The Navigator’s Touch

The Seafarer’s Kiss #2

Julia Ember 

Followers of this blog might remember me waxing poetic about the dazzling Seafarer’s Kiss (Review) last year when I first discovered it.  Exciting and brilliantly written, it somehow managed to combine The Littler Mermaid with Norse Mythology to create something completely new. So 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!

Summary39078738

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.

Musings

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!

Expected publication: September 13th 2018
Duet Books, the YA imprint of Interlude Press

Preorder now!

 

 

 

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The Seafarer’s Kiss

By Julia Ember
Reviewed by SA

Friends have been telling me for ages that I absolutely needed to read Julia Ember’s books.  Unicorn Tracks has been a favorite in my bookworm groups, and people won’t stop telling me how fantastic her YA writing is. So when the opportunity came to read her new book, The Seafarer’s Kiss, I leapt at the chance. And, excuse my all caps here, THIS BOOK WAS INCREDIBLE!

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Having long-wondered what lives beyond the ice shelf, nineteen-year-old mermaid Ersel learns of the life she wants when she rescues and befriends Ragna, a shield-maiden stranded on the mermen’s glacier. But when Ersel’s childhood friend and suitor catches them together, he gives Ersel a choice: say goodbye to Ragna or face justice at the hands of the glacier’s brutal king.

Determined to forge a different fate, Ersel seeks help from Loki. But such deals are never as one expects, and the outcome sees her exiled from the only home and protection she’s known. To save herself from perishing in the barren, underwater wasteland and be reunited with the human she’s come to love, Ersel must try to outsmart the God of Lies.

Musings

If you were to combine The Littler Mermaid with The Handmaid’s Tale and Norse Mythology, you might have something that looks a little like The Seafarer’s Kiss. It tells the story of a young mermaid who finds a shield-maiden who’s been shipwrecked near her ice craves, and their relationship as they both deal with separate objectifying societies. Ersel the Mermaid lives in a restrictive and patriarchal society, where women are valued only for their fertility due to te harsh cold of the icy northern waters. Ragna was born blessed with moving tattoos, making her a prize catch for rival clans.

The worldbuilding in this novel was exquisite. Everything was carefully thought through and relevant, managing to surprise the reader at every turn. Including Loki as a main player in the novel – who has they/them pronouns, which I thought was a nice touch – elevated the story to a complexity you don’t always get to see in YA novels. This is not a simple retelling of the Little Mermaid, it’s so much more than that. It hast real magic running through it.

Ember has created a society for the merpeople that makes sense in their context, something not modeled off human society as you might expect. Explaining how their biology has adapted to the cold was brilliantly done: the scales that trap the heat and keep the merpeople warm when they dive deep, or how they eat to grow their blubber. It was funny to me that Ersel’s first thought when she saw Ragna was how scrawny she was.

Not only was the character development masterfully crafted (Ersel’s growth was perfection) but the relationships were relatable and compelling as well. There were so many different kinds of love here: maternal love, friendship, romance… beautiful bonds that explored relationships both healthy and toxic.

If I was a little ticked off, it was by Ersel’s “I’m not like other girls” mentality. She loves to explore shipwrecks, is/was best friends with a guy, and doesn’t want the life of eternal motherhood that everyone else her ages does. She’s sometimes cruel and mocking towards others of her age. But can we really blame her?

And if you’re into YA for the romance, then you’re going to love the relationship between Ersel and Ragna.  Their friendship that grows into something more, their fierce independence and respect for each others worlds… and not to mention their insane cuteness. Love them!

Please read this book! If you love YA, you’re going to love Ersel and Ragna. But make no mistake: this book is crazy dark. Dark, beautiful, and powerful. An instant favorite you won’t be able to put down.