Monday, November 08, 2021

Between the Water and the Woods, by Simone Snaith

As every child in the little village of Equane knows, you should never cross the moat that separates them from the dark woods.  When Emeline's little brother crosses the water on a dare from his friends, she is fast on her feet to fetch him back.  But not fast enough.  In the few moments that they are on the other side of the water, a dark creature appears that Emilene manages to drive off with water.  Safe back on their side, they notify their family and the town.

The town falls into an uproar.  It's an Ithin, a dark creature, and a long standing royal edict demands that any contact with dark creatures must be directly reported to the king by the witnesses.  So Emiline and her brother, accompanied by Emeline's father and a friend with a trusty wagon, venture to the capital city.  A grand adventure for children who have never left the village, but full of danger.  Along the way, they befriend Reese, a lash knight, who protects them and they arrive safely after further encounters with the Ithin.

Reaching the capital is only the beginning of their troubles.  The king is ailing and the royal court is split between two competing factions:  the Theurgists who honor magic and the Sapients who follow their belief in empirical science.  Each seeks to promote an agenda that will bring their group to power and the potential existence of the Ithin threatens the balance of power.  Both sides wish to exploit it for their own aims. More uncomfortable in this context is a growing realization that Emeline might wield her own magic.

A generally satisfying fantasy novel that unfortunately is marred at the end by a rushed conclusion and a plethora of sudden revelations that wrap up the adventure rather abruptly (but notably with enough loose ends that a sequel is plausible).  Most of the writing is fine, but Snaith gets caught up in tedium, worrying about where everyone sleeps, how they wash up, and where meals are coming from.  The attention to detail is admirable, but it drags on the pacing of the story and needed to be trimmed.

There are seven lovely full-page illustrations that seemed like they would have been better in color.

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