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In Great Waters

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  682 ratings  ·  90 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
Paperback, 405 pages
Published October 27th 2009 by Del Rey (first published March 5th 2009)
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3.65  · 
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 ·  682 ratings  ·  90 reviews

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Mar 18, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: historical, fantasy
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
Apr 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
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

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
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
Apr 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Clay Kallam
Jan 28, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: sf-fantasy
“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
Jan 16, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy, read-in-10
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
Jul 17, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
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
What a great read! Combines the best kind of interspecies romance -- piscatorial love -- with all the real issues that would come of that if it ever really happened the way it does in this story. Full of old-school medieval scheming and intrigue, too. Beautifully written for the most part, except the author kept jolting me out of the story by using "him" and "her" in place of "he" or "she." Otherwise the text was almost free of anachronism. Highly, highly recommended.
Apr 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 20, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2009
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
Miss Susan
May 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Nov 16, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jan 11, 2010 rated it liked it
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.
Mar 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book has been on my 'want to read list' ever since I started using Goodreads, because I really loved the first book by Kit Whitfield. I was a bit afraid that it would be a sappy romantic novel (the blub certainly doesn't help) but it's actually a really nice and well crafted story. It is really cool how she made the deepspeople society completely different from the 'landspeople'. The book really reads like it was written for today's society, not ten years ago.
Jul 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Historical mermaids, what could be a better beach read? A surprisingly thoughtful alt history that puts mermaids in the center of European history. Come for the mermaid political drama, stay for the fascinating theological discussion about whether or not mermaids are implicated in original sin.
Feb 11, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition

A good premise bogged down a lot by repetition of ideas. The first half of the book is a real slog as the author goes on and on about the same thing a lot. The second half was very predictable. A disappointing read, considering the interesting concept.
Randi (The Artist Formerly known as Guitar Chick)
Ehhhh. Goes for a nifty alternate history vibe but spends too much time on the history and not on the characters.
Sandy D.
Great world building and court intrigue, but the characters were so unlikable that I didn't care what happened to them.
Let the Switzers be ruled by landsmen, let nations with no sea borders keep their old ways if they wished, but there were navies to maintain, and the deepsmen of the sea were no longer neutral, no longer sailors' yarns, but an engaged force with loyalties of their own. [p. 43]

Europe reimagined, with merfolk -- 'deepsmen' -- in alliance with the nations of dry land. It's set, I think, in Tudor times, several centuries after the first deepsman-landsman hybrid, Angelica, walked up out of the water
Alana Kelly
Jan 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
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.

Dec 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 21, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2012
(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
Nancy Meservier
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
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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.