???)
Profile Image for Kiana.
952 reviews45 followers
January 3, 2019
Julia Ember’s Norse mermaid/seafaring duology is one of the greatest gifts fairytale retellings have ever received. The Seafarer’s Kiss was among my favorite books that I read in the past year, and easily one of the best Little Mermaid stories to exist. I loved that book’s ending, and never expected, until I heard about it a few months ago, to read more of Ersel and Ragna’s story. But here we are, with The Navigator’s Touch, told from Ragna’s point of view this time and illustrating her trials and adventures as a captain of a ship trying to exact revenge on the men who ransacked her village and killed her people.

The Navigator’s Touch contains nearly all of the elements that I liked about the first book though, since it’s Ragna’s story this time around, there are notably fewer mermaids and less Loki. However, this story offers different points of interest; I was afraid, mermaid junkie that I am, that I wouldn’t care that much about Ragna’s revenge mission. But Ember wisely steers clear of big bloodthirsty battle sequences (though, make no mistake, there is plenty of gore, which readers are warned about before the book’s opening) and focuses more closely on Ragna and her personal insecurities as she commands a crew that disrespects her, further explores her relationship with Ersel, and learns to trust and forge relationships with others even after being through hell. Watching Ragna ascend to a mature and skilled leader is a rewarding journey, with just enough detail for us to track her change but not so much that it becomes overly banal. I loved getting to know Ragna’s crew and watching her tentatively forge a relationship with them.

The plot, as you might infer from the “revenge” description, is simple—far simpler than that of The Seafarer’s Kiss when Ersel must find a way to outwit the ultimate trickster. This is a relatively straightforward journey: it works because of the individual moments and the strong characters on this quest. Ember’s prose is wonderfully clean and crisp, asking questions about vengeance, loyalty, and redemption—again, perhaps not to as great of an extent as it does in The Seafarer’s Kiss (but I might be biased towards that one because of its Little Mermaid qualities), but I appreciated how Ragna’s story, like Ersel’s, revolved around identity and morality as she must (or believes she must) cross certain moral lines in order to achieve her goals.

The Navigator’s Touch is in every way a sequel to The Seafarer’s Kiss, but I’m not of the belief that you have to have read the first book to understand this one. I think it would certainly deepen your understanding to have prior knowledge of who Ersel is and how Ragna came to know her, but just as we lived and breathed Ersel’s world under the sea in The Seafarer’s Kiss, we are thoroughly immersed in Ragna’s life above the waves as a human here. Though I came in as a fan of The Seafarer’s Kiss, I was still incredibly satisfied with how much The Navigator’s Touch felt like a novel in its own right, with its own set of characters, stakes, and consequences that had little to do with what occurred in the previous book. It’s a great sequel, to be sure (and a great sequel is a hard thing to find, especially when it comes to retellings), but it’s also just a great novel.

Though I can easily see Ember taking this story further—the ending of The Navigator’s Touch is quite open-ended, even if all of the character and emotional threads established in this story have been resolved—The Navigator's Touch ended Ersel and Ragna’s story on a spectacular note. I adored the conclusion of The Seafarer’s Kiss, so to change so much over the course of this book and still have the characters end up in a place that I adored just as much (even though it was completely different) was really impressive. I like where Ersel and Ragna are heading, both as a couple and as individuals, and the final chapter was a perfect resolution to all that had been established in The Navigator’s Touch as well as the first book.

Like The Seafarer’s Kiss, The Navigator’s Touch is a magical, thoroughly unique novel. It has badass seafaring warriors, a wonderfully scarred and passionate main character, a strong supporting cast, great insights on the human nature, rollicking adventure, a touch of mermaids, and Loki. Ember struck gold with Ersel and Ragna’s story, and I find it hard to imagine much else will ever compare to the wonder and joy I felt as I devoured both of these books. The Navigator’s Touch is a mighty enjoyable read and a very worthy sequel.

4 stars.
Profile Image for Megan (ReadingRover).
1,506 reviews39 followers
April 18, 2019
Solid duology. I loved the descriptions of life at sea and the peppering of Norse mythology throughout the book. This story wasn’t laced with as much magic as the first nor did it have as many appearances from the gods but the little it had was meaningful. I also found that it moved a bit slower paced than the first book. It would be interesting if this actually was a trilogy because I think a third book showing what happened along the next leg of the journey would be a good conclusion. But this will have to do! 3.5 stars
Profile Image for Charlotte Blackwell.
9 reviews9 followers
December 11, 2018
“Come with me,” he said, breathless, and extended his hand to her. “I will make you a queen among gods.”

“I have a duty to my people.!

The god bowed his head. Fate had directed his hjarta, and he was as powerless against the Norns as any mortal.

“Then my duty will be to you.”

Immediately following the events of The Seafarer’s Kiss, The Navigator’s Touch follows Ragna, book one’s shipwrecked captive. A descendent of the union between Heimdallr and a human woman named Sigrid, Ragna bears the shifting, magical maps on her skin marking her as other, as desirable – because many men would kill to have a map that would take them safely wherever they wanted to go. We first met Ragna when her captors’ ship was wrecked in the ice of the trap, and her life was saved by a mermaid’s curiosity. Now we follow Ragna as she recalls the events that took her from her home and left her family dead, and see the lengths she is willing to go to for revenge.

Fear and promise, in equal balance, that was the only way I was going to survive. To lead this crew, I had to promise them the world and dangle their nightmares from the tip of my silver hook.

Leading a crew of mercenaries who had once worked for the man who destroyed her home and accompanied by a mermaid whose gifts are god-given and bought with blood, Ragna is forced to change if she wants to succeed. The children of her village, her cousin, all are kept prisoner in the hopes that maps will appear on their bodies and to save them she will do anything at all. Ember has done a wonderful job of differentiating the narrative voices in this series. Ersel and Ragna are two very, very different women. Drawn together by the events that made them allies, and then lovers, they still do not fully understand one another. Where Ersel was motivated by desperation to save herself from an unwanted fate, Ragna is altogether a more viscerally angry person. The violence ramps up in this installation, and there’s a pretty brutal scene towards the end where Ragna encounters the man who murdered her young brother. She is motivated to the extent where it often blinkers her to what is going on around her. There are moments she seems to see Ersel more as a weapon to be used than as a young girl, a person in her own right in a world she doesn’t yet understand, and she views her stolen crew with nothing less than paranoid contemp, and yet she is still a character for whom I felt a great amount of sympathy. Her home was burned down, her family murdered, she almost starved to death on a glacier, she’s been left with one hand and a hook and in order to save her young cousin she must do the impossible. She’s a young girl wanting to take on an army, and for that she needs to be stronger than she has ever been.

I couldn’t decide what I hoped. To see her again? To stop being too selfish to love her? Or that the god would take her far away, and she would never come back, so I would never have the chance to betray her again.

We see more other creatures of Norse Mythology as Ragna and Ersel journey on, Fenrir lurking in the mountains, Sleipnir with blood dripping from his teeth as he eats a man alive. These stories are given new life, and despite Ersel’s warnings against deals with Loki, Ragna finds herself inextricably tied to the trickster god. To get what they want, a bargain must be struck.

The character development in this book is wonderful. Ragna is not the world’s most likable character but I kind of love that. She’s angry and bitter and trusts literally nobody and she can be rude and selfish but let’s be honest, that’s kind of understandable for someone who has been through hell. She’s also ferociously loving, passionate and determined, and she’s a stone cold badass. If you were faced up against an angry lady covered in moving tattoos with a hook for a hand, you’d run away. Ersel learns to stand on her own two feet – or eight tentacles – in both a literal and figurative sense in the background while Ragna’s rage takes the forefront of the novel, and while there’s this promise of perhaps one day, both women have their own goals and dreams independent of one another.

For me, this book build upon the first one extremely well. The pacing, where it had been slightly slow in areas of the first one, was brilliantly fast in this one. The cast of characters were diverse and individual and I love them so much. The ending of the book was perfectly set up for more, so I hope it’s coming! This is definitely an author on my list of ones to watch and I can’t wait for more writing!

Overall rating: 🧜🏻‍♀️🧜🏻‍♀️🧜🏻‍♀️🧜🏻‍♀️🧜🏻‍♀️ 5 mermaids out of 5

A Copy of The Navigator’s Touch was kindly provided by netgalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.
Profile Image for Elke.
443 reviews87 followers
August 15, 2018
this was good, but didn't really draw me in. rep: ragna as only one hand and is only interested in girls; ersel is fat and in an f/f relationship with ragna; loki is genderfluid and uses they/them pronouns and there is another important side character who uses they/them and is in love with a woman. these things are important and i'm grateful. i, personally, wasn't that fond of the f/f relationship as it wasn't necessarily a hea (or happy now) thing and not really that defined, but girls deserve to see relationships like that too. they're just not my personal favourite, but they exist and many people live them and deserve rep.

it can be either a sequel or a companion novel, and that felt kinda weird? it also dragged in certain points, but there's a good chance that might have been on me, not the book. it was cool to see more of ragna and i ended up liking her crew a lot.
it was fine, but couldn't offer me much more than that.
Profile Image for Luna.
412 reviews70 followers
November 24, 2018
I want to note that I received this book for free from the publisher via Netgalley for this review.

What I Liked

While I really enjoyed the first book in this companion series, The Seafarer’s Kiss, I found this retelling to be just as imaginative and interesting. This time around Julia Ember pulled from Norse mythology to aid in creating a retelling of Peterpan in a way. I find that Ember does a wonderful job in keeping to the characters she is has drawn inspiration from, but also makes them something new and her own. I know that sounds contradictory, but it is true.

I also really liked about this novel was the fact that it has flawed characters. For me when I see a flawed characters, even with a bit of magic and mythology surrounding them, it makes them more real, more tangible. Throughout the book Ragna is making mistakes, unreliable, and can just be rude. But, this makes her seem more human. I also did enjoy the sense of tension between her and her crew. I though it was an interesting way to go with their relationship since she rely on them and they rely so much on her as a leader. It also makes some of the issues “internal” in a sense and not just us against others.

Another thing I really liked was the fact that this novel the focus was not on romance. While I really enjoyed the previous book, I was glad to see more than just a romance. It allowed the world to become bigger, more vibrant, and the characters to shine on their own a bit more. Also, can I just say the mixture of mythology and elements from Peter Pan made such an interesting world and story. This combination was unique and I have not read anything similar to it.

What I Didn’t Like

One thing I was not overly thrilled with was the fact that were are times of violence that was pushing my limits at times. I do not think the violence in any way was prolonged, but it is there. Now, this is personal and I do want to point out that I am pretty sure Interlude, the publishing house that oversees Duet Books does post warning about their books. I did not look at these before hand. If this is something you think will bother you I highly suggest you look up the warning. But, I will be honest I would have read it anyway because I enjoyed Ember’s previous book and I enjoyed this one as well even though it had moments of violence.

Overall Thoughts

Overall, I thought this was a unique book. The combination of Embers world building, characters, and tension create a very good read. I also think that this is something that can be read on its own or the books can be easily read out of order and the reader wont miss out on anything. If you are looking for an interesting retelling I highly suggest this book.

Profile Image for Nicole Strand.
251 reviews4 followers
January 2, 2019
Norse mythology with strong, badass women? Yes please! This is the companion to The Seafarers Kiss. She takes the Umberland approach and each book is a "retelling" of a different story. The last one being The Little Mermaid inspired.
Profile Image for Rosina.
617 reviews8 followers
November 25, 2018
I received a free copy of this from the author in return for an honest review.

So...there's gonna be more...right?

I read The Navigator's Touch as a standalone. The story focused on Ragna leading her ship across the waters to get revenge on those who destroyed her home and to save her cousin. It's a really hard-hitting tale that will leave you with a lot of feelings.

The non-binary characters, including Loki, were incredibly important to me. Mythos suggests that it's possible and it's wonderful to see. They're such an interesting and complex character and if I hadn't been fascinated them for years anyway, I would be now. I also just need more non-binary characters in my life.

The romance felt rather minor in this book but it was cute. Ragna and Ersel are complicated but they care for each other truly and I like that. Plus yay for a sapphic teen fantasy!

All the characters in this book were good, the world building is awesome and I loved it.

Now I need to go and read the first book for sure.
Profile Image for Keri.
110 reviews49 followers
September 5, 2018
***I received a free e-ARC of this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review***

I hate reviewing books so poorly before they’ve even released, but The Navigator’s Touch was a disappointment. It was boring most of the time, lacked a greater sense of plot, and the protagonist was annoying and unlikable.

The Navigator’s Touch is a companion to the f/f romance, little mermaid retelling, The Seafarer’s Kiss (which is also inspired by Norse mythology). This book can be read as a standalone, given that it essentially spoils the entire plot of the previous book, so if you’re at all intrigued by either of these books, definitely pick up The Seafarer’s Kiss first. In this book though, we are given the perspective of Ragna, a shield maiden who has now gathered a ship of (untrustworthy) men to reclaim her village and extract revenge on the invaders who destroyed it and murdered her family. With her shapeshifting mermaid lover by her side, Ragna takes her crew to Skjordal to ask the Jarl (leader) for aid. In order to save her village, Ragna must figure out how to handle not only her unruly crew and the trickster god, Loki, but also herself.

Something that I appreciated about this book, and that I commend the author for doing, is listing trigger warnings. And not only does Julia Ember list general content warnings of “violence, depiction of kidnapping” at the back of the book, but she also breaks it down into specific, chapter-by-chapter warnings. I thought this was really admirable for an author do.

And though I wasn’t a big fan of the plot, I really did like the idea of the story, especially the Norse mythology inspired aspect. I feel like these types of mythology retellings aren’t as common, and I appreciate the uniqueness of this characteristic. Additionally, I appreciated how Julia Ember included a glossary of the all the Old Norse terminology at the end of the book.

Besides these two awesome characteristics of the book, the only other thing I liked about the book and what held up my rating for the book, was Ersel’s character. She’s such a badass, and the fact that she’s a shapeshifting mermaid is so cool. Not mention, she’s so pure and innocent, yet still strong in her own way and ahhhhh, Ersel, you deserve better than Ragna. I also really liked Ersel’s decision at the end of the book, but I won’t say more for the fear of spoilers.

Okay, now prepare for some intense critique. The plot in this story, if you can even claim it has a plot, is extremely weak. The plot is awkwardly stretched out, and the “obstacles” only require a brief amount of effort on the part of the characters. Any interesting scenes are quickly rushed through. Important plot points weren’t given the time they deserve. Most of the time, reading this book felt like a chore.

And alongside the horrendous plot, the narrative is told in a strange timeline. The first chapter is takes place in the present, followed up by a flashback that lasts three chapters. The flashback both starts and ends abruptly. I understand scattered brief flashbacks, but to do it all in one big go, and after only one chapter? It was bizarre and awkward. The story would have been a lot stronger if the author had opened up with the flashback, or dispersed it in little pieces throughout the novel. In addition to this extensive flashback, there’s a lot of exposition used to catch readers up on the events of The Seafarer’s Kiss. The reader literally learns the entire plot of the previous book through this extensive summarization.

And my final complaint for this book is about the protagonist, Ragna. She’s not likable. She repeatedly disrespects her lover, Ersel. She’s always apologetic afterwards, BUT SHE DOESN’T STOP. In all honestly, she’s rude to most of the people around her. I wish that the author had written the second book with Ersel’s perspective instead (she’s the protagonist of the first book).

Overall, I’m so glad I’ve finished reading this book so I can move onto better ones. The Navigator’s Touch was cheap, boring, and awkwardly plotted. I will have to continue to keep a lookout for good Norse Mythology retellings and mermaid stories, because this book was neither.

You can see this review, my other reviews & additional bookish posts at my blog: Are You My Book?
Profile Image for Colleen Corgel.
525 reviews17 followers
October 5, 2018
*I received this ARC from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.*

I enjoyed this story well enough. It's full of myth and magic, with a healthy dose of bloody politics to go along with it. The romance is bitter sweet, and it just irks me that it is more open ended at the end.

I enjoyed Ragna's learning to be a leader. It helps that we do get to see some of those leadership qualities that magically appear when needed for most protagonists are a struggle for Ragna to master. She's too paranoid, too rash, and in so many cases, too cruel to those she wants to lead. Ragna showed potential through the first half of the book, yet her youth and inexperience often caused her to alienate her from those she cared about the most.

And that brings me to the romance of the book. It isn't really the central relationship in the book as Ragna is often looking towards the Jarl for guidance. I know we're to believe that Ersel can act as Ragna's moral compass - Ersel is mature when Ragna isn't, kind when necessary, and often is the one to ground her. The problem is that Ragna increasingly forgets about Ersel's personhood - and sees her as a tool to be used. Which makes for such a frustrating dynamic and Ragna unlikable at times.

The pacing was excellent, and allowed the tension to build up so very well. There was that one inexplicable flash back that told the story of Ragna' and Ersel meeting from Ragna's point of view. It didn't make much sense to me, other than to introduce some of the key players later in the book. It just felt too sudden.

This is a pretty solid series, and I love a good fantasy, especially ones that revolve around Norse myths. I just couldn't get past Ragna as a lead character for this book. Usually, I love those characters that fall in those gray areas, but Ragna just simply angered me more often than not. I'd still give it a recommend because I know this just isn't in my wheelhouse in terms of the characters.

I also have to add that the cover art for both books of the series is amazing, and just adds that little extra magic to a decent fantasy series.
Profile Image for Nicole Field.
Author 18 books143 followers
November 17, 2021
This was a good follow up, although I felt as though it did spend far too much time slowing down the start by going into the specifics of what Ragna had gone through prior to meeting Ersel. Additionally, although this book was toted as being inspired by Peter Pan, apart from the hook that Ragna wore after the loss of her hand (in a way that wasn't even related to a crocodile!) I didn't really feel that inspiration was fully realised.

Once again, I think my favourite parts of this novel were the parts after Ersel had to go back to the ocean because, despite Loki's magics, she is still a mermaid and can't be too far from it. I absolutely adored the relationship changes that went on between Ragna and the crew she had at first hated and despised, but kept for necessity. If their coming around to respecting her as their captain seemed a little bit easily won, at least Ragna's genuine regret for her past actions felt like forgiveness was worth it.

Getting to know the various backstories of the crew, the budding alliance between Ragna and Jarl Honor, even the fight sequences leading up to Ragna taking back her home town, all of these were arresting and rewarding.

For all that I loved the world building, however, I feel as though the romance between Ragna and Ersel was really what let this book down.
Profile Image for Kara Jorgensen.
Author 17 books125 followers
December 16, 2020
I feel the need to justify a 3 star review because I certain didn't dislike this book. It took me a long time to get through, and there were definitely times I sat and wondered if I was enjoying it. I sort of feel like this book couldn't figure out what it wanted to be or where it wanted to go. In 240 pages, we cover a lot of ground, and at times, I wish the author had slowed down and spent more time with the characters, events, etc. Also, things that were interesting were off page (due to them being between books 1 and 2 or intertwined with them), and that was sort of frustrating.
Profile Image for Chantel .
78 reviews24 followers
Want to read
June 10, 2018
06/10/18: Got approved for an ARC on Netgalley! Happy (early) birthday to me!
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