'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.'
How far would you go to save your skin?
I'm a selkie, trapped above the waves until I can recover my skin. Humans used to call us seal-wives many years ago - before they broke the planet. I thought that less humans, after the warming, would mean less danger. My kind believed our world was finally recovering.
We were wrong.
Up here, the magic is fading and Old Ones like me are being traded as trophies for rich and powerful humans to display in collections.
Without the Old Ones, the magic fades, without magic, the planet dies.
Humankind has gone too far and someone has to put a stop to it, I just wasn't expecting it to be me.
As the selkie begins her hunt, far to the south on his enormous pleasure ship, Barge, Lord Sal hunts for missing Old Ones with a grand plan to leave his own mark on the world. Icidro and Prince Ulises are searching for them too, and this is a world where money talks louder than morals.
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. She lives in Suffolk, UK, and pines for the coast and mountains of Wales. A love of nature and the ocean washes through the pages of J E Hannaford's stories and pours out of the characters who live in it.
Her debut adult series is The Black Hind's Wake Duology, a futuristic folklore fantasy.
Her epic fantasy trilogy Aulirean Gates starts in 2023 with Gates of Hope.
And yet another book to go straight on my shelf of favourites!
I clicked with the main character right from the start. She is a Selkie who lost her skin, and therefore can't return to her home in the sea. Her tone and voice felt unique and let her come to life in my mind quickly.
I haven't read much about Selkies before, and I was looking forward to a fresh world for me to explore - and I was not disappointed in the least!
The author clearly knows a lot about nature and life in the sea. I loved the science and complex world building, and nature is almost it's own character in The Skin.
Biology, magic, mythology, politics, action, creatures, twists and prose that was easy to follow and pulled me along, made for a gripping story.
Friendships and new found family at the heart of it all bound 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 - horrendously! - ran out of pages...
I felt I made many new friends and was sad to leave them all at the end of the book. I'm very glad the sequel will be out soon enough, as I would like to have it yesterday...
It was the cover art that first caught my eye. It’s graceful, muted tones, mysterious yet hinting at more. I love the colors, the way it perfectly captures a sort of twilight/transition feel. It’s the kind of cover art that makes me want to know more.
The book itself is quite enchanting and extremely unexpected. Here, we have the story of a selkie who has lost her skin. This isn’t really an unusual premise, however, it does pull on some mythological threads that run throughout the book. From this recognizable foundation, Hannaford takes her story in unexpected directions. Here, we examine human nature, good and evil, how experience and perspective can change a person’s view of both. Nothing is quite as simple as it seems, and with prose steeped in emotion and lush, visual descriptions, we dip a toe into Hannaford’s rich world, made even richer for all those threads from lore you’ll doubtless recognize as you read.
But don’t mistake this as me saying the book isn’t unique because it is. One of my favorite things is when an author takes a recognizable story, and twists all those familiar elements making them uniquely the author’s own. What I mean is, most people will know what a selkie is, and the realism in the world Hannaford created is obviously based on real-world locals and real-world history. There’s a bit of comfort and familiarity in those aspects of the book. This was a story I was sure I’d recognize, set in a place that felt a lot like places I’ve visited.
And then, right when I got comfortable, Hannaford grabbed the rug an pulled it out from under me. Quite honestly, I’m used to selkie’s being really depressing creatures in the lore I’ve read. I was pretty surprised by not only how this selkie never quite fell into that particular pit, but also by her level of autonomy, which is also something I wasn’t really expecting. Under Hannaford’s care, the plot quickly veers and the book propels itself forward as the protagonist joins a crew. Here, we get unexpected plot elements like swashbuckling and assassins, hijinks and complications. Mixed into this are mythology and lore that the reader will doubtless recognize, like sirens and elemental spirits, other things you’ll recognize from European mythology. Recognizable threads to use as guideposts as Hannaford takes you deeper into fantasy.
This is a heavily character-driven book, which what I tend to really enjoy. Selkie is a character who was crafted with obvious love and an eye for nuance and detail. As she learns to navigate this new world of hers, we see the strangeness, the wonder and danger of it, the dark and light, the moral quandaries from her unique perspective. This infused the work as a whole with a sense of wonder that really did it for me. Each word was chosen with care and consideration. Hannaford’s obvious knowledge of her subject and her world, mixed with Selkie’s wide-eyed awe mixed to create a lush book that is as engaging due to the story its telling, as it is for the way Hannford is telling it.
In some ways, I feel like The Skin is about found families, love, and what it means to be human. Sometimes the lens through which we view these topics can be uncomfortable and raw, but it’s always unapologetically honest. The crew Selkie joins is unique, and each character’s motivations and aims are revealed as the plot progresses. Slowly, Hannaford explores some of the mysterious depths that make these characters as vibrant and dimensional as they are. One of the most surprising, well-done aspects of the book, in my estimation, was the crew. Each character is unique, and offers something different to the book that no other character can. They complement each other well, and the dynamic between the members of the crew always felt realistic and as complicated and messy as it would be in real life.
Layered beneath her beautiful prose, are hints of darkness, spots that allude to grimdark potential, but it’s never overwhelming. The book moves forward the way it does everything: in its own way. One thing I was glad to see is the intimacy Hannaford establishes early on is never lost. Not even during action scenes. She made a very calculated choice to keep the story personal no matter how big the plot got, and it paid off in spades. By the time I’d finished the book, I felt like I’d lived it rather than just read about it. These were waters I could have dallied in a bit longer. I want more.
The Skin was unlike anything I’ve read in a long time. Through vivid, lush prose, Hannaford’s world comes to vibrant life. This is a beautiful, nuanced book that tells a story we all need to hear, about love and loss and ultimately, our heroic quests to find ourselves.
The Skin follows a Selkie forced to find her place in a world of humans. The protagonist has given away her skin to save her pregnant sister. Without it, she can't return home. Her search for her sister's skin drives the story.
I liked how Hannaford mixed the post-apocalyptic setting with mythology and a character-driven plot. The Old Ones in the world include Selkies, Sirens, and other fascinating creatures, all portrayed with skill and imagination. At its core, the story is about family and found family, but the various storylines have a different vibe. There's drama and adventure, joy and danger, and exciting world-building.
The obvious hook for this novel is the premise, which blends elements of the post-apocalypse with folklore. As the story progresses, however, some problems arise. The world-building is exciting, yes, but also superficial. Don't get me wrong - we get to see the richness of the world, but I'm still not sure how things work and why they work the way they do. Nevertheless, it's clear that humanity has screwed up a lot, and somehow maritime culture has evolved.
The three main storylines featuring Selkie, Lady Gina, and Georgie are tied together satisfyingly, but things are confusing at first and become pretty obvious soon after. Still, the author provides plenty of action, character development, and surprises, and Selkie's internal struggle to find her place in the world continues to develop and deepen throughout the book.
Hannaford skillfully balances the different narrative tones with a love for the fantasy genre and nature evident in every chapter. There's also plenty of action and intrigue. Such a combination is sure to keep you entertained.
I think some authors started a conspiracy against me with the intention to prove that I, in fact, do like nautical fantasy (looking at you RJ Barker). I had my eyes on The Skin for a while now, as I have never read any stories about selkies (except one short story somewhere), so I’m not overly familiar with their mythology. In that regard, for me, it was a very refreshing read.
The story is told through three POV characters: Selkie, Georgie, and Lady Gina. Three different, although powerful female characters. Selkie finds herself ashore without her skin, in the hands of men who want to gain power and wealth through her. Having a hard time adjusting to her new life as a woman among humans. Lady Gina is preparing to one day take over the Barge. A pleasure ship owned by Sal who is also in the business of acquiring information. They also have a mission to free as many Old Ones as possible. (The Old Ones are ancient beings with powers that keep the wilderness alive – as much as they can with their number diminished and humans being destructive as always.) Georgie, Sal’s cousin is currently on such a rescue mission as she and her crew accompany a siren to safety. Not wanting to reveal much of the plot, let’s just say their paths meet in an interesting way, I only half saw coming. There are signs if you pay attention and the first part might be a bit confusing at first, but it will absolutely pay off and was really well executed.
The Skin provides a diverse set of characters, and you likely will find at least one to connect with. Personally, it took me a while to warm up to them, but eventually I got invested in finding out what’s going to happen next. But then, there was a lot going on you had to pay attention to – the search for the skin, for the Old Ones, the adventures and on top of all that, some political backstabbery just to make things more interesting. Sometimes I was thinking if less would have been more. Or rather, if the focus was put elsewhere. Like, I would have liked to learn more about the selkies themselves, their life in the sea. Also the Old Ones. A few were mentioned, but I kinda wanted more.
On the other hand, Hannaford tried to establish the world as much as possible in this first installment as characters were constantly moving from one place to the next and we’ve got to learn about sprites, the different kinds of…well, let’s call it magic, some of the politics, etc. But to me, the balance felt a bit off, which is a totally personal taste kinda thing. I’m more interested in mythology and vibes and characters than action and several plotlines crammed into one novel. In the end, I had this feeling that I never really got to know the characters all that well for me to love them. Like them? Yes, but I never developed strong feelings. To be fair, one specific event did get to me, and damn. Don’t let yourself be deceived by Hannaford‘s appearance as a nice lady. She is so not.
However, I can’t take it away from Hannaford, that her love and knowledge about marine life really shines through the pages. And that in itself is a treat and makes reading The Skin an excellent experience. She basically wrote a novel-length love letter to the sea and all its creatures and wonders.
I think my favorite part of the novel was the Barge. Although it’s not really detailed, there is a hint that we are after a disaster – or on the brink of it, depending on your POV – which decimated the population considerably, and only a few towns/cities remain. A lot was lost, but not some of the machines/technology. The Barge, a huge ship is one of those machines that still operates. It has electricity – not really specified though, but implied – several levels and is basically a small town/settlement in and on itself. All in all, it picked my interest enough to wish I could explore it along with its tenants. Gimmie a novel set in there only! We just didn’t spend nearly enough time on it.
I realize my review probably ended up being a bit more critical than I intended, while I was just throwing my random thoughts out there, but believe me, there is a LOT to love about The Skin. J. E. Hannaford brought some really great ideas and bits into this novel which makes me look forward to what comes next for the characters. And as I said, it really is a love letter to marine life – and wildlife in general. Not surprisingly, I think the main message of The Skin is that we have to take care of the (wild)life around us, or we’ll get fucked. Which is something that we really ought to remember. That, and life sometimes throws things at us we don’t see coming and we need to adapt to survive.
A unique tale filled with intrigue, subterfuge, myth, magic, rescue heists, and found family. Set in a fascinating post-apocalyptic fantasy version of Earth where the seas have risen and old natural forces are fighting back.
I must have forgotten to post this one too, with apologies to Jen! Originally written for Self-Published Fantasy Month.
Before I begin this review, I need to confess that I had no idea what a selkie was. I’d come across the term, but it hadn’t really clicked with me. Based on the blurb of The Skin, I figured it was some seafaring mythological creature like a siren or something. I went into this book blind, not really knowing what a selkie was, and just assuming that the author had a fascination with seals. So to you, J.E. Hannaford, thank you for opening my eyes to the intriguing world of seals!
I’ll assume that readers picking up The Skin either know of the mythology around selkies or have the sense to at least google it (as I eventually did!) In folklore, these are seals who can shed off their skin (hence the title) and walk the land as humans. Many were taken by humans and forced into becoming wives for lonely sailors. The myths paint a very subdued image of the selkie, making them sound quite pathetic indeed. And that is a perception that J.E. Hannaford wished to change.
In this book, selkies have a bit more bite. The Skin is a refreshing take on myths and legends set in a refreshingly original world. It’s part seafaring adventure and part post-apocalyptic survival. Set in the future where humans have ruined the planet and the sea has reclaimed most of it, humans are very much the same as they ever were, adapting to life with what little technology they have left and seeking pleasure, riches, and power wherever they can find it.
Nature has borne the brunt of this new world. Many species have become extinct, leading the rich and powerful to capture and trade exotic species in collections, and the most exotic of all are legendary creatures known as the Old Ones – including selkies.
The story, then, starts with a female selkie who is captured and sold to one such collector without her skin. Luckily for her, she is rescued by another selkie who just so happens to own a profitable pleasure ship known as the Barge. Together with his daughter and cousin – all secret selkies – they form a crew with a goal in mind: to free the Old Ones and help heal the earth from humanity’s influence.
Thus begins an adventure across the seas which leads to heists, rescues, plenty of danger, and some truly heart-stopping moments. The crew of the Black Hind are a fantastic and diverse bunch all with their own mysteries and powers, though the owner of Barge, Lord Sal, is the most charismatic of all and my personal favourite!
A lot of love and lore went into this book, and it shows. The descriptions of nautical life are detailed, as were the mention of the Old Ones and other mythology carefully dripped into this world. If you’ll excuse the pun, there’s also an undercurrent of morality regarding climate change and the impact on nature as well as conservation of the natural world that left food for thought, and which I appreciated.
This story is a bit slow going at first as the world unfurls around the three POV characters. Eventually, those characters will converge around the half-way point. I was confused until I realized exactly what was going on and then I marvelled at how clever that twist was!
Final words: As a debut author, J.E. Hannaford has spun a delightful tale that captures the magic and wonder of monstrous fairy tales with the gritty reality of humanity’s uncertain place in the world. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in this world with the Black Hind’s crew, and learning more about selkies. I look forward to setting sail with them again in The Pact!
The author of The Skin clearly loves nature - particularly ocean creatures and the plight of those captured by humans and placed in zoos/aquariums. Through her debut novel she delivers a love letter to non-human life and also a warning about what our future could be if we don’t pay more attention to marine ecology and the environment as a whole.
In The Skin we are thrown into a world ruined by humans, in which the sea levels have risen, many creatures have gone extinct and since there is less land now, habitable areas have become much more densely populated.
“The Earth may feel as though she recovers to you, yet she continues to die. We seek to slow that decline. I fear you may have done too much as a species to stop it altogether.”
The Skin is written from a fIrst person perspective, with there being three point of view characters: Selkie, Georgie and Lady Gina. Selkie is a captive selkie who has lost her sister’s skin having given her own to her pregnant sister to allow her to escape the human poacher who grabbed her skin. Her story involves trying to escape captivity in order to search for her sister’s skin. Georgie is presented as a crew member of the Black Hind, a ship which goes on missions for Sal Deepwater, the owner of Barge, a pleasure craft frequented by many notable members of society from whom he gleans information to aid his covert missions. This is a world where mythical creatures from folklore are struggling to survive and are often captured by humans and kept in private collections which add to their owner’s prestige. Sal’s missions are usually rescues, saving Old Ones who are being held captive. Old Ones are mythical beings such as sirens, selkies and other creatures from folklore. Lady Gina is the third point of view character. She is the daughter of Sal Deepwater, his heir and lives upon Barge with him, taking control of business matters whenever he is absent. These three character arcs converge surprisingly at the halfway point of the book and I have to say I was a little confused at this point as I had wrongly assumed that all three were taking place simultaneously, but without giving away any spoilers, it becomes apparent that this was not the case. Having taken on board the ramifications of this unexpected twist I found the story really took off and became much more gripping from this point onwards. The rescue missions undertaken by the crew are written with heart and at times have the reader on the edge of their seat praying for their success. The crew are all extremely interesting and well-written characters, not least because many of them are not what they seem and possess magical skills which were really intriguing. They have become family to one another and are very caring and protective of each other. There is a lovely dynamic between each of them. I think Zora the Sea Witch was my favourite secondary character, along with Sal who develops a father-like relationship with Gina, despite not actually being her relative. I would love to see a novella with Zora as the main character!
The world-building is ever present in the story, with the sea the main focus, as is likely to be the case once sea levels have risen. The layouts of the various homes and palaces from which creatures are rescued are depicted in such a way that they can easily be visualised. I loved the image of a huge, wonderful mural painted by a siren in order to make her new home feel more comfortable.
This was a really interesting and unputdownable story and I can’t wait for The Pact!
The Skin is the debut book by J.E. Hannaford and is the first book in the Black Hind’s Wake Trilogy.
It is the tale of Selkie. A mythological being that is trapped on land. She is trapped after her and her sister have been swimming in their natural form of a seal. As they lounge on an island they are unwittingly trapped, and as a way of saving her sister, who is pregnant, she swaps her skin (which is the natural seal skin, which is taken off to give them human form) with her sister in order to save her from the wretched humans that inhabit the world.
She is then sold into servitude by her capturer who now holds her skin hostage to make sure that Selkie complies.
Whilst in the service of a thoroughly reprehensible collector, she is unexpectedly saved from her cruel life by Sal, a mysterious individual that owns a pleasure barge, and at first seems as nefarious as her owner.
From there story revolves around Selkie’s story to free herself from captivity, find her missing skin as well as finding her place in the world.
I found The Skin to be utterly mesmerising from beginning to end. I was thoroughly enthralled with how J.E. Hannaford manages to interweave folklore with dystopian fiction and fantasy.
The characters in the book are complex, as is their nature. Whilst Selkie is finding her purpose following her being cruelly ripped away from the life she had before, we follow her as she has to live with the fact that she may never get back the life she once had and also having to live with the human inhabitants of the world that they destroyed. I would be hard pressed to determine which is my favourite character in the book as they are so well realised and burn into your consciousness with their clarity.
One of the things that stood out for me was J.E. Hannaford’s world building. For me I found it distinctly indistinct it its clarity, and whilst you are given hints that this is a world that has been wracked by an unknown catastrophe, you are not entirely sure until the very end the full details. Which I have to say I loved as it adds to the puzzle of the story.
I also enjoyed the fact that J.E. Hannaford not only shows the effects of the damage that humankind has done ecologically, but that it has had an effect sociologically as well, as the human race has reverted to a kind of medieval feudalism, despite having quite modern technology.
She also raises some interesting questions on the role of zoos in biodiversity conservation, especially in the light of the fact that the human race is a destructive force towards nature and a harbinger of disaster in its treatment of nature and the ecology of the planet.
J.E. Hannaford skillfully interweaves folklore into the tale, and I must admit that it is the first time that I have seen a Selkie used as a main character, which brings some originality to the story. However, not only are there Selkies, she incorporates a whole host of creatures from both folklore and mythology, highlighting the connection between these creatures and the natural world.
I listened to this on audio and loved Emily Mounts narration of the story as she really brought the story to life.
The Skin is an excellent read and I could see anyone that likes folklore, nautical fantasy and dystopian fiction enjoying this one.
The Skin is a book that has been recommended to me almost weekly for the last few months so it had been one of my most anticipated reads for this last part of the year, and that was before I saw the cover and read the blurb. Firstly, the cover is absolutely stunning – and once you’ve read the book you will realise just how perfectly it represents the story. Then there is the premise. Selkies are one of my favourite mythological creatures, although many of the stories about them follow a similar, rather unpleasant path, but The Skin right from the outset promised to be so much, and it didn’t disappoint.
‘You cannot fix this world alone, Selkie.’
I’ve mentioned that the cover is stunning, but the design inside is just as beautiful. First of all, there is also a map at the beginning, which is an immediate bonus (also there are dragons on the map!), but then there are charming illustrations at the top of each chapter and little waves as page breaks. Lovely little details that add to the experience of reading this book.
The worldbuilding in The Skin is spectacular, a magical blend of folklore, nautical life and the possibility of what a world beyond devastating climate change could look like. This is a world where humanity’s impact on the environment is evident in every aspect of life, from barren lands to relic technology and human settlements and populations and crowded onto land that hadn’t been reclaimed by the sea. It’s a setting that is starkly relevant given what is happening with the climate in the present, and yet Hannaford has transformed it into a powerful setting all of her own, one that highlights the power of nature and magic, and its importance. What is also interesting to see (and somewhat disturbing) is to see how little humanity has changed, they may have adapted to this new world, but they still compete against one another and still threaten nature and the world around them.
Born after the warming, we knew little of the days before. The grinding, whirring noises of mankind’s ships had faded into history, and the crumpled, twisted towers protruding from the seabed around the coast had long since ceased working.
Then there are the various folklore elements that are woven throughout the story. Selkies are just the tip of the iceberg, although they are the main ones that we follow– and I adore this iteration of one of my favourite mythical creatures. Yes, the main vulnerability of the skin remains, but the Selkie in The Skin is so much more – there is power in that vulnerability, and their magic is fascinating, as are the various traditions – from the dance to celebrate Selkie’s sister’s future marriage, to helping a young pup remove their skin and take their first steps on land. Yet, for all that it is fantastical, it feels so incredibly natural in comparison to what we see about humans and their activities. Beyond the selkies, there are other Old Ones – mystical creatures and elements of the natural world given physical form, and each of them is wonderfully unique. Sirens, were another stand out one for me because Hannaford has taken elements of traditional folklore and made it into something new, with regional differences, magic and some truly beautiful imagery. Then there were the humans that shared part of that power, who had some control over nature or animals, which felt almost like a glimmer of hope – a sign that it is possible for humans and Old Ones, humanity and nature to coexist in a meaningful way.
The world is fantastic and beautifully realised, but The Skin is very much a character-driven story. This is a story of love and friendship and family, both blood and found, and also of finding yourself and your own purpose in life, and the characters are wonderfully compelling. There were some truly despicable people in this brutal world, those who want nothing more than power, or to own something that should never be owned – but they are as well crafted as the protagonists, and you are invested in their stories – even if it just to see them brought crashing down.
It was impossible not to become attached to the main characters, and I would be hard-pressed to choose a favourite. Selkie, regardless of what role they were in was absolutely fantastic, and you couldn’t help but feel for her as she was torn between the choices she was constantly faced with – the search for the skin, and her quest to save the Old Ones – as well as protecting those precious to her, and carrying the burden of so many secrets. Zora was another favourite, and her magic was some of the most inventive and I found myself always anticipating what she might do next. Eden and Cor stole my heart though, and it will be a while before I am over that. Sal was nothing like I’d expected at the beginning, but I loved him, and there was just so much more beneath the surface with him that even now it feels like we’ve just scraped the surface with him, but he is magnificently magnetic as a character and you can’t help but be drawn to him. Prince Anard was another character that surprised me in a good way, and again he offers that glimmer of hope that a balance can be found between humanity and the Old Ones and nature, and one of my favourite relationships (and there are so many to enjoy) was the one he had with Sirena. I loved how it turned all the traditional expectations of Sirens and humans interacting on its head while remaining completely and utterly compelling.
‘Prince Anard, are you certain you wish to risk this for a woman you are not even bonded to?’
‘I would risk my soul.’ His head was in his hands as he stared at the grain of the painted table.
Between the characters and the worldbuilding, it was impossible not to become heavily invested in the story of The Skin, and the writing finishes the job of pulling you in. Hannaford manages to capture the charm and magic of folktales, while pairing it with the suspense and jeopardy of a fractured world, with stakes that ranged from the personal to the balance of the natural world. There were twists and turns, and moments that had my heart in my throat, and one, in particular, that had my stomach plummeting – and the emotion and love that was poured into this book are clear to see. This was paired with some truly spectacular descriptions, and everything in The Skin was so easy to visualise.
The Skin is a simply stunning read inside and out. I went into this one with high hopes, and I loved every moment of it – even the ones that broke my heart – and I stayed up far too late to finish this one because I simply couldn’t put it down. This is the perfect read for anyone who loves nautical fantasy and folklore, especially a fresh take on maritime fantasy, and there is so much to love about this book that I can’t put into words, so all I can say is grab a copy for yourself!
The Skin is the debut novel of up-and-coming writer J.E Hannaford and was an intriguing and exciting read.
The story follows Selkie - a mystical sea dwelling creature that can shed its skin and take human form. While out to celebrate her sister's future marriage, the main character makes the ultimate sacrifice to defend her loved ones when threatened and trapped in human form, is taken into captivity. From here, the story evolves into one following Selkie's quest to free herself from her captors and liberate other Old Ones from life-long imprisonment.
The world building in this story is fascinating. Set in a future world where the polar ice caps have melted and with little available land, humanity has adapted itself into a sea-faring civilisation with competing interests. Various factions vie for control and power on the periphery of the story, giving hints at a much wider world.
The story is very much character-driven, dealing with the POV's of multiple characters and their struggles to survive in such a brutal, uncaring world. I enjoyed the pace and the multiple surprises that caught me off guard that added to the flow of this story.
Overall, this was an enjoyable read. If you're into fantasy stories with nautical and magical elements, you'll love The Skin.
The Skin actually caught my eye because of the beautiful cover. I had not heard of the author nor did I know what to expect when I bought the book. I was most pleasantly surprised! I am still torn between 4 and 5 stars and would have given it 4.5 if possible. But simply for the cover I am leaning towards 5 stars.
The story follows a selkie and is told through three different characters: Selkie who lost her skin and is therefore bound to her human form; Georgie, who is on a rescue mission and acts as some sort of special ops; and Lady Gina, daughter of Sal Seawater, owner of a pleasure barge and information broker, who is prepared to support her father with his business.
This was my very first story where the main character is a selkie. I think it was my very first story even including a selkie. So for me this aspect was something completely new and I was not too well versed in the lore about them. So, that alone made this book something special for me. But it is in general a very unique book imho.
It is a beautifully written story with strong and very diverse characters. It is more character- than action-driven and the it just works perfectly. The setting is basically our earth in a distant (?) future where humankind had already messed up so badly that civilization as we know has receded and a maritime culture has evolved. Figures from folklore (i.e. selkies, spirits, sirens, ...the so-called 'Old Ones') have reemerged, but are viewed by many humans as fairytales. The worldbuilding is very well done and convincing. During the story a lot of times our failures as humans and their consequences for the environment are pointed out.
I enjoyed this book a lot and am curious about the next part of this series.
•This is one of those books that you fall in love with the writing and descriptions of the fictional world. •It's written in multiple POV and I can't actually pick a favourite character yet. But I loved how they all are portrayed. Everyone is so distinct and skilled in their own ways, and they all have a certain level of charisma. •The settings of this world is just beautiful. Both the Sea World and the Human world.
The Skin is the first book on the Black Hind's Wake duology, by J. E. Hannaford, who recently released the second part, The Pact (actually, it is being released the same day I write this review). It is a marvelous book, an ode of love to mythology, and a really engaging story. Before diving into a review of the content, we must talk about the visual aspect of the book, as it is a beautiful book, from the cover to the end, with stunning pieces of art in each chapter, which complement perfectly the story that is narrated inside.
We are introduced to the myth of the Selkie, one of the most unknown creatures from my perspective, and one which Hannaford takes with a ton of affection. Here we have the story of a selkie who has lost her skin, used as a foundation to build a character-driven story and a really interesting world. With a really outstanding use of prose, Hannaford crafts a great novel, but which I kinda found difficult to connect at the start, being this the reason I gave it 4 stars instead of 5. And let me clarify this, I think The Skin is an art piece.
Once I dived into the story, I found really difficult to put down the book, as I was enjoying so much how the story evolves, how the narrative potential of the shapeshifting is used to craft a great plot, while using the travel on the Black Hind as a way to introduce us to the Old World, a twisted version of our own world, but intertwined with mythology and magic. Relationships between characters are really well fleshed, being also one of the main ways of making the story advance, while being almost a study on how experience and perspective might change the view of a person.
When we are getting comfortable with the plot, Hannaford takes all of these and gives it a new twist, making it even darker, submerging us more into the fantasy side of the story. Unexpected plot elements just help to enrich the whole novel. I don't really want to deep dive into spoilers, but the use of the found family trope in this book is probably my favourite use of it.
I recommend this book to almost anybody who loves fantasy, and also to mythology lovers. Just the great prose makes it worth reading, as it feels like an art piece. It is true that for me, it took a little bit to get hooked, but probably I wasn't the most suitable reader for The Skin; and even taking this into account, I enjoyed and towards the end, I love the book. Do yourself a favour, and read The Skin.
This is an upcoming debut release from author JE Hannaford, and I cheekily got my hands on an ARC for it. I have always loved maritime folklore so when I heard about it and Jenny offered me the ARC for this I was definitely intrigued and excited, and it did not disappoint.
This book is best described, in my opinion, as a maritime folklore fantasy. It features a myriad of sea creatures from British and north European maritime folklore, such as selkies and sirens, and pays homage to lots of other different elements from folklore, such as elemental spirits and avatars of nature, but all wrapped around a very character driven story. The world building is excellent. It is set in a future world, but not dystopian or apocalyptic per say, but a world where modern society has regressed and fallen away, and a fantasy-esque maritime culture has come to the fore but which retains some of the ‘lost’ technology of the fallen past. As it is as yet unreleased I cannot give anything away plot wise, or discuss it in-depth – there will be no spoilers. But I can talk about how much I enjoyed the characters. The representation of different elements of society is seamless and I found myself quite attached to many of the characters. There is jeopardy and adventure aplenty, lots of small connected events and adventures intertwine to make the overall story. As mentioned I read an ARC so the book had not been fully edited but despite this the book was of a very high quality and the release version I’m sure will be really solid judging by this. I very much enjoyed the book and I would recommend keeping an eye out for The Skin’s release later in the year, because it really is excellent.
Absolutely incredible! I have really enjoyed reading this book, incredibly original and drawing on myth, legend and folk - lore to bring the reader into an extraordinary world! Easily one of my best reads of the year! A full review will be on the blog soon.
Wow! What a debut. The Skin is the first in the Black Hind's Wake series and I'm already looking forward to book two! This is a fun and fast-paced story with a few twists that I didn’t see coming. I'll admit I was a little nervous going into this one. I don't typically read maritime fantasy, so it is a wee bit outside of my element. But I love anything mythology/folklore-related, so I knew I had to get my hands on this book.
I've never read about Selkies, but it's such an interesting concept. They are seals that can shed their skin and walk as a human on land. In this story, we follow a Selkie who has her skin stolen and the obstacles she faces trying to get it back. But the story turned out to be so much more than that! It's about the destruction of the land and animals that always seem to follow closely behind humans. And even though this story deals with mythological creatures, it sheds important light on captivity versus conservation. On a less serious note: there are heists and assassinations. Need I say more? 😏 I absolutely loved how the heart of this story was rescuing captive creatures and settings them free.
I highly recommend this book for fans of: maritime stories, mythology/folklore, witches, elemental magic/spirits, heists, found family trope, and non-human MCs.
The Skin caught my eye during the first round of SPFBO8. I'd heard wonderful things about it, and while the title should have given me an idea of what it was about, I went into the story blindly, with nothing but a title, a cover, and word-of-mouth.
First, for the sake of transparency, I don't read a lot of shapeshifting stories. I don't actively dislike them, but it takes me a bit longer to get into stories that involve shapeshifters. I thought that would be the case here, especially since I had no idea what selkies were (lol), but after the first chapter—and after googling selkies—I got swept away by the story.
What I loved about the book was finding out about the world as I went. As I said, I had no idea what it was about going in, so piecing together bits of the world and its history was a lot of fun (and for me, personally, the highlight). I really enjoyed how information revealed itself naturally, without being unloaded on to the reader. Once the momentum started, it was just easy to keep going and experience the story through the characters' POVs.
I liked how, despite being set in a world in which humans destroyed everything, it wasn't preachy about it. Had the book taken that route, I would have 100% understood why, but I think it would have taken away from the story. Instead, the reader is trusted with quite a lot, which worked well for me. I was left to build my own impression of humans in the greater context of the book world. Sometimes we get a few humorous digs ("HOW can humans eat this?!"), but aside from that, the reader can piece together for themselves just how destructive humans can be—without the author saying it outright. I think that's quite powerful, and I appreciated it a lot.
The writing was crisp and easy to follow. A wonderful balance between short & sweet and packed with meaning. I had no trouble piecing things together. One exception that left me a bit confused was that sometimes, I didn't know whose POV we were in. The story and worldbuilding kept me going until I figured out what was happening (lol), and I finally caught up enough to ride the last wave home.
All in all, The Skin was such a fun ride. Despite normally not being my kind of story, I had a blast with it. It was a great reminder to step past your reading comfort zone. I did get a bit confused with the different POVs—which did soften the impact of the reveal a little—but it did not take away from my overall enjoyment of the book.
Key words to help you decide: first-person POV, multiple POVs, shapeshifting fantasy, selkies, humans vs. nature, maritime folklore, marine life, found families, sketchy ships (actual ships, not pairings)
A couple of things up top on this excellent debut from J.E. Hannaford.
Firstly, and this might sound vague, but the best way I can describe this wonderful story is "lush." And I mean it in the best way. The writing is beautiful, the characterisation of the three POV protagonists gorgeous, and the story is one that transports you to a world of the future - it isn't apocalyptical or dystopian, just different, like the myths and legends we've grown up with are real and have taken control of the world we know when it simply falls away.
The Skin is dreamlike and hypnotic.
Secondly, if you can get your hands on a paperback version of this, then do. The production is fantastic and adds to the package.
A maritime fantasy that deals with all things of the sea, real or fantastical, the overriding feeling from reading this story is the love and care Hannaford has for her subject matter, and the intimate and extensive knowledge she has. Unique in myriad ways, The Skin is a must read and J.E. Hannaford is an author to look out for.
Selkie and her dear friend sought to dance upon the shores, never expecting humans to find them. As they began to celebrate new life and her friend’s oncoming marriage, a human male stole her skin. Enslaving her for wealth. Georgie upon arrival in a new city witnesses a woman beaten and belittled by her employer. But as she asks the woman to leave, she vehemently refuses. Georgie makes it a goal to free the woman, no matter the costs. Lady Gina aids a gentleman Sal in rescuing creatures of old from collections. Returning them to their homes, or taking them wherever they feel safest. And together the three women create a powerful narrative of hope, friendship, and freedom.
The Skin may at first confuse readers. The three main characters share such similarities that when listening to the audiobook I had a difficult time as the narrator switched between them. Now, the chapter headings are tied to the characters so there is a preview of which point of view you will be experiencing. And stick with it, when the connections between storylines form you’ll be glad you continued.
Each woman is strong in their own way. Enslaved among the humans, Selkie does all she can to protect herself, hiding in plain sight and avoiding notice. While she may appear docile, her mind is constantly turning, looking for her chance of escape. Georgie has a fierce determination to save another who is trapped. Knowing what it is like to be unable to leave a bad situation, she is determined to save the abused woman. Lady Gina travels across the world with her Black Hind crew, saving old ones from captivity. Her nautical adventures bring high risks both from those they infiltrate, to those they save. Not all old ones are willing to board a ship with humans. At the core of it, each woman fights for freedom, whether it be their own or the freedom of others.
And while the characters were a delight to read, the level of detail given to the world was just as fascinating. J.E. Hannaford builds a nautical world of myth and magic. One that has been ravaged by the advancement of humans, threatening nature and the magic of old. Readers will feel the emotional impact of the devastation wrought on the lands and their fabled protectors. And soon you’ll be ushering each character on as their part to play in the betterment of the world unfolds.
While The Skin is a tale of found family and nautical adventures, it’s also so much more. It’s a book for those who enjoy witnessing characters discover their inner strength and ability to help others while enduring hardships and heartbreak. This is one book I could not put down.
We all know we shouldn’t judge books by their covers don’t we. And with all things non-book this is absolutely a good metaphor. But for books, ah come on we all do it don’t we? I for one definitely do, and had judged this book as being heavily romance based and were it not for the bonus points in a reading challenge I would have politely avoided it as not for me. This book is a lovely tale of loss and longing to be reunited with distant loved ones, of humans’ desire to own material things. The main character is a selkie, who finds herself trapped without her skin on a beach and therefore unable to escape her captor. The book then tells her tale of escape and attempts to be reunited with her skin and family. Meanwhile we meet a crew of a ship looking to recapture and free similar old mythical creatures. And I am pleased to say there was no outright romance and steaminess at all, and no tedious angst. The book has good pacing, nice distinct characters who develop in the two separate timelines within the book and there are twists and turns along the way that leave the selkie torn between finding her skin and freeing her peers.
A selkie gets trapped in the human world because she has given away her skin to her sister so that she and her unborn pup can escape. Left to navigate what remains of humanity in a post-apocalyptic world, she must now find her sister’s skin if she wants to return. This beginning is easy to understand but after the first chapter, until about the halfway mark, I was left confused because, in a ploy to spice up her story, the author choses to write it in a nonlinear way in three separate points of view. It also doesn’t help that the world building is shallow. I found it intriguing that after global warming, humans sort of regressed to what I can only imagine is a similar state to the 1800s with better technology sprinkled here and there. But even this is not explained or stated properly. Had the gimmicks not been employed and the story had been allowed room to grow organically it would have made for a tighter more compelling story. Overall, not a bad read, but I will not proceed to read the rest of the series.
The Skin was a very different read for me. I haven't read much nautical fantasy but after reading this I definitely want to. In the Skin we follow a Selkie who has lost her skin and embarks on a rather perilous journey to find it. But that is honestly just the surface of the story. I enjoyed the writing style and narrative choices made by the author. I thought it made for an entertaining read. Also love the way the author incorporated the theme of climate change and how she wove mythology into the story. My favorite thing about this book though is the found family aspect. Definitely will be reading the sequel when it comes out.
Beautifully written no doubt about it. Effortlessly flows and draws you into the world the author has created.
However for me the story is just not my kind of thing at all. For that reason alone it gets 3 stars from me. However, what I will say is, it is Easily a 5 star if the story was for me, so I would recommend reading this to judge for yourself.
What a delightful book. So beautifully written with the authors love of the sea and surrounding nature obvious in every word.
A selkie is captured when her pelt is stolen setting her on path she least expected. She meets some amazing characters all of whom Hannaford describes in beautiful detail, each of which stands on their own. From Sal, who is larger than life, Eden who you just want to hug, Zora, Ria and Seren, they are all wonderful characters who add depth and richness to an already absorbing story.
Woven into a tale of piracy, adventure, assassins and mythical beasts is a tragic story about how how humans have almost destroyed the world they live in and only by saving those of the old blood can it be saved.
An entertaining blend of a futuristic world teetering on the edge of ruin and the story of how one selkie sets out to save the old ones and change their future. A story of deep emotions and beautiful descriptions. This book was an unexpected delight and I look forward to reading The Pact, book 2 in the Black Hind series.
This is a book that toke me with it like a storm on a late autumn night. I´ve been scared of reading it most days since I had problems putting it down. I loved every fiber of the story! Being afraid of the end of it.. Not having more to read! And now I can only look forward to when The Pact is released and in my hands! I really can´t wait!
Where to begin with this review, we’ll for starters multiple POVs confuse me regularly. My brain can’t compute and can get lost in the world so this audiobook was a bit much for me. But with that being said the story was unique but also not.. it felt very little mermaid like but darker.. The story began with the Selkie and her sister who she’s their skin and become human like. A human comes ashore and steals one of the skins thus the journey began of Selkie (whom never got a name throughout the novel ) to find the skin and return to the water. I do have to admit I enjoys Sals story a lot, that had great adventure and a lot of backstory that when his POV was up I knew where I left off in his story.
-To touch a little on my “Little Mermaid” comparison while it was forced upon Selkie to blend into the human world vs a teeny bopper wanting to explore the human world both were forced out of their comfort and learn the human ways and even came to enjoy some aspects of it.
Overall this audiobook was narrated well, the authors story is captivating and unique and while it is a series to unfold. I found the end wrap up of this story came to an end but also lead into what is expect next. It could easily be a standalone and be left with minor questions to what’s to come in the future.
I found this to be an interesting story. It is full of deceipt, triumph, desire and magic. There is a wide variety of characters that have their own unique part in the story. Great twists in this one. The story starts with selkie sisters who go on shore. They hide their skins so travel will be easier for them One is stolen and the other sacrifices hers due to the other is pregnant. After she is determined to find her sisters skin. She ends up getting sold to a mean and greedy man. She convinces him she is human so he sends her to work in his household as an aquarium cleaner. The sea creatures know she is selkie and give her no trouble. The she meets Sal. He has secrets of his own. He wants to purchase sea creatures. Then the story takes off. From that point on I didn't want to put it down. Great ending and a very enjoyable read.
A story with myths and mystery, magic, and a fair dose of criticism of humanities destruction of the globe.
I was unsure how to rate this book. I enjoyed the premise of the story, but the prose felt rather flat at times. The lore is interesting, and I appreciated the world building. The post apocalyptic feel to the world is a creative take on a world in ecologic crisis. The multiple pov's make sense, and I appreciated the "twist" that comes halfway through. I wish the author had spent more time building up the characters, the relationships felt rather rushed, something that made me less invested in their struggles. I'd probably give it 3,5⭐ With a bit more work it could easily end up closer to a 5, the potential is there.