- Paperback: 374 pages
- Publisher: WordFire Press (December 11, 2015)
- Language: English
- Paperback: $15.99
- Ebook: $5.99
The world as they know it is covered with water. Chachel, a merson, has grown up with limitations left by an attack of a group of manyteeth, sharks, and now he faces another predator, this time a lone hunter. With his friend, a manyarms named Glint, a cuttlefish the size of a man, he evades the shark and spears it up through the neck with a weapon made of polished bone, stronger than metal and enhanced with magic. The shark dying, Chachel spreads a cloaking spell in the water to mask the scent of blood and prevent attack by other predators. Now, his food supply set for the near future, he drags the carcass of the shark back to his lair outside Sandrift, his home village.
As Chachel and Glint travel home, speaking to creatures living in the open ocean and along the reef that led to Sandrift, they pass a gathering of Spralakers, a variety of small, chitin shelled creatures including crabs and prawns. Glint shares insults as he passes the grouping and they continue home. But Chachel spots something in the water. As they investigate, he discovers a person type creature wearing an odd assortment of created items, most unlike anything a merson would wear. It was a demon: a creature who lived in the void above the world and in the heat and tenuous aeyther above. Chachel discovers the creature is alive, female, and, with Glint’s help, they drag the creature back to the village and to Oxothyr, a wise octopoid who has much knowledge and strong magic. The creature struggles and the two hunters realize she is trying to communicate but she seems unable to speak intelligently. Once home and in Oxothyr’s lair, the old octopus uses his magic to transform the demon into a merson, complete with gills to breathe the healthy water of the world below the void. And with that change comes the ability to communicate with mersons and members of their community.
Irina Malakova had been on a day trip into the ocean along the reef for a scuba diving session, but she became separated from her dive group and as she reached the surface, realized she had been left behind. During her dive she had noted the reef had changed from her passage at the beginning of the trip. Any good diver makes note of landmarks along the dive path in order to return to the boat and then to shore. But Irina had noted changes in the reef and the floor of the ocean and surfaced to get her bearings. When she reached open air, she noted the island they had left earlier in the say was nowhere to be seen and the dive boat was not in sight. She sounded her dive horn and set the inflatable bright orange emergency float, as well as setting the oil slick used to permit aircraft to sight a swimmer in the water, and settled down to wait out her rescue. But by the next day she was certain she was somewhere else a rescue party could not see. She had traveled to somewhere outside her own ocean and to another place. Wherever that might be.
And thus begins an unusual journey. Trying to find where she is and how to get home, Irina travels to find the Great Oracle, who Oxothyr says may know how to send her back. Irina discovers the citizens of Sandrift are different than creatures in her home ocean, no matter how much they may look like them and that they are of a human level of intelligence. As they travel to find the Oracle, they discover a new danger to all the citizens of Oshenerth: the Spralakers have joined together into a great army and are planning to destroy every city and village they can find. Now, in the midst of her search for home, Irina must battle armored creatures larger than herself in order to protect herself and her friends as they try to reach the Oracle and get the answers they need.
A master of different cultures and worlds, Alan Dean Foster turns something as known as the undersea community of a coral reef into another planet with alien creatures as intelligent as humans with need and wants appropriate to a waterborne lifestyle. Obviously the first of a series, Foster shows us how these creature live and how they battle, as they move toward their goals and help Irina return home. Only here can you really feel the intelligence we are only now discovering exists in creatures living in our own oceans. An excellent romp in a watery world with much to discover. I look forward to the next installment.