Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement.

daughter of the merciless deepJane Edwards hasn’t spoken since she was eleven years’ old. Not since her words triggered the events leading to her fleeing their town, along with all the other black folk. They find safe haven in Awenasa, an all-Black town, until twelve years later when construction of a new damn puts all their homes in danger once more.

The arrival of a man who should be dead, makes Jane question her own sanity, but he might just be the answer Awenasa has been looking for.

At the heart of Daughter of the Merciful Deep is the heartbreaking story of Awenasa, a thriving black town right in the flood path of a planned reservoir. The dam is built, and the Authority is determined to move them on. By force if need be. While Awenasa is fictional, its fate certainly isn’t. There are similar tales of flooded towns from around the world, but it seems even more of an insult when former slaves had built something good on the land previously owned by their masters.

Jane is also a sad tale lifted straight from history. As a young girl she is frightened into testifying against an innocent black boy. Knowing what her words made happen, she stops speaking, her voice little more than a whisper when it does appear.

When you can’t talk, people sometimes think you’re stupid. They imagine a direct connection from the vocal chords to the brain, and any interruption must mean you’re addlepated, with marbles rolling around inside your head.

From the description I had been expecting more of an underwater fantasy, but most of it takes place on dry land, in a very real feeling town. The historical aspect was by far stronger than the fantasy world that Jane discovers. New Ile felt a little bit underdeveloped compared to the rest.

It makes sense that the gods of Africans would have an affinity with those who found water in death. From those thrown overboard slave ships to the bodies carelessly disposed of in the rivers of the American south. Jane is a Christian pastor’s daughter though, and she must work to make her father believe. The gods’ world also had some Biblical references. I’m not religious in the slightest, so some of this might have been lost on me.

For the magic to work, Jane must give up memories. The only thing is, the memories she sees are not her own, so she isn’t really giving up anything. Giving up little pieces of yourself is truly a price to pay, but that’s not how it appeared to work. Perhaps it was only Jane who was given memories of her mother, since she hadn’t known her and was desperate to hold onto any tiny scrap.

So while it wasn’t quite what I was expecting, the town of Awenasa won me round. I would recommend to historical fiction fans who don’t mind a bit of magical realism.

Daughter of the Merciful Deep is published by Orbit and is out now in paperback, ebook and audiobook editions. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

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