It’s hard not be retroactively frustrated with this book when after finishing it I read the author information and found out that Ms. Dallamonica is gay but wrote a novel where her heronie only has straight romances. “I already have Tanya Huff in my life,” I thought. But I realize that that isn’t fair (to either Ms Dallamonica or Ms. Huff, who is an author that I adore (have you guys read her Valor series? Go read the Valor series.)) given the realities of getting a book published, even today, with a queer main character. There’s also the fact the if every author only wrote characters like themselves, books would be pretty boring and repetitive. I’ve just been frustrated by the lack of queer representation in my genres of choice (sci-fi/fantasy/speculative fiction, for the record) lately.
Okay. So a review of the actual book. The main character, Sophie Hansa, is a 24-year-0ld* grad student who isn’t sure what she wants to do with her life. She feels like before she can move on, she needs to be find out more about her birth parents. While her adoptive parents are away on vacation, Sophie goes through their papers and finds some clues. Sophie goes to see her birth mother, who turns out to live only a few blocks away, and is resoundingly rejected. Her birth mother’s vehemence, particularly when Sophie asks about her birth father, makes Sophie curious, so she hangs out near by for a few days, taking pictures (which Sophie realizes isn’t the healthiest behavior ever). While doing reconnaissance, Sophie spots a woman who can only be her aunt, given how much she looks like her birth mother, being attached by two men. Sophie wades in, swinging her camera bag and is shocked to somehow end up in a body of salt water with her unconscious aunt. Sophie has experience as a swimmer/diver that keeps her and her aunt alive until they’re rescued by fishing boats but a freak storm means Sophie isn’t leaving the tiny fishing village (with no modern conveniences and nobody who speaks English) any time soon.
And the more Sophie learns, the more eager she is to stay. Because it turns out that the sea she landed in is not just very far away from her home in San Fransisco, it’s literally another world. The biologist in her is delighted by all the new species she is “discovering” and she cares not one fig for the politics her aunt say forbid her from staying in this newfound world.
What follows is a book that includes magic, biology, politics, culture clashes, creation myths, hot sea captains, and pirates. It’s really a lot of fun, even if some of the characters (Sophie included) can be irritating at times. I’m hoping for a sequel because while the ending did wrap up nicely, there’s so much more (a whole world!) to explore.
*That won the book some points, as so many fantasy heroines are friggin’ 16-year-olds.