Author: Julia Ember
Publisher: Interlude Press/Duet Books
Release date: May 4th, 2017
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 merfolk’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 the divine Loki. But such deals are never straightforward, 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.
The Seafarer's Kiss was an underwater adventure that filled my insides with so much joy. A retelling of The Little Mermaid with some Norse mythology in the mix, we have the story of a young mermaid trying to find freedom inside her frozen kingdom.
It's not a surprise I loved this book so much. I believe anything Julia writes, I'm going to be such a huge fan. This is definitely not different. While Unicorn Tracks took place in a safari tour in a reimagined Africa, The Seafarer's Kiss takes place in icy waters. In an ice kingdom. Ersel lives there with her mother and whales and many more merpeople. But she wants more than that, she wants freedom from that place and its monotonous life.
She befriends Ragna, a Viking maiden that is hurt and.... human. She has this weird tattoos of maps and she is very very enchanting for Ersel as well. Everything between them is so cute and I ship them HARD. Everyone does. I love that Julia wrote a bisexual MC and a fat mermaid because we almost always see mermaids in literature as skinny beings and that's so not the only way we can see them because I think it's important to show that you can represent every body type. And everyone wants to be a mermaid so it's great that Julia wrote Ersel. We have plot twists after plot twists and this book is just A+. As I said, anything Julia Ember writes you will see me first in line to read it.
// VBT for Seafarer's Kiss //
A lot of people dedicate books to their parents. In my case, I have two 2017 releases, and each of my parents “get a book” so to speak. I love my mom and we have always had a close relationship, but Seafarer’s Kiss is “her” book in part because of a conversation we had in 2013. I’m going to talk about that conversation and the parental relationship in the book in this post.
My mom and I have always looked and sounded incredibly similar. From middle school onwards, people assumed I was her when I answered the phone. We were often compared in pictures. We have the same small nose, round faces, freckles and rosy cheeks. We’ve also both been overweight to some degree throughout our teenage and adult lives.
I want to preface this by saying that I was a fat child and teen. My parents were never overly critical or cruel about it, though they made it clear that they thought I’d be healthier if I would lose the weight.
In my last two years of university, in 2010-2011, I maintained a pretty low weight for me. I was riding horses competitively and additionally using the gym a lot. As a college senior who came into university with a lot of advanced credit, I had a pretty lax schedule in my final year. I didn’t diet, but the my weight was naturally lower because of how much exercise I was getting. Then, 2012 rolled around. I left the US and went back to Scotland to begin graduate school. I stayed fit, but I stopped riding competitively and no longer exercised three hours a day. My weight crept up and when I went home the next summer, my mom said she was sad because I had regained weight.
When I pressed her about it, she said she was sad because she remembered what it had been like for her to be fat in her 20s. She said that she has gained weight in a slow progression since that time, and that I was so beautiful, and she didn’t want me to end up like her. I was dumbfounded. My mom is, and always has been, a beautiful woman. She is also effortlessly classy -- a trait that genetics, sadly, could not give me. A fair number of my male friends and flatmates have had awkward, sometimes gross, crushes on her over the years. She was fat and she’d been fat my whole life. It never occurred to me that she thought she was ugly.
In the conversation that followed, I realised that she had never thought she was pretty. Despite agreeing that many of her fat friends were beautiful, my mom didn’t even like her wedding photos. It broke my heart.
When I started outlining Seafarer’s Kiss, I knew from the outset that some of the story would depend on the strength of Ersel’s relationship with her mother. I didn’t know from the outset that Ersel would be a fat protagonist. It was after I wrote one of the ending scenes, where Ersel’s mother is prepared to give up everything for her daughter, that my 2013 conversation with my own mother came back into my mind. I decided I was going to make my mermaid fat and beautiful, both for myself and my mom.
Ersel is probably the ‘sexiest’ protagonist I’ve ever written. Other mermaids covet her beauty. Sailors comment on it. She’s fought over by a Viking shield maiden and a hunky merman. Fat is the just the way she is. It’s never considered a negative in the book, and Ersel is intensely proud of her body. Although I wrote a fat love interest in my first book, Unicorn Tracks, Kara had hang-ups. She’d been teased and criticised for her size by people in her home country. I think society tells fat people that your body positivity is something you have to defend. Ersel very much does not fall into that. She loves who she is and she doesn’t defend it, and that is something I want for myself, my mom and every fat teen who picks up this book.
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Julia Ember is a polyamorous, bisexual writer and native of Chicago who now resides in Edinburgh, Scotland. The Seafarer’s Kiss is her second novel and was influenced by her postgraduate work in medieval literature at The University of St. Andrews. Her first novel, Unicorn Tracks was published by Harmony Ink Press.