Mermaids, court intrigue, and dashing queer heroes who are not Captain Jack Harkness have popped up on my radar this week.
In Great Waters by Kit Whitfield
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. Dalliance with a deepswoman becomes punishable by death. Any “bastard” child must be destroyed.
This is an Earth where the legends of the deep are true–where the people of the ocean are as real and as dangerous as the people of the land. This is the world of intrigue and betrayal that Kit Whitfield brings to life in an unforgettable alternate history: the tale of Anne, the youngest princess of a faltering England, struggling to survive in a troubled court, and Henry, a bastard abandoned on the shore to face his bewildering destiny, finding himself a pawn in a game he does not understand.
Yet even a pawn may checkmate a king.
A young English princess struggles against royal Italian mermaids? This is the sort of fantastical alternate history that is just made to blow my mind. To go a little deeper, I like court intrigue, and I like it even better when the stakes are phenomenally high. I’ve also read scant novels about mermaids as a serious fantastical race. Not only does it make it fresh for me, but it gives Whitfield greater room to play around in. Hopefully, this will marry two genres I love–historical fiction and fantasy, heavier on the historical fiction.
In Strange Waters was released on October 27.
Strange Fortune by Josh Lanyon
Valentine Strange, late of his Majesty’s 21st Benhali Lancers, needs money. Happily, the wealthy Holy Orders of Harappu are desperate to retrieve the diadem of the Goddess Purya from an ancient temple deep in the mountainous jungle—an area Strange knows well from his days quelling rebellions. The pay is too good and the job seems too easy for Strange to refuse. But when Master Aleister Grimshaw, a dangerous witch from a traitorous lineage, joins the expedition, Strange begins to suspect that more is at stake than the retrieval of a mere relic.
Grimshaw knows an ancient evil surrounds the diadem— the same evil once hunted him and still haunts his mind. However, experience has taught him to keep his suspicions to himself or risk being denounced as a madman. Again.
Harried by curses, bandits and unnatural creatures, Strange and Grimshaw plunge onward. But when a demonic power wakes and the civilized world descends into revolution, their tenuous friendship is threatened as each man must face the destruction of the life he has known.
Quick, name a queer speculative fiction character off the top of your head. If the only answers you can come up with are Torchwood characters, then you understand how I feel. There’s just not that many, are there? Besides the draw of having a dashing, queer main character (Strange is bisexual), I’m also interested in the fact that it’s set in a colonist India analogue, a setting I haven’t spent too much time with. Grimshaw, as a male witch, intrigues me, and what a name–Aleister Grimshaw. Gives me shivers up the spine. The evil diadem sounds like a fun McGuffin, and the epic nature the story will take on interests me. I’m definitely giving this a read.
The only review for Strange Fortune available at the moment is from Publishers Weekly, where I caught wind of it. It approves of Lanyon’s blend of romance, adventure, and fantasy in Strange Fortune, which I find to be a good omen… although I’m going to read it anyway!
Strange Fortune will be released on December 1.