They were the gods of old: he for the ocean, she for the beings in it. She wasn’t his wife, as the mortal legends had told. He wanted to control her, control everything. She would not have it.
Rating: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ (4/5)
What’s This Book About?
Genre: Fantasy (Mermaids)
Synopsis: Santiago, our ‘Crural’ (human) protagonist, tries in vain to help Rogan, her ‘Serra’ (merfolk) partner, deal with the tragic loss of his father. Now living in the large underwater city of Daris, Santi wonders how their fragile bond can survive in such a crowded community. Santi also faces major events and harrowing choices that challenge her leadership, independence and integrity, with an ever-growing suspicion that she is being sabotaged by those in power.
Alongside this present-day story, another narrative is told centuries beforehand, centred around the family of previous Ocean Mothers (Queen of the Merfolk) whose actions are integral to the nature of Santi’s world today.
What I Thought:
I really enjoyed this! I love a good mermaid tale and this definitely did not disappoint.
Vividly written in a lushly depicted, diverse and sprawling oceanic world, this book features two female protagonists, each strong in their own way. Their narratives unfold centuries apart, yet they weave together seamlessly, steadily building the plot from both the past and present without giving too much away. Plot exposition was excellent, never info-dumpy, and the touch of foreshadowing regarding the ‘Tunnel of Loss’ was very nicely done. Both characters (Santi in the present, Yemri in the past) had distinct character voices and personalities, and I was particularly interested in Yemri’s narrative (as it also had the most plot twists). I also enjoyed Santi’s copious doses of sass! Aside from admirable world-building and character work, Treading Waves also had humour and great action scenes (the Dwattle game was a favourite).
“I hate my tail. I hate the way I look…I did not ask for this. Everyone notices it, and that is all they can focus on. It is all I am known for.”
Tope’s answer was immediate and perfect. “When they talk about your tail, they steal your power.”
I really, really liked this exchange between Yemri and her father, Tope. In a way, it encapsulates one of the core obstacles in Yemri’s character development; the way she’s never taken seriously, or respected for what she has accomplished rather than for what she was born into (her title and beauty). It reminded me a lot of something I heard a while ago, encouraging parents/teachers/adults to praise young girls for things other than their ‘prettiness’. It affirms that they are worth more than how beautiful other people think they are, worth more than face-value impressions, and that they decide their own merit based on what they do rather than how they look. It’s okay to be beautiful! It’s okay to feel beautiful! But you know what’s also great? Knowing that superficial beauty is just one part of a brilliant, multi-faceted person who has a bunch of other things to offer. I really loved how Yemri grew enough confidence in herself, her goals and her achievements that she could finally make peace with her beauty, and through this acceptance, gain long-coveted agency.
For the first time in her life, she didn’t think being beautiful was a bad thing. Beauty could bring people joy, and maybe that was enough to change her regard for her unusual tail.
Small quibbles I have regard typos and accents. There were a few typos that cropped up every now and again, e.g. ‘peaked’ instead of ‘peeked’, and some occasionally missing connective words, such as ‘of’. I also found the phonetic rendering of Celia’s heavy Spanish accent distracting rather than illustrative, e.g. ‘joo’ rather than ‘you’. It was inconsistently done, as Celia sometimes said ‘you’ even though I assumed from the phonetic rendering that she pronounces it ‘joo’, and this was the same case for ‘de/the’ and ‘habe/have’. If Celia pronounces her ‘v’s with a ‘b’ (as in standard Spanish), I thought she’d also pronounce ‘love’ as ‘lobe’ and ‘lives’ as ‘libes’. But she doesn’t, and instead I just left the passage feeling confused rather than hearing anything remotely resembling a Spanish accent in my head.
Minor niggles aside, having jumped in at Book 3, I was impressed that even though the exposition was never overdone, I was nevertheless quickly immersed in the Serra world, and could easily follow the plot. The glossary in the back was very helpful in this respect. Enough events from Books 1 and 2 were referenced that I’d quite like to read them now, and I look forward to the sequel!
Thank you to Smith Publicity for sending me a copy for review!