Thank you to the author for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. The Living Waters is available for purchase now.
I was a little unsure about what I would experience with The Living Waters. It is described as sword-free fantasy, which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Author Dan Fitzgerald defines sword-free fantasy in a fascinating article (found here) and points out that one great thing about fantasy is that it can be “a safe reading space, where peril may be real but wonder predominates”, which is part of what makes The Living Waters so unique.
The book focuses on a trip on a river. Temi and Sylan are two nobles who are there to go on a “roughabout”, which is sort of a pilgrimage that those from their society usually go on prior to marriage. Temi and Sylan are part of a caste system that values extremely pale skin, to the point that they all wear hats and paint to protect their skin from the light of the sun. I found this fascinating because, like most societal expectations, it could be inconvenient. The captain of their ship, Leo, and their protector, Gilea, don’t have these concerns.
Temi and Sylan both have their reasons for going, although I found Sylan’s desire to learn more about the natural world around him to be the more interesting of the two. I loved his curiosity and his appreciation of what he saw, and the book of descriptions about some of the things he sees was such a wonderful way to naturally introduce the reader to a world filled with wonder and beauty.
While there aren’t any sword fights or instances of derring-do, the book was nonetheless fascinating. The relationships were the main focus, although there were still dangers and mysteries to solve, and the way the characters developed both individually and in relation to each other was realistic and engrossing.
The Living Waters was beautiful. It also felt intensely personal, as though the author was showing a little of who he is in his descriptions and his obvious appreciation of nature. The descriptions were amazing, as was the pacing of the book. I felt like I was floating down the river myself. The relationships, the mysterious swirls in the water, and the loveliness of the setting all combined to make The Living Waters a serene and calming read.