In Great Waters
By Kit Whitfield
In an alternative, middle ages world where people are ruled by Deepsmen, mermaid type men and women that can walk on land, the royal family is in danger of breeding itself out of existence. Few choices are left for members of the royal family, and while they hang onto the throne precariously, even they begin to wonder what is left. That is until Henry, a bastard child found abandoned on the shore and kept hidden by those that would like to see him in power, is not only able, but willing, to fight to rule.
I was very excited to read this book. I liked the idea of an alternative world ruled by Deepsmen — the possibilities seemed endless to me and I enjoyed several aspects of the story. The history of how the Deepsmen rose out of the waters to rule was particularly good and the politics of the court were exciting, but there was one thing that held me back, and that was Henry. He’s unlikable and he’s supposed to be. He’s a child a mother didn’t want, he fights all his life to survive in the water only to be thrown onto land, taken in, hidden, and taught about a world he doesn’t care about and doesn’t want to be a part of. He’s bitter, angry, and brutal but you don’t blame him. He should be that way but it made him infinitely unlikable for me. It threw the story into havoc and I had trouble recovering.
Whitfield does give you people to like. Anne for example. She’s the youngest daughter of the current king and queen who does her best to hide herself. She’s clumsy and has odd Deepsmen qualities, but is smart which becomes her only salvation. Unfortunately, when her story collides with Henry’s, I still couldn’t find sympathy for these characters.
I realize that my review has become more about the characters than the story itself. The story in this book is very imaginative and has some great fantasy elements that do make it worth the read. For me, unfortunately, I also need characters to join on the ride and here I had trouble becoming attached which stopped me from getting fully immersed in the story. Whitfield does a great job of bringing the court to life and the way she tells the story of how the first Deepsmen queen rose out of the waters in Venice is, dare I say it, believable. The politics of the world are complicated and add a lot to the story but it wasn’t enough.
Here’s the thing about it though — there was some very strong draw that kept me reading and wanting to know how this was all going to turn out. Would war break out, would Henry be accepted by the people, would Anne find it in herself to step up and rule? If you’re looking for something different, this might be a book for you. I liked the plot, setting, and the writing but had trouble with one character that made my loving this book a little hard. However, I plan to give Whitfield another shot and have her other book, Benighted, on hold at the library. There’s something about her writing that made me want to read more even if this book wasn’t a great fit.