The Skin (Black Hind's Wake, #1) by J. E. Hannaford

Write on: Sun, 14 Aug 2022 by  in Sue's Reviews Read 237

The author of The Skin clearly loves nature - particularly ocean creatures and the plight of those captured by humans and placed in zoos/aquariums. Through her debut novel she delivers a love letter to non-human life and also a warning about what our future could be if we don’t pay more attention to marine ecology and the environment as a whole. 

In The Skin we are thrown into a world ruined by humans, in which the sea levels have risen, many creatures have gone extinct and since there is less land now, habitable areas have become much more densely populated. 

“The Earth may feel as though she recovers to you, yet she continues to die. We seek to slow that decline. I fear you may have done too much as a species to stop it altogether.”

The Skin is written from a fIrst person perspective, with there being three point of view characters: Selkie, Georgie and Lady Gina. 

Selkie is a captive selkie who has lost her sister’s skin having given her own to her pregnant sister to allow her to escape the human poacher who grabbed her skin. Her story involves trying to escape captivity in order to search for her sister’s skin.

Georgie is presented as a crew member of the Black Hind, a ship which goes on missions for Sal Deepwater, the owner of Barge, a pleasure craft frequented by many notable members of society from whom he gleans information to aid his covert missions.  This is a world where mythical creatures from folklore are struggling to survive and are often captured by humans and kept in private collections which add to their owner’s prestige. Sal’s missions are usually rescues, saving Old Ones who are being held captive. Old Ones are mythical beings such as sirens, selkies and other creatures from folklore. 

Lady Gina is the third point of view character. She is the daughter of Sal Deepwater, his heir and lives upon Barge with him, taking control of business matters whenever he is absent.

These three character arcs converge surprisingly at the halfway point of the book and I have to say I was a little confused at this point as I had wrongly assumed that all three were taking place simultaneously, but without giving away any spoilers, it becomes apparent that this was not the case. Having taken on board the ramifications of this unexpected twist I found the story really took off and became much more gripping from this point onwards. The rescue missions undertaken by the crew are written with heart and at times have the reader on the edge of their seat praying for their success. The crew are all extremely interesting and well-written characters, not least because many of them are not what they seem and possess magical skills which were really intriguing. They have become family to one another and are very caring and protective of each other. There is a lovely dynamic between each of them. I think Zora the Sea Witch was my favourite secondary character, along with Sal who develops a father-like relationship with Gina, despite not actually being her relative. I would love to see a novella with Zora as the main character! 

The world-building is ever present in the story, with the sea the main focus, as is likely to be the case once sea levels have risen. The layouts of the various homes and palaces from which creatures are rescued are depicted in such a way that they can easily be visualised. I loved the image of a huge, wonderful mural painted by a siren in order to make her new home feel more comfortable. 

This was a really interesting and unputdownable story and I can’t wait for the sequel, The Pact!

Although this is an SPFBO book - this is not an official review - I read The Skin for my own personal enjoyment.


Sue is British, living in Massachussetts since 2003. A Mum of two teens, she enjoys fantasy, SciFi, dystopian, thrillers, occasional historical fiction in both YA and adult genres. She wrote her grandad's life story during 2020 and has a couple of ideas for other books. You can find my reviews by Sue at