REVIEW: The Winter Sea – Dark Water Daughter by H. M. Long
A stormsinger and pirate hunter join forces against a deathless pirate lord in this swashbuckling Jacobean adventure on the high-seas.
Launching the Winter Sea series, full of magic, betrayal, redemption and fearsome women, for readers of Adrienne Young, R. J. Barker and Naomi Novik.
Mary Firth is a Stormsinger: a woman whose voice can still hurricanes and shatter armadas. Faced with servitude to pirate lord Silvanus Lirr, Mary offers her skills to his arch-rival in exchange for protection – and, more importantly, his help sending Lirr to a watery grave. But her new ally has a vendetta of his own, and Mary’s dreams are dark and full of ghistings, spectral creatures who inhabit the ancient forests of her homeland and the figureheads of ships.
Samuel Rosser is a disgraced naval officer serving aboard The Hart, an infamous privateer commissioned to bring Lirr to justice. He will stop at nothing to capture Lirr, restore his good name and reclaim the only thing that stands between himself and madness: a talisman stolen by Mary.
Finally, driven into the eternal ice at the limits of their world, Mary and Samuel must choose their loyalties and battle forces older and more powerful than the pirates who would make them slaves.
Come sail the Winter Sea, for action-packed, high-stakes adventures, rich characterisation and epic plots full of intrigue and betrayal.
Dear Ms. Long,
I ogled the cover. I read the blurb. I crossed my fingers and requested the book. Then I fell into this world, among these people, and sucked it all down in two days. That’s 464 pages by the way. I’d come up for air every so often, clear my head a bit and then dive back in because I wanted to know what was going to happen next. Books that make me do that are a joy to read.
The blurb covers as much of the plot as I think is good to know going in. Part of the happiness of the book is not knowing what twist or turn it’s going to take next. Plus I doubt I could describe it without giving away some spoilers or ruining things so I’ll stop.
What I liked? Strong women! In this story women and men are equals on board the ships. There are female first lieutenants and female captains. Two of the kingdoms are headed by Queens. And then there are the Stormsingers. I’m not sure if there are male Stormsingers as none are mentioned but like so many things done only by women, the talents these women have are as much a curse as a gift. Mary and her mother rise above this in the end – okay I’ll spoil that much as I am delighted that Mary (mostly, I will admit that it is a bit of a group effort) is her own savior as well as working together with the others done wrong by the villain to get justice.
The worldbuilding is intricate but I could follow it and take it in. There are some facts and hints that are casually sprinkled in from early on that are explained later via some clever exposition – namely excerpts from “Books” in this world as well as descriptions of what happened to Mary before the action starts. None of this lands with a thud and brings the story to a screeching halt though, for which I am grateful.
The characters are individual and fleshed out. I found them fairly easy to keep straight in my head. They’ve also got some layers to them. No one is all good and most, except for one or two, are not all bad. Revenge and redemption are behind most actions. Characters act appropriately with the amount of knowledge that they have. As I mentioned there are twists to the plot but also clues so that things aren’t completely baffling in a “Now wait a minute, where did that come from?” way. Since some of the characters are ruthless pirates or pirate hunters, there is also some blood and gore though not full-on horror amounts.
A satisfying ending rounds things out. I’m glad that, on her own, the heroine believed what the hero said about his past. To be honest, there is a fair amount of exposition to lay out this world. It’s also first person with a very subdued romance. In fact I’d almost just call it more historical fantasy than fantasy romance. One character is sort of A Chosen One – with a twist. But I had a rip roaring time reading it – because pirates. B