Dark Water Daughter Book Review
Updated: Oct 17
Welcome back to Coffee, Book, and Candle! It's been a while, and I'm excited to be back with a review for one of the coolest books I've read this year.
Genre: Adult High Fantasy / Nautical Fantasy
Category: Spooky Read
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RATING: 3.75/5 Stars
Plot: 3.5/5 stars
Characters: 3/5 stars
World: 5/5 stars
"No, hope had no place here."
Dark Water Daughter had its hooks in me from page one, and I would argue it has one of the best first chapters I’ve read all year. I saw someone say in their review that chapter one “slaps you in the face with Pirates of the Caribbean vibes,” and I couldn't agree more.
There are fates worse than death, Mary.
We meet Mary Firth on the gallows, about to pay the price for someone else's crimes. Her only way out is to use the Stormsinger power she's been hiding for most of her life—the ability to call upon and harness storms.
In a sequence that harkens to the gallows scene from Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End, she makes a badass escape. But her secret is out and she's not safe.
As a Stormsinger, I had value. I'd be kept alive. I'd suffer, but I'd live. And while I lived, I could escape–– I couldn't say what I'd escape to, not yet, but that would come.
After escaping imprisonment, she's captured by the notorious pirate Silvanus Lirr. Unwilling to be a slave, Mary bargains with a rival pirate—her magical assistance in exchange for protection. It just so happens he's got a bone to pick with Lirr.
Samuel Rosser, a disgraced naval officer, is also on Lirr's trail. Bringing the pirate to justice would restore his good name and position. But his burdensome magic and Mary stealing a talisman make that job difficult.
As their paths cross numerous times, Mary and Samuel's loyalties are tested, and they are faced with ancient forces that would enslave them all.
For the most part, the story held up after its strong start. I appreciated Long's writing style, action sequences, and balance between plot-driven and character-driven storytelling. I giggled aloud at the banter and nearly cried once. However, the middle lagged and the climax was a touch, well, anticlimactic.
Unfortunately, the weak link was the characters. I liked them, and some of the side characters were as intriguing as the main characters—especially the pirate Mary teams up with (who has a Barbossa from Pirates vibe).
"I enjoy cards, military memoirs, and complicated women."
"Well, we're pirates. I suppose we should act piratical. Mary, you're looking disarming today, would you mind remaining on deck?"
That said, I didn't connect with them emotionally. I hope this changes in book two. Mary has motivation, but not much personality shining through to make her stand out as a FMC.
Samuel is a tad better. We see more of his personality through his connections with others, and his magic is explored in more depth. I like his Commodore Norrington vibe. But I’m still not quite emotionally invested in him—or, by extension, their romance. In fact, I wish there had been more of Mary and Samuel together. So I am looking forward to getting that in the sequel and hope that their characters gain more depth.
The world building is easily my favorite part of this story. I was entranced by the haunting, wintery atmosphere from the very first line, and I fell in love with the magic system.
The various abilities were interesting, and I cannot wait to learn more about them in the next installment. I also admire the way Long explores magic's potential to corrupt or become corrupt.
But what set this world apart is the ghistings—ghost-like creatures from the Other that inhabit the trees of Ghistwold forests and whose wood is used for figureheads. Once attached to a ship, they merge with the vessel and become its protector. Each has a unique form and personality, and I can't wait to see more of them.
Another plus: no massive info dumps to slug through. Long provides additional information on mages, creatures, and the world at large via epigraphs between chapters. She also uses this technique to explore the backstory of two characters. I enjoyed seeing this woven into the narrative and how the past and present came together.
This was a hard book to rate. I love the concept and strong start, but I wanted more character depth and excitement at the end. Luckily, the writing, atmosphere, and worldbuilding were so strong that anything less than three stars feels wrong. I plan to read the next book and would recommend this story to anyone who enjoys fantasy and pirates.
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