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In Great Waters

3.65 of 5 stars 3.65  ·  rating details  ·  502 ratings  ·  77 reviews
During a time of great upheaval, the citizens of Venice make a pact that will change the world. The landsmen of the city broker a treaty with a water-dwelling tribe of deepsmen, cementing the alliance through marriage. The mingling of the two races produces a fresh, peerless strain of royal blood. To protect their shores, other nations make their own partnerships with this ...more
ebook, 544 pages
Published October 27th 2009 by Del Rey (first published January 1st 2009)
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Whistle knows he's not like everyone else. His lungs give out after only a half hour underwater, and his tail is strangely divided. Finally, his mother gives up on him and casts him out onto the land, where a scholar takes him in and tries to civilize him.

This could be an interesting tale (heh) of a fish out of water (heh) with a critique of colonialism and humanism running beneath it. But then we get the explanation of *why* Henry/Whistle is being raised, and to me, the explanation turns this b
Mar 21, 2010 Lightreads rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Not everyone. But you'll know.
Okay, that is a book. It was described to me as “young adult mermaid romance,” and after having read it I am here to tell you only one of those things is true, and that’s the mermaids.

This is alternate history England, where half-bred landsmen/deepsmen are the royal houses of Europe for geopolitical reasons. The book tracks the young lives of the spare English princess and a half-breed child tossed up onto the beach.

I’m not doing this well, I’m making it sound all . . . ordinary. This book isn
“In Great Waters” (Del Rey, $15, 398 pages) starts strong, though Kit Whitfield is as much interested in England’s past as fantasy’s future. This one is set in more or less Elizabethan times, but there’s one big difference: A species of humans called deepsmen live in the ocean, and can interbreed with the land dwellers. For reasons not quite made clear, these deepsmen are so valued that, as soon as they emerge from the waters to hobble about on canes on land (most have tails, but the offspring o ...more
jo mo

A first contact story set in the royal courts of 17th century Europe, a meditation on the meaning of human and animal nature, and a chilly and refreshingly unromantic love story, In Great Waters combines fantasy, science fiction, and historical fiction and grounds them all in two prickly, defensive, quite literally cold-blooded protagonists, Henry and Anne, a human-mermaid hybrid with designs on the English throne and the princess he means to unseat. Along the way it discusses morality, religion
See. Okay. I will admit to picking up this book because I thought it was a romance novel about mermaids. HOW AWESOME WOULD THAT HAVE BEEN? I mean, cracktastic, but also awesome.

What I got instead was better and worse at the same time. Kit Whitfield does an excellent job at world building. I mean, truly excellent. She thinks through implications of things I would never, ever have even thought of. Truly phenomenal. And she's really a brilliant writer as well.

Just. The book was entirely devoid of
I've read 117 pages. The plot is is not uninteresting and the concept is very original, but I dislike the characters. As as reviewer here said, the relationships are devoid of positive emotions. And there is a lot of cold scheming, suspicion and loneliness in the mix that is not my idea of entertainment.
But if you like books in the same line as The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory and do not mind that history has been tampered with by adding merpeople to the royal houses of Europe, this mig
Review originally published here.

Why I Read It: This was the April selection for Calico Reaction's Theme Park book club. You may also have noticed that this isn't actually on my review cue (over on the left). That's because I actually just finished this last night. I bumped it up and decided to review it today because I'd rather review a book club pick while it's still fresh in my mind. :) There will probably be spoilers, so read ahead with caution.

I have to admit, when I first started reading t
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
I loved Whitfield's Benighted and was so excited to read her second book that I pre-ordered it from Amazon. Now I'm wishing I'd waited to get it from the library, or skipped it entirely.

The premise of the book is this: in an alternate-history version of medieval Europe, kings must retain the support of the "deepsmen" (merfolk), such that every country with access to the ocean is ruled by a half-blooded king. Being jealous of their power--in the form of the ability to communicate with the deepsm
A very compelling book and a page turner set in a world where the mixed blood children of "deepsmen" and "landsmen" are "royal", the novel left me a bit mixed at the end. I guess it's ultimately a well written YA book though it has some adult language, but the main teenage characters do not really grow into adulthood until the end and the book should appeal especially to the YA crowd.

Still I loved Ms. Whitefield style and I am willing to read more novels by her, though I would love an epic fant
Oct 20, 2010 Sarah rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fantasy/Historical fiction lovers
Okay,were to begin?
I picked this book up on a whim.I wasn't really expecting much from it, it had just been something to spend up the last bit of money on a giftcard, but isn't that how we find the great ones?

I normally don't like books where the story changes from one lead to another and back again, but Whifield manages it very well. I didn't become bored with Henry or Anne's stories and although I wanted to know what was happening with the other character, I wasn't in a rush to finish the oth
You can also find my review of In Great Waters on my book blog

In Great Waters is a speculative fiction novel set in an alternative Britain where merpeople are real. They are not really like humans: fiercer, more direct, more blunt, essentially, very intelligent animals. They can interbreed with humans. And thus we meet Henry, or rather, Whistle, a crossbreed who is born in the sea and ultimately grows up among humans on land.

I don't want to give too much away. This is a novel where great care is
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Divided into seven parts or 'books', In Great Waters tells the story of an alternate history where the world where the landsman that inhabit the sea (humans) and deepsmen that live in the ocean (merpeople?). Royalty has developed into a mixture of both beings and through marriage spread throughout the continent of Europe and beyond.

It is the story of Princess Anne, princess of England and Henry, a bastard child of a forbidden landsman-deepswoman tryst. As the throne of England becomes more shak
It's a great book by a great author- not a comfortable read as such (though probably more so than Bareback), but one that drew me in. The basic plotline -merpeople exist, the royalty of Europe are descendants of deepsmen and landsmen- is an interesting concept and very well-handled. Whitfield has a great line in the Other, in the ways in which something can be not-human, the way even *people* can be Other, can be animal or alien.

And the Deepsmen aren't human, function differently on a personal
Dec 01, 2009 Carolyn rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: alternate history buffs, merpeople fans, historical fiction aficionados
I loved it! Gritty and realistic - no glossy, slick, cartoony puff-fiction here (not violent/gore/sex explicit either though).

I thought the author portrayed perfectly the total confusion of a mer-child suddenly dumped on land, down to his aversion to sharp angles and corners (which you won't find underwater...) Told from the viewpoints of two characters, Whistle/Henry and Princess Anne, this book has all the politics and drama of good historical fiction (did you like the Other Boelyn Girl?) and
Whitfield cares deeply about the plot and built a fascinating world in which real English history was been subverted by the presence of deepsmen, this story's mermaids. The beginning of the story where a young half-deepsman boy is brought on to land to be raised there is fascinating in its psychological aspect, and the genealogies were well plotted.

Unfortunately the story dragged on too long and felt more like reading a history textbook than a novel. The characters were boring and underdeveloped
MERMAIDS. :DDDD This book does such great mermaids, they're well thought out in their every aspect. The way they think! The fact that their bodies are not designed for land! The deconstruction of the mythic mermaid she does with the Angelica story! The way she handles the question of mermaids and Christianity!

Mermaids! 4 stars

(p.s. excellent worldbuilding, fleshed out characters, Anne is wonderful and brave and Henry's head is so alien I can't help but love him, do not feed me ridiculousness abo
I can tell that the author has thought long and hard about how it would be if merfolk and humans had intermingled and what cultural consequences would result. I was hoping for something more beautiful and less grotesque. I think that she has well-thought-out reasons for the deformities and quirks of her characters. She details the emergence of a young boy from the mer-culture into human society in exquisite detail. However, I never found someone to really root for in the book. The characters wer ...more
This is an alternative history of the English monarchy in which merfolk are real. This book was odd; I picked it up on a whim because of the mermaid angle. Interesting enough to finish, but not something I will read again.
Kristina Wojtaszek
It's not often that I tag a book both as fantasy-fiction and historical-fiction, but maybe I should look for more of these, with history altered by the fantastical. Polished political intrigue is the highlight of this book, but because the characters are so true to themselves, you won't get lost in politics alone. And the mermaid element is the best I've come across so far-- it is the most biologically believable because the "deepsmen," while intelligent, are more animal-like in the way they liv ...more
The concept and worldbuilding here are actually every bit as brilliant as Wealhtheow's review suggests. (Basically, it's early modern Europe, and every throne on land is held by half-human, half-merpeople hybrids, because the mer-people figured out they control the shipping lanes.) Both viewpoint characters are vividly drawn and, what's often harder, ethically coherent. I love that Anne, the princess scion, is a devout and thoughtful young Christian, and equally that Henry, the boy from the sea, ...more
K. Bird
Don't be fooled by the cover, this is no little mermaid story at all. Following the twin narratives of Henry (a half deepsman/half human orphan found abandoned on the beach) and Anne (a part deepsman/part human princess in England), this story is more a political history of an alternative world where because of the presence of sentient deepsman in the oceans, the kings of the European countries are all part deepsman so to ensure the ocean tribes' loyalty.

Henry is a threat to the throne of Englan
Chrissy Wissler
You think you know intrigue and the political games courtiers play in order to become kings, "In Great Waters" takes that tried-and-true convention and turns it inside out.

In this new Earth that's populated with deepsman who guard the waters, they have brokered treaties with the landsmen, sealing them through marriage. All countries who border waters have royals with deepsman blood ties. Any dalliance with a deepswoman outsides a nation's royals is punishable by death. Any "bastard" child is bur
(originally reviewed on Starmetal Oak Reviews)

In Great Waters is the first book I have read that takes a mythical creature – the mermaid – and develops a world and story around it. Whitfield places her story in an alternate English history, probably around Renaissance times. Her monarchs are incongruously named (William, Edward, Philip) and even someone as myself who tends to recognize English monarchy from reading a lot of historical fiction had a hard time pinpointing them – I don’t think the
A literary fantasy novel, though more literary than fantasy, and published and marketed as a literary novel. In the world of In Great Waters, the kings and queens of Europe are descended from Angelica, a deepsman woman who walked out of the sea at Venice, rallied the deepsmen infesting the city to defend it from a French invading force, and was subsequently offered the Venetian crown. Much like Queen Victoria, Angelica's offspring have now married into all the royal families of Europe, but by a ...more
Alana Kelly
As the summary explains, this book is about two main characters; Anne, daughter of the king, and Henry, a bastard who has to hide out of fear of being burned at the stake. I should point out that I think the blurb for this book is over-dramatized. The line “Yet even a pawn may checkmate a king” is complete crap in my opinion and I think it’s unnecessary. This story is more about the character development of these two people (with a crapload of introspection) rather then a political intrigue.

Nancy O'Toole
Whistle is a Deepsman (merman) living off the coast of an alternate Europe. His small stature makes the survival of the fittest lifestyle of the ocean a challenge, and his dual fins mark him as a stranger. When his mother abandons him on the beach, Whistle is taken in by an Englishman who calls him Henry and explains that he is actually half Landsman (human). Being half Deepsman is a dangerous position, as only the Kings and Queens of England are allowed to possess both Deepsman and Landsman blo ...more
The premise: ganked from During a time of great upheaval, the citizens of Venice make a pact that will change the world. The landsmen of the city broker a treaty with a water-dwelling tribe of deepsmen, cementing the alliance through marriage. The mingling of the two races produces a fresh, peerless strain of royal blood. To protect their shores, other nations make their own partnerships with this new breed–and then, jealous of their power, ban any further unions between the two peoples. ...more
Jill Heather
Kit Whitfield's second book is in many ways better than her first, but lacks the heart that the first book has.

Years before the start of the book, a half-mermaid (the word is actually not used in the book) walked out of the sea and took over Venice. Over the years, her descendants have taken over all the (non-landlocked) countries in Europe. Anne is the second daughter of the English King, and more mermaid-coloured than human. Henry is also half-human, the son of a sailor and a mermaid, too wea
In Great Waters is an interesting fantastical alternate history story, where the existence of merpeople, called deepsmen, has changed European politics. The deepsmen are not the cute kind usual to children’s stories, but are a territorial people who live violent, often short, lives. The detail given to developing the deepsman society and their effects on strengthened the story, though their exact role in society stretched credulity in some ways. I most enjoyed the story of the early life of the ...more
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  • The Secret of the Emerald Sea
  • Siren's Call (Dark Tides #1)
  • Merrow
  • The Mermaid's Pendant
  • Beyond the Sea (Shades of the Sea, #1)
  • Fins
  • Ascension (Water, #1)
  • Mermaid Park
  • Siren's Storm (Siren's Storm, #1)
  • The Forbidden Sea
  • The Last Mermaid
  • Antara (Antara, #1)
  • Seven Tears Into the Sea
  • Hannah (Daughters of the Sea, #1)
  • Selina Penaluna
  • When, At Last, He Found Me (Memoir of a Mermaid, #1)
  • Lure (Siren's Call, #1)
  • Between the Land and the Sea (Marina's Tales, #1)
Kit Whitfield grew up in London. In her time, she has trained as a chef and a masseur, as well as working as a website editor, quote hunter, toy shop assistant and publisher.
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