Wednesday, February 3, 2010

In Great Waters

Title: In Great Waters
Author: Kit Whitfield
Genre: fantasy


Publisher: Del Rey
Publishing Date: March 5th 2009
Paperback: 405 pages

Stand Alone or series: Stand alone.

Summary: (from Goodreads)
During a time of great upheaval, the citizens of Venice make a pact that will change the world. The landsmen of the city broker a treaty with a water-dwelling tribe of deepsmen, cementing the alliance through marriage. The mingling of the two races produces a fresh, peerless strain of royal blood. To protect their shores, other nations make their own partnerships with this new breed–and then, jealous of their power, ban any further unions between the two peoples. Dalliance with a deepswoman becomes punishable by death. Any “bastard” child must be destroyed.

This is an Earth where the legends of the deep are true–where the people of the ocean are as real and as dangerous as the people of the land. This is the world of intrigue and betrayal that Kit Whitfield brings to life in an unforgettable alternate history: the tale of Anne, the youngest princess of a faltering England, struggling to survive in a troubled court, and Henry, a bastard abandoned on the shore to face his bewildering destiny, finding himself a pawn in a game he does not understand.

Yet even a pawn may checkmate a king.

Review:

As the summary explains, this book is about two main characters; Anne, daughter of the king, and Henry, a bastard who has to hide out of fear of being burned at the stake. I should point out that I think the blurb for this book is over-dramatized. The line “Yet even a pawn may checkmate a king” is complete crap in my opinion and I think it’s unnecessary. This story is more about the character development of these two people (with a crapload of introspection) rather then a political intrigue.

Onto the things I liked about this book: First, the general world building in this story was superb. You could tell Whitfield really thought about what she was creating and that’s always a great thing to find in a book. I also really enjoyed reading a story with a fresh idea. I love me some fantasy but sometimes I can’t help but get “genre fatigue.” Luckily for me though, this book is like nothing I’ve ever read.

I also really liked Anne. I thought her character was well written and natural feeling. I never got the impression that I had to like her and I appreciated that. Too many authors force their main characters on readers and that really gets on my nerves. (I also hate when authors tell us why two people are together or why they love one another. It’s so freggin irritating. Don’t tell me things you can show me.) While at first I didn’t really care much for Anne, by the end of the book I realized that I was rooting for her in a way that I wasn’t for anyone else in the story. Henry on the other hand was just annoying. Henry’s sense of entitlement, and the ego that stems from that inflated sense of self, was something that drove me crazy. In the end I don’t think Henry is supposed to be likable though.

What I didn’t like: Even though Whitfield did a great job with the world building, I don’t think the importance of the relationship with the landsmen and deepsmen was rationalized in a believable way. On the surface the idea of an alliance between the two people for defense purposes makes sense, but the deeper you look the less convincing it is. The deepsmen are shown to be animalistic and concerned with only food and safety. They don’t have any belongings or any kind of politics besides a “might is right” tribe leadership. So, one has to question why the deepsmen would have ever gotten involved with the landsmen in the first place. We aren’t really given any reason as to why in the beginning, but closer to the end Henry has a "sudden epiphany" and realizes that the deepsmen attacked Venice (which is what set the alliance and marriages in motion) because landsmen had been hunting deepsmen for sport. This just seems like a hollow explanation to me. It’d be more likely that the deepsmen would just move to deeper waters instead of start a fight with such a numerous people in my opinion. Even if I’m wrong and we buy into Whitfield’s explanation, I don’t understand why the deepsmen a hundred years later would still be concerned with the landsmen or allow themselves to be forced into alliances. It just seems silly to me.

Beyond that, I also have to question why no one ever shot the “new breeds.” Since the deepsmen/landsmen hybrid people are weak with physical deformities it doesn’t make sense to me why there weren’t any coups. Yes the hybrid people (I don’t know what else to call them) are strong in one to one combat, but that could be avoided. I think this idea should have been expounded on in order to make the story more believable (and there should have been facets of people who believed only landsmen should rule).

And I have to say, major wtf regarding the ending. Everything seemed rushed and I had a hard time understanding exactly what was going on or how everything was supposed to work out. Plus I felt like the way things worked out with Anne and her sister was weak and too easily tidied up.

Notable Quotes/Parts:

You can read chapter one here.

Verdict:

I don’t want you to think I didn’t like this book because of some of the issues I had with the plot. I really enjoyed the story and I kept dreaming of weird seal-like people for days afterwards.

Rating: 7/10

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