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The Siren, the Song, and the Spy  (The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea)

By Maggie Tokuda-Hall 

10 May, 2024

Doing the WFC's Homework


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2023’s The Siren, the Song, and the Spy is the second volume in Maggie Tokuda-Hall’s The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea young-adult secondary-world fantasy series.

A survivor of a recent sea battle washes ashore on a Wariuta island beach. Koa and his sister Kaia do not know who the stranger is but they know what she is: one of the Colonizers with whom locals have had so much trouble. Prudent Kaia would prefer to kill the woman out of hand. Soft-hearted Koa dissuades Kaia. Instead, they haul the woman, Genevieve, back to Yunka.

There are consequences.

Genevieve is passionately loyal to the Nipran Empire, dismissive of non-imperials, and a skilled fighter. However, she is unable to avoid being taken prisoner. Her involuntary stay in Yunka opens Genevieve’s eyes to the fact all is not as her mentor, the late Lady Ayer, assured her.

The Pirate Supreme has crushed a Nipran Empire fleet. However, the empire has many fleets. One such, under Commander Callum, delivers an ultimatum to Yunka. The empire is annexing Yunka. The town can submit peacefully or be obliterated. Callum offers bribes. He finally delivers annihilation.

In the aftermath, Kaia is taken prisoner and carried off to the imperial city of Crandon. Genevieve and Koa manage to save a handful of children from Yunka’s destruction. In the process, Genevieve belatedly realizes that the empire is not in fact the force for good she was taught to believe it was.

Once in Crandon, Kaia wastes little time in escaping. It might seem that there is a little a lone woman can do to bring down an empire. However, Kaia is not alone. Crandon is filled with imperial victims eager to see it fall. Also, the emperor’s ill-health has emboldened courtiers eager to sow chaos in the hope of gaining ultimate power.

For her part, Genevieve discovers long-forgotten ties with the anti-imperialists. Genevieve, along with the entire world, discovers something else: the Pirate Supreme’s forces have an ally against whom even the empire cannot stand.


There are series in which antagonists somehow manage to avoid their just desserts. This is not one of those books. There are enough just desserts for everyone have a serving.

This book reminded me of Robert Jackson Bennett’s The Founders… save for one thing. In Founders, the brave resisters against tyranny invested all their hopes in an entity that turned out to be much worse than the original tyranny. In Siren, the Pirate Supreme’s ally turns out have compatible goals. One might suspect that the author was avoiding a more noir-ish setting because the target audience is YA. But I don’t think that’s it. The author is perfectly comfortable presenting characters who realize that they’ve made terrible, irreversible mistakes. My guess is that this is only the second book in what might be a longer series and that the upcoming books might feature some unexpected and alarming twists.

The author, Tokuda-Hall, does seem to be fond of twists and plot complications. The cast of characters in this book is much larger than my synopsis suggests. Many characters have their own character arcs, arcs that are as dramatic as those of Genevieve, Koa, and Kaia. There’s a downside to these complications, however. The plot jumps from one viewpoint to another, which sometimes makes it hard to follow the action. This is a less coherent work than the first book, The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea.

Which isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy or at least appreciate large swaths of the novel. Tokuda-Hall is a skilled wordsmith. I just wish that there had been fewer protagonists or more volumes.

The Siren, the Song, and the Spy is available here (Amazon US), here (Amazon Canada), here (Amazon UK), here (Apple Books), here (Barnes & Noble), here (Chapters-Indigo), and here (Words Worth Books)