This is a whimsical read that felt like a fairy tale reimagined, but it’s not based on anything to which I’m familiar. This is a story about a young woman named Phehl who is the Keeper of her people, she’s responsible for the safety and well-being of everyone and everything living on her small set of islands. She has a spear of sorts that’s supposed to have powers that are nuanced but important.
Since she is the Keeper of her people, once a year she participates in a ceremony which puts her front and center of the whole village’s attention. She hates that, but she has to do what she has to do, so she grins and bears it as best she can. Something went wrong during this ceremony, however. When she was in the middle of her task, she started to hear screaming from down the beach… and she discovered a “sharkling” being born… a woman crawled out of the corpse of a giant mako shark. The woman was not at all normal looking, with jet black hair, blue skin, solid black eyes, and rows of sharp teeth. She doesn’t appear to be immediately dangerous despite her looks, and soon she and Phehl make a promise to each other. “Mako” will leave her people in peace and not eat any of them, if Phehl keeps her eggs safe and helps her off the island to make it back to the Center Sea, where her people breed. There’s more to the story than this, but at 153 pages to say much more will give away a lot of the more interesting plot twists and turns.
I liked Phehl as a character, she was a good person who took her oaths seriously. She is kind and considerate of all living things and doesn’t like the idea of having to kill anything or anyone. She’s a protector, but not a warrior. She’s also unsure of herself, she’s new to the leadership position and has not accumulated a lot of confidence in herself yet. What was there I enjoyed, but I wish there was just a touch more to her. I would have liked a little more back story, a little more about her family and her island, more about her ambitions and whatnot. Now, given how small scale the story is, I’m honestly was surprised there was as much as there was about her. I usually complain that I want more from books that are under 200 pages, and this wasn’t an exception.
The cast of characters in this is limited to a handful, and it’s written from a single point of view which gives it a feeling of intimacy and almost slice-of-life. I enjoyed that on the one hand, but it made the world building feel kind of light, there just weren’t many people in it, at least not on the islands. I kept getting hints at really neat concepts that I wanted to know more about. There were a ton of very innovative and creative nautical world building bits, too. Phehl’s people keep a written history of sorts, they carve drawings into whale bones that depict different events from their lives. They pass those on from generation to generation and they become the history of their people. . Djinn crabs, talking octopi with Kings of their own, a race of sentient sharks that gained the knowledge of the people they ate, swords with curses and pirate stuff. All of these were surface level though, as fascinating as they were, they felt a bit shallow without more info to give it depth.
The writing was okay, there was nothing that made me cringe when I read it, nothing awkward sounding, no weird or stiff dialogue. But, there’s also nothing about it that made it stand out. The prose got out of the way of the story and that did keep it reading quickly. The book itself wasn’t long, and that combined with the prose style made me glide right through this one. The ending felt a little abrupt and it also left room for another installment even though this story was pretty neatly tied up at the end.
I would definitely recommend this to people who enjoy Benedict Patrick’s books. They have the same kind of imagination and storytelling style where it feels like a fairy tale and super fanciful. There’s a character that’s a bard/trader and through his stories the world itself is given a little bit of a backstory, it’s another way those two authors would have the same kind of audience. I will definitely read on with this author, I see a ton of potential for this world, and if the characters are carried over into the next book maybe I’ll feel like I’ve gotten more depth and really engage with their arcs more.
- Tropes: nautical, mythical creatures
- Tags: single pov, sentient sharks, djinn crabs, pirates, no romance, adventure, intimate stories, small cast, quick reads
- Genre: Mythical/legend
- Plot: 10/15
- Characters: 10/15
- World Building: 11.5/15
- Writing: 11/15
- Pacing: 12.5/15
- Originality: 13/15
- Personal Enjoyment: 7/10
Final Score: 75/100 or 3.75/5 stars on Goodreads