In the midst of all the craziness going on around here: the building work, finishing up the climax of The Five Kingdom’s series, writing the outline for my commissioned equestrian book, getting annual accounts done super early to see if I am eligible for the government’s final COVID pay out, checking over the proofs for the anthology that includes a chapter of mine on horses in fantasy settings – I’ll put out details once it releases – oh, and working full time. Lets not forget work! I DID manage to read a book!
And what a great book. Here’s my review.
The Ferryman and the Sea Witch by D. Wallace Peach
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I was ensnared by the sample, intrigued by the concept of the merrow – a cross between mermaids and sirens with gloriously alien motivations and the ability to control weather and water.
As a young man, Callum witnesses the cruel death of a merrow captured in the nets of the vessel he serves on. He makes an attempt to save the creature, but too late to succeed. His effort is rewarded in part when the sea-witch, mother of the victim, spares him when she sinks every ship on the deep and drowns all bar him.
Until the sea-witch is offered royal blood in return for her daughter’s murder, only Callum’s ship is permitted to sail across the deep, and at the expense of one human sacrifice each trip. And so Callum becomes the Ferryman, an uneasy go-between for the rulers of two cities on opposite sides of the deep, one the capital of a bounteous land, the other a collection of derelict ships linked together for survival and ruled by a treacherous queen.
The world building of this novel is simply fabulous. Although we only see a tiny portion of the world, what we do see has such depth of detail—culture, ecology, commerce, survival, and politics blend and clash in all the right places to make the cities and their inhabitants so real you have no doubt they could exist. The merrow are a fantastic concept: beautiful, alien, and mysterious, and yet also totally believable.
Characters are rarely what they seem, all with secrets to hide that come out at various inconvenient (to them, not the plot) moments to mix up and heighten the tensions when the situation comes to a head and things turn murderous as the two rulers vie to overthrow each other, with Callum caught in the middle.
Exquisite descriptions fill the pages of this entrancing tale that I cannot recommend highly enough.
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