The Skin by J.E. Hannaford
'You cannot fix this world alone, selkie.'
know. But, when we die, all that is left are shadows of our lives
preserved in the memories of those who remain. I plan on leaving an
exceptionally long shadow, filled with ripples of moonlight for those I
helped, and darker than the worst of nightmares for those who wronged
How far would you go to save your skin?
a selkie, trapped above the waves until I can recover my skin. Humans
used to call us seal-wives many years ago - before they broke the
planet. I thought that less humans, after the warming, would mean less
danger. My kind believed our world was finally recovering.
We were wrong.
here, the magic is fading and Old Ones like me are being traded as
trophies for rich and powerful humans to display in collections.
Without the Old Ones, the magic fades, without magic, the planet dies.
Humankind has gone too far and someone has to put a stop to it, I just wasn't expecting it to be me.
As the selkie begins her hunt, far to the south on his enormous pleasure ship, Barge,
Lord Sal hunts for missing Old Ones with a grand plan to leave his own
mark on the world. Icidro and Prince Ulises are searching for them too,
and this is a world where money talks louder than morals.
The Skin is the debut book by J.E. Hannaford and is the first book in the Black Hind’s Wake Trilogy.
It is the tale of Selkie. A mythological being that is trapped on land. She is trapped after her and her sister have been swimming in their natural form of a seal. As they lounge on an island they are unwittingly trapped, and as a way of saving her sister, who is pregnant, she swaps her skin (which is the natural seal skin, which is taken off to give them human form) with her sister in order to save her from the wretched humans that inhabit the world.
She is then sold into servitude by her capturer who now holds her skin hostage to make sure that Selkie complies.
Whilst in the service of a thoroughly reprehensible collector, she is unexpectedly saved from her cruel life by Sal, a mysterious individual that owns a pleasure barge, and at first seems as nefarious as her owner.
From there story revolves around Selkie’s story to free herself from captivity, find her missing skin as well as finding her place in the world.
I found The Skin to be utterly mesmerising from beginning to end. I was thoroughly enthralled with how J.E. Hannaford manages to interweave folklore with dystopian fiction and fantasy.
The characters in the book are complex, as is their nature. Whilst Selkie is finding her purpose following her being cruelly ripped away from the life she had before, we follow her as she has to live with the fact that she may never get back the life she once had and also having to live with the human inhabitants of the world that they destroyed. I would be hard pressed to determine which is my favourite character in the book as they are so well realised and burn into your consciousness with their clarity.
One of the things that stood out for me was J.E. Hannaford’s world building. For me I found it distinctly indistinct it its clarity, and whilst you are given hints that this is a world that has been wracked by an unknown catastrophe, you are not entirely sure until the very end the full details. Which I have to say I loved as it adds to the puzzle of the story.
I also enjoyed the fact that J.E. Hannaford not only shows the effects of the damage that humankind has done ecologically, but that it has had an effect sociologically as well, as the human race has reverted to a kind of medieval feudalism, despite having quite modern technology.
She also raises some interesting questions on the role of zoos in biodiversity conservation, especially in the light of the fact that the human race is a destructive force towards nature and a harbinger of disaster in its treatment of nature and the ecology of the planet.
J.E. Hannaford skillfully interweaves folklore into the tale, and I must admit that it is the first time that I have seen a Selkie used as a main character, which brings some originality to the story. However, not only are there Selkies, she incorporates a whole host of creatures from both folklore and mythology, highlighting the connection between these creatures and the natural world.
I listened to this on audio and loved Emily Mounts narration of the story as she really brought the story to life.
The Skin is an excellent read and I could see anyone that likes folklore, nautical fantasy and dystopian fiction enjoying this one.