Review: Dark Water Daughter by H. M. Long

by Molly
Published: Last Updated on
Dark Water Daughter book review

Pirates, weather magic, unpredictable and dangerous clairvoyants, sentient forests—somehow Dark Water Daughter manages to have it all. Here’s what I thought of H. M. Long’s new and stunningly unique high fantasy.

The Summary

Mary Firth has left her home for the first time, sent away by her new step-mother to find a husband with the help of a distant aunt. Instead, Mary decides to seek out the whereabouts of her mother, a Stormsinger who was conscripted by the Royal Navy 12 years ago and never returned home.

Mary has inherited her mother’s Stormsinging abilities, which give her the ability to control the weather through song. This makes her highly desirable by the Royal Navy, merchant sailors, and pirates alike, as they need magical assistance to help them cross the stormy Winter Sea.

Samuel Rosser is a form Navy sailor who’s been dishonorably discharged. Hoping to restore his good name and earn his way back into the good graces of his family, he’s joined a band of pirate hunters attempting to track down the murderous Silvanus Lirr. Sam’s powers as a Sooth enable him to glimpse the future and the past by transporting himself to the mysterious Other world, but using his magic comes with dangers that may demand too high a price.

What neither Mary nor Samuel know is that Lirr is on the hunt for Mary, and will stop at nothing to track her down. Their paths collide repeatedly as they cross the Winter Sea in hopes of accomplishing their goals—and staying alive.

My Review

The back cover synopsis of this book truly does not do it justice. I have to applaud Dark Water Daughter for an absolutely thrilling plot and some of the most unique world-building I’ve seen in a while.

The book kicks off with a hanging, and the stakes don’t go down from there. This novel is fast-paced, action-packed, and kept me hooked with unexpected twists that enriched the story.

As far as the world-building goes, on paper, it doesn’t seem like it should work. There are tons of different elements at play here, and while they seem disjointed when you look at the separately, they totally flowed together in the context of the book and it all made perfect sense.

First, you have the different classifications of mages. Stormsingers are (usually female) weather witches who can control storms through song. Sooths are able to see the future and past by visiting “the Other”, a parallel world where auras are visible and many unearthly monsters dwell. The Magni use their magic to inspire loyalty and compel others to do their will.

In addition to all the magical people who inhabit H. M. Long’s world, there are mystical forests known as Ghistwolds. The trees in these forests are inhabited by ghistings, ghost-like creatures who are bound to their trees and cannot leave them. The wood from these trees is often used to carve the figureheads of ships, binding the ghistings to the vessels. They then become spectral guardians capable of steering their ships away from harm and protecting them from foul play at sea.

Personally, I’ve never read anything like this, which is refreshing in a fantasy/sci-fi landscape that seems increasingly obsessed with regurgitating the same tropes over and over again. Long blended all the elements together nicely and made the world feel cohesive.

My greatest critique of Dark Water Daughter is that its protagonist, Mary, is severely underdeveloped. We know she’s searching for her mother, she’s an accomplished musician (although it’s never clarified if this is a pastime she enjoys, or if she’s just naturally talented), and she feels most at home in the Ghistwold near her father’s inn. That’s it. She doesn’t display much in the way of personality, and because her motivating desire is focused on another person, we never get to know much about what Mary wants for herself.

Additionally, we’re repeatedly told that Mary is an untrained Stormsinger, and not particularly good at using her magic. However, she seems to dispel storms and raise winds without too much trouble throughout the book, and we never really see her struggle with her powers or gain any insight into how she feels about them.

By contrast, Samuel has great depth as a character. He’s driven by a desire to regain his honor, which says a lot about who he is as a person. He is afraid of his magic, because it has the very real ability to kill him. And if that weren’t enough, toss in not one but two tragic backstories, an evil twin, and complex relationships with his crewmates.

All in all, the plot, world-building, Sam, and many lovable secondary characters more than made up for Mary’s lack of character development in my eyes. I found Dark Water Daughter exciting, entertaining, and unique, and I gladly rated it 4 stars.

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Dark Water Daughter by H. M. Long

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