Skin of the Sea by Natasha Bowen

African mythology, culture and history!

Simi has been a mermaid, a Mami Wata, for only a short time but she’s starting to lose her human memories. When she goes on land and transforms into a human, she grasps at memories of her family and holds onto them tightly so she won’t forget once she’s a mermaid again. Her duty is to help souls move on after death and she thinks she’s helping a young man who has just been thrown overboard from a slave trader ship. She assumes he’s dead and she’s ready to perform her task when his eyes open. He is chained and manacled and injured. He loses consciousness and she carries him over her shoulder as she swims to an island. His name is Kola and together they call on the creator of mermaids for help in getting him home. Kola and Simi go through a roller coaster of experiences together to get him home, save his siblings and help the mermaid creator. Simi isn’t supposed to develop feelings or attachments to any human but she grows to care for Kola. They meet the messenger to the gods, Esu, and discover the horrible trickster that he is. Tidbits similar to The Little Mermaid story but with the added African mythology, culture and history! 4 stars!

Beasts of Prey by Ayana Gray

Unexpected twist!

Koffi and her mother are indentured servants at the Night Zoo, which is a prison that the servants can’t seem to escape. The zookeeper continues to add time to their service and they’re kept inside a brick-walled area. One night, the zoo catches on fire and the servants set the animals free and Koffi tries to escape with her mother. Her mother is struck down and Koffi realizes that she’s on her own. Ekon, a soldier, allows her to escape because she saves him from a terrifying creature, the Shetani, but he faces punishment for helping her. The Shetani has been mutilating and killing people for as long as anyone can remember. Koffi meets a kind woman who offers her a job and as she’s heading back to accept the position, she’s attacked by the night zoo manager. Koffi makes a deal with the manager; in exchange for her freedom, she’ll capture the Shetani and return to the night zoo so the creature can be caged and bring curious, paying visitors to the zoo. He agrees. Meanwhile, Ekon plans to find the creature too and bring it back to the temple so the killings can be stopped. Through some mishaps, Koffi and Ekon eventually team up to capture the Shetani and their lives change forever. This is a delightful book to read, two emotionally flawed main characters, the mystery behind the Shetani, African mythology and the unexpected twist at the ending, 5 stars!