It’s been a busy couple of months, friends. Between posting Three Keys in the Desert in June, submitting a thesis draft in July, attending Nine Worlds in August (\o/ STILL TO WRITE A POST ABOUT THAT!) and now going abroad again in a week, it’s been.. a lot. A lot of really great things! But a lot nonetheless.
Which is why I’m especially pleased that I managed to squeeze in reading Emily Foster’s “The Drowning Eyes”, a novella I’d been wanting to get my hands on for a while, and review it for Strange Horizons.
Emily Foster’s debut novella is everything I like about modern fantasy. The world it builds is not a fictional Europe or a fictional North America; instead it’s set in a tropical climate, in the middle of an ocean, with many small islands dependent on the weather for trade and survival. The characters are a seafaring crew who don’t shy away from illegal work, people from the margins whose life philosophy is that money and happiness should be grabbed wherever they happen to be found. The cast is ethnically diverse and most of the action is centered on women, including older women, who occupy positions of authority within the small world a story of this length allows. All of this is refreshing and a pleasure to read and the reason I was excited to pick up the book in the first place.
And yet, as much as I wanted to fall in love with The Drowning Eyes, as much as I liked its setting and magical elements, as much I enjoyed its characters individually, there were a few structural problems that stood in the way of the book having true momentum. It’s not that the story isn’t enjoyable; it’s just that, considering its premise, it comes across as a little underwhelming.