The Girl from the Sea by Jessica Rydill. Book review

The Girl from the Sea by Jessica Rydill, Midford Books, 88pp

Review by Stephen Theaker

Aude d’Iforas, swimming naked in the ocean, encounters Yuste and Yuda, twins with psychic powers, destined to be shamans. Their family are Wanderers, supposedly cursed for the crimes of their ancestors. Her own family of Doxan northerners has been banished, far from their home, after a spell she cast went badly wrong. The three teenagers make friends and the twins tell her of a drowned city that lies beneath the waves, called Savorin. Before they know it, a hooded figure with a face of white bone and hollow eyes has risen from the depths and rides a glistening boat towards them, accompanied by a dangerous storm.
The setting for this novella seems to be a low-technology future, as characters are aware of our medieval past, but talk about the centuries of the Great Cold, ride in steam coaches and airships, and are aware of electric lighting and plans to build new railways. They sometimes use German and French words, but currently live in an area, Lefranu, where people speak a language called Franj. Anti-semitism, sexism and racism are still serious problems. For shamans among the Wanderers, gender is said to be fluid, but their women are still expected to seclude themselves during their periods and boys still face circumcision.
It is a prequel to the novels Children of the Shamen and The Glass Mountain (published by Orbit in 2001 and 2002), but there are no barriers to readers new to the series. It uses rather too many semi-colons, sometimes incorrectly in place of commas, but more often in places where a full stop would just be easier on the reader. A second problem is that, after an exciting beginning, we’re two thirds of the way in before anything else really happens. But it ends well, with an exceedingly creepy confrontation, and does feel like a complete story in itself, which is more than can be said for many fantasy and science fiction novels at the moment. Three stars.

It’s currently available on Kindle Unlimited, as well as to buy in ebook and print.