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In Great Waters Paperback – October 27, 2009

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Del Rey; Original edition (October 27, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345491653
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345491657
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 6.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #526,369 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Whitfield (Benighted) creates a fantasy Earth both instantly recognizable and drastically changed: history was altered by the deepsmen, merfolk who first made an appearance at Venice during the Middle Ages and now, a few centuries later, control the seas. They insist that earthly rulers be part-deepsmen, placing halfbreed children such as Henry, terrified to be washed up on shore after five years underwater, and Anne, a king's clumsy granddaughter, in play for the English throne. The tale's style is formal and historical, packed thick with detail both overt and subtle. Anne is convincing as inconvenient royalty, the kind the family would rather forget, while Henry embodies the deepsmen's unhuman priorities and desires. Supporting characters, most neither wholly good nor wholly wicked, are given in stark, memorable detail. Fans of English history, dense prose and high-level political maneuvering will love it. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

In a fantasy Europe, a race of merfolk guards the coasts. To keep it loyal, the monarchs on land agree to interbreed with it. Hence, those kings are only half human and, as such, handicapped both on land and in the sea as well as subject to the dangers of interbreeding. For any young bastard, as the crossbred are called, may challenge the king of any land. The half-breed Whistle is abandoned on the English coast by his merwoman mother. As he matures, he becomes the center of a plot to claim the English crown. Whitfield’s premise is quite original, and she develops it through the insights of Whistle, aka Henry, and a princess, Anne of England. This isn’t a romance novel, despite the Whistle-Anne relationship, but is as realistic as fantasy can be. If in her second novel Whitfield seems a bit studied, she is a competent enough storyteller, and this is a very interesting read. --Frieda Murray

Customer Reviews

I gave this one star because I could not read it!
It is original, and those partial to feral-child and coming-of-age stories might like those segments better than I did.
E. Smiley
All of the court intrigues and politics made my head spin, but it was a damn good read.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Becky on May 9, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As the other reviewers have said, this book is certainly original. From one moment to the next, I never had any idea what was going to happen and honestly, I wouldn't have been shocked if all of the main characters would have been killed off by the end of the book (they weren't, but with all the twists and turns, it wasn't out of the question.)

Whitfield does an incredible job of universe building. When this book was recommended to me, I thought "mermaids ... really?" But wow, this is not some sparkly young adult novel. The stark realism of Whitfield's world is incredible, and at times painful, to behold.

I admit that when the story began, told from the perspective of the foundling half-breed, Whistle, I despised him. He was so unrepentantly, believably alien. I found him incredibly repulsive from his animal thought processes to his abhorrence for everything about "landsmen" culture to his physical description. The reader is forced into Whistle's perspective, grappling with his "cloven tail" rather than legs, his black eyes, his tough gray skin, sharpened nails and teeth. He is completely foreign in thought and description. Whistle is a bastard, a half-breed, caught between the land of the deepsmen and the landmen. He is a missing link, in so many ways.

And yet, when we switch from Whistle's perspective to Anne's, it challenges the reader even further.

Anne is an English royal and behaves as I believe most readers would expect an English royal to behave. Anne is very familiar. But she and Whistle are physically the same, both half-breeds.

This book does an incredible job of challenging the reader's preconceived beliefs.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jacob Glicklich on June 13, 2010
Format: Paperback
An astounding book, highly recommended. Takes what seems light the most silly, bending-suspension-of-disbelief premise--mermaids as the central factor in the transformation of European society--and weaves an intense and satisfying story from it.

Whitfield is perhaps one of the ultimate subverters of the Masquerade, and whole theme of hidden fantasy within the present world. Her scenario takes just the opposite assumption--posit the existence of a fantasy element, even one as detached and minor as mermaids and it eventually transforms everything. In her novel contact with "deepsmen" and humans around the Renaissance lead to one Venitian family brining them openly into full on political and military conflict, leading to widespread rise and fall of different dynasties across Europe.

It is then a fantasy novel without magic, but with the presence of non-humans leading to a full-fledged alternate history that alters a lot of patterns for intrigue, culture and daily life. In Great Waters isn't about how that change is established. This element is given as backstory, instead it focuses on a specific regional situation several hundred years later where the change has already been made and everyone accepts the uses of human royalty linking politically to deepsmen and the level of intrigue for both species is deeply intertwined. It's refershing to see a strange fantasy situation taken for granted, as part of the enviornment that people have to work within. Characters in the novel find the arrangement inconvenient at points, but it's an accepted part of the sider environment with a lot of practical force behind it.
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful By E. Smiley on December 13, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I loved Whitfield's Benighted and was so excited to read her second book that I pre-ordered it from Amazon. Now I'm wishing I'd waited to get it from the library, or skipped it entirely.

The premise of the book is this: in an alternate-history version of medieval Europe, kings must retain the support of the "deepsmen" (merfolk), such that every country with access to the ocean is ruled by a half-blooded king. Being jealous of their power--in the form of the ability to communicate with the deepsmen, whose communication consists of dolphin-like sounds that "landsmen" (regular humans) can't produce--the royals have any non-royal half-blood child killed. But England is in trouble: the king is old, and the only heirs to the throne are a couple of teenage girls. Enter the protagonists: Henry, an unauthorized half-blooded child, and Anne, the younger of the two princesses.

A large part of my problem with this book is that I didn't buy the premise. Now, the idea of the deepsmen is fascinating. These aren't your mythical merfolk; Whitfield must have really thought about what such people would actually be like, and they're anything but romanticized. If you're looking for new ideas and something that hasn't been done before, you might find this book worth reading for this alone. But the way they're portrayed--with an intelligence level somewhere between that of a normal human and that of a dolphin, and primarily concerned with their own survival--I never bought into the idea that they were essential allies for anybody. And even supposing that they were, the idea that disabled kings (did I mention that the half-bloods can't walk, and at best hobble around with canes?
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