The book: Mother Ocean, Daughter Sea
The author: Diana Marcellas
Initial thoughts: I don’t have enough cats to be reading this book.
Maybe I’ve been reading the wrong kind of fantasy (well-plotted and fast-moving) and started out on the wrong foot with this one. Or perhaps it’s just full of the long-winded descriptions and quotidian plot that gives good medieval/magical fantasy a bad name. Either way, I only made it to 180/436 pages.
Before I succumbed to the mehs, I gleaned that the story is about Briarley, a “shar’ia” (use of the word so frequently didn’t help the story either) witch and the only one of her kind, who wanders from village to village in Ye Olde land healing people, but secretly!, before returning to her cave and reading books by the other witches who previously, sequentially and singularly inhabited the Witch Cave and wrote books about being witches and lonely. The novel could have gone off in a great YA emo angst direction with this, but instead we get ducal politics and a series of increasingly long explanations of historical political manoeuvres complete with names that you’ll have to remember because there will be a test.
There’s some healing, some pointless interactions with the local folks, before the story gets moving around a hundred pages in when Briarley is exposed as a witch and saves the local lording’s prone-to-miscarriages wife and infant baby with her witch powers. Lordling and co are thus indebted and vow to protect her from the Law of the Land which decrees witches should be burned. But wait! It’s also politics, as the lordling tries to cement his kingdom and overthrow an evil Duke who may have murdered his father. I think. There were too many names and it all got confusing and the capital letters made me dizzy.
Also, spoiler alert, but the love interest in this book is the married lordling, and by that point, with no personalities for the main characters in sight a quarter of the way in, I was no longer bothered.
The book is entirely too long and succumbs to that particularly exquisite fantasy conceit of world-building. However, the fun details of anthropology and culture were missing. Instead it was a generic fantasy world, with magic and people travelling in carts and the back story of banal political “intrigue” with entirely too many names. Lots of internal monologues too, which I just love (/not).
Finally, while I know that for fantasy and sci-fi, writing a book which can be expanded into a series is fairly common, this book has a cute little sticker printed on the cover proclaiming it to be “First in a series!” The more I look at it, the more it annoys me. Make of that what you will.
tl;dr: Enough fantasy clichés to put you off the genre for a few days. Seems like the kind of book one might enjoy if one has too many (alternatively “not enough”) cats and spends more time than one would like to admit communing with the water sprytes in one’s bird bath.