10 must-read SFF book releases to help you escape from reality this May

Forged in Fire and Stars by Andrea Robertson. Image Courtesy Penguin Random House
Forged in Fire and Stars by Andrea Robertson. Image Courtesy Penguin Random House /
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The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea – Maggie Tokuda-Hall

Maggie Tokuda-Hall’s debut novel The Mermaid, the Witch and the Sea not only has one of the most beautiful covers on a new release this month, it also offers the feminist fantasy escape we can all use these days.

The book follows the story of Flora,  a desperate orphan who takes on the identity of a man to survive life on the brutal Dove, a pirate ship that pretends to be a passenger vessel but in reality is a slaver. She is determined to earn enough to start a new life with her brother, and this is what keeps Flora silent about the atrocities she witnesses

Until fifteen-year-old Evelyn Hasegawa arrives on board. An imperial being sent off on an unwanted arranged marriage, Flora/Florian is set to guard her. And the bond that slowly grows between them complicates everything – as they set off on an adventure that involves mermaids, magic, witches and the sea itself.

The official synopsis offers up some more specific details.

"Aboard the pirate ship Dove, Flora the girl takes on the identity of Florian the man to earn the respect and protection of the crew. For Flora, former starving urchin, the brutal life of a pirate is about survival: don’t trust, don’t stick out, and don’t feel. But on this voyage, as the pirates prepare to sell their unsuspecting passengers into slavery, Flora is drawn to the Lady Evelyn Hasegawa, who is en route to a dreaded arranged marriage with her own casket in tow. Flora doesn’t expect to be taken under Evelyn’s wing, and Evelyn doesn’t expect to find such a deep bond with the pirate Florian. Soon the unlikely pair set in motion a wild escape that will free a captured mermaid (coveted for her blood, which causes men to have visions and lose memories) and involve the mysterious Pirate Supreme, an opportunistic witch, and the all-encompassing Sea itself."

The Mermaid, the Witch and the Sea is available on May 5.