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3 Stars – Review of WATER by Emory Gale

See full issue for 2017 09-18
by Katie Rose Guest Pryal

The Rundown

When eighteen-year-old Cora heads off to summer camp with her younger sister, Bree, she doesn’t realize that the camp’s foxy swim instructor is actually a merman royal guard sent to protect her and bring her back to her father’s kingdom at the bottom of the ocean. For the last ten years, Cora has led a dismal life since the death of her twin sister and abandonment by her father. She has no idea that she is a Mer royal at the center of a massive power struggle for dominance of the world’s oceans. But she will soon find out.


If that description sounds like a stereotypical fantasy setup, that’s because it is—an orphaned child, who doesn’t know her secret genome and the destiny its tied to, discovers her fate, falls in love, and launches on an adventure to save the world. That’s the start of HARRY POTTER, and STAR WARS, too. It’s not a bad way to tell a story (obviously, see HARRY POTTER), if the execution is done well. If it’s done poorly, then the storyline serves merely as a crutch.


Here, in WATER, the stereotypical storyline was one of the few things that held up. The rest—the love story, the hero’s anxieties, the Mer politics—they were harder to believe in. The world-building had strong potential, including the central conflict between the many fantasy species and the possibility of a new path toward peace that hinged on the heroine—but the execution just wasn’t strong enough to support the world or the story.


Too much of the plot depended on characters keeping secrets from one another for no good reason, which meant that the secrets felt like artificial plot devices. There were too many typos for a book to be ready for publication, especially one with so gorgeous a cover. (It’s gorgeous!) At the end, the finale of the book fell flat, ending not with a finale at all, but with exposition. I really wanted to love this book, but I couldn’t.


Childhood traumas, such as the death of a sibling, parental neglect, and parental abandonment are important issues, and I’m glad the book dealt with them. The relationship between the sisters Bree and Cora was the strongest part of the book by far—Bree lit up the page whenever she appeared.

The Recommendation

There aren’t a lot of mer-stories out there, so in many ways WATER felt fresh. If your love of YA fantasy novels allows you to overlook typos and some contrived plot devices, you will enjoy WATER.

The Rating Reviewer Rating: 3 Stars

3 Stars (out of 5): Pretty good. Sure, there were some issues, but it was still worth the read.

The Pros & Cons

Pros: Strong World-Building
Cons: Predictable, Slow in Places, Typos, Very Long

The Links

More about Water on UBR

The Reviewer

Katie Rose Guest Pryal

Katie Rose Guest Pryal is a novelist, journalist, editor, and lawyer living in Chapel Hill, NC. She is the author of the Hollywood Lights Series from Velvet Morning Press: ENTANGLEMENT, LOVE AND ENTROPY, and CHASING CHAOS. She contributes regularly to national publications such as QUARTZ and the CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION.

Visit Katie Rose Guest Pryal‘s website.

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