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  • Writer's pictureThe Fiction Fox

Review: Dark Water Daughter - H.M. Long

Genre: Fantasy

Published: Titan Books, July 2023

My Rating: 5/5 stars

“There are fates worse than death, Mr. Rosser.”

For the past few years, a specific genre/trope has dominated my fantasy-novel wishlist. A single request I’ve been sending out into the universe, hoping for the Bookish Gods to grant me this favour:

please, give us an incredible pirate-novel set in a fantasy world that we’ve all been craving.

I think it was somewhere into 2022 that I gave up on this wish, after being burned by one too many ship-based-dud. Ironically, as I often the case when you stop searching for something, 2023 blessed me with not one but two pirate-favourites. Back in March, we had a whimsical take on the pirate-life in Tress of the Emerald Sea. Next month, you can look forward to swashbuckling start of an Adult Fantasy series set on the high seas of a world rich in lore, magic and mystery.

Our story begins with a young woman, facing the gallows for a crime she didn’t commit. In a desperate attempt at escape, she unleashes a power inherited from her missing mother, that she’s kept hidden within herself for years; a voice powerful enough to sing up a storm and command unruly waves. Although she’s spared the noose, her display of power does not grand Mary Firth the freedom she hoped for. Instead, she becomes the pawn and the lynchpin in a complex play between the Royal Navy and fleets of pirates, each hoping to hone her skills to guide them safely across the treacherous waters of the Winter Sea. Yet Mary isn’t the passive play-piece people take her for. Rather, she has alliances, loyalties, and motivations of her own. Her top priority: cross the Winter Sea in order to find and free her mother, who suffered a similar faith of captivity due to her powers.

Told through dual perspectives from both Mary, and the naval officer Samuel Rossner, who chases her across the oceans; this was every bit the fantasy-adventure I hoped it to be.

Without hyperbole, Dark Water Daughter has everything I want in a fantasy novel. If we take a look at it through the “Sandersons triad of story-telling”, it has nails all three: characters, world and plot.

Whilst Samuel and Mary carry the story, there are many memorable supporting characters that do a lot of heavy lifting too. Each of them has a distinct role to fulfill in the plot, but simultaneously has enough unique character-traits, skills (both magical and personal) and motivations to feel like a fully-fledged person inhabiting this world too. It creates a world that feels alive and lived in, adding a layer of “realness” that is so hard to capture. (also, the romance subplot never commit mutiny and overtakes the rest of the story, which is always a welcome change!)

Speaking of worldbuilding, this attention to detail and depth goes beyond the characters. Each place, spirit or magical power comes with its own lore and history supporting it. With every flip of the page, I was excited to learn more about this universe of H.M. Long’s creation. Although the synopsis focusses mainly on the Storm-singing, my favourite magical element was by far the Ghistwold. To avoid ANY spoilers, I won’t say anything else about this, other than that I hope to learn and explore so much more of it in the sequels.

Perhaps, if I keep singing this novels praises to my heart’s content, I might actually conjure up a storm myself. Suffice to say, it’s one of my new favourite nautical fantasy-novels and probably among my top reads of the year so far in general. If you’ve ever shared that craving for the perfect pirate fantasy-novel, or loved the likes of Pirates of the Caribbean, The Liveship Traders Trilogy and The Grisha Trilogy, and are curious as to what a mix-up of those three would look like: make sure to be on the look-out once this novel hits shelves next month.

Many thanks to Titan Books and Recorded Books Audio for providing me with an ARC (physical as well as Audio) in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Find this book here on Goodreads.


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