Ragna always dreamed of sailing the high seas.
When Jarl Haakon sends his men to raid her village for children who, like Ragna, have magical maps on their skin, she escapes, but her family is killed. Vowing revenge, she takes over a ship and crew with the help of her lover, a female mermaid named Ersel. Young, female, and inexperienced, Ragna is unsure of her ability to lead, something she is sure her all-male crew is waiting to use to their advantage. That is until Ragna and her men land on the shores of a country ruled by a queer, brown-skinned, biracial female jarl named Honor, who gives her a much-needed lesson in being a powerful, female leader and equal partner. In this haunting novel set in a world inspired by Norse mythology, Ember (The Seafarer’s Kiss, 2017, etc.) refreshingly places a number of queer and gender nonbinary characters at the forefront, all rendered with nuanced care. Although Ragna’s development rings true, the prose itself sometimes is bogged down with too much of her inner monologue, repetitiously spelling out her insecurities. Ember’s writing is at its best in action and romance sequences, both of which, thankfully, are plentiful.
Although the pace could be faster, all in all this is an enjoyable read with a cast of diverse and likable characters. (glossary, content warnings) (Fantasy. 14-18)