Written by Julia Ember, a self-identified “polyamorous, bisexual writer.”
Published May 4, 2017 by Duet Books
Goodreads, Kirkus, School Library Journal
Bisexual female protagonist, genderqueer Loki
Ersel is a mermaid living in an Arctic society ruled by a callous king, and is prized for her breeding capabilities in her low birth rate community. She has a fascination with human objects, often trekking into shipwreck ruins to search for new collectibles. She witnesses a ship going down and is intrigued by the lone survivor, a woman named Ragna with mysterious moving tattoos. Wishing to become human and be with Ragna, Ersel makes a deal with the shapeshifting and genderqueer Norse God Loki, but deals with the God of Lies often backfire. Now banned from her home and unable to be with the woman she loves, Ersel must find a way to outsmart Loki and save her community.
Marketed as a “Little Mermaid” retelling, The Seafarer’s Kiss definitely has some of the main plot points: mermaids, deals with “villains” involving legs and voices, and wanting to be human, but it manages to be its own story. Ersel reads as bisexual, having feelings for her male childhood best friend and for a human woman. Readers never really get much of an insight to the characters, and the writing (especially the ending) comes across a bit rushed. A lot is packed into the 230 pages, and there is enough happening to keep the story going, but it is easily skimmed.
The romance side also leaves a bit to be desired. There is a brief non-graphic sex scene between Ersel and Ragna, and they both declare their desire for one another, but there is not much beyond that.
I would recommend this book to fantasy lovers who don’t mind occasionally flawed writing, and for anyone looking for a quick and easy read. If you’re looking for more queer merfolk, check out this list on Goodreads.