The forest is impenetrable. Mortals do not dare enter and the ancient Gods residing within cannot break free. In this stagnant, earthen prison they’ve waited, and one-by-one they’ve suffocated. But when a Leviathan is found slumbering deep inside a mountain and a Priestess’ destiny is fulfilled, her decision between four different fates ricochets through time and leaves a crack in the wall that separates the realms of mortals and Gods.
With this fissure an unlikely web of people have found themselves intertwined.
A pair of golden-colored siblings born with an ancient, forgotten magic in their veins.
A middle-aged Prince dying from the poisoned blood of his family’s false rule.
A Sergeant whose abilities on the battlefield unwittingly released a dark, immortal secret from within himself.
At the core of their improbable alliances is a secret long buried in stone. A secret that could change the bleak landscape of their home back into the fertile land it once was. But every secret has its price, and in order to expose this one time must shift, and one of them will have to die in consequence.
Of Water and Dance is the book that plans to start The Golden Twins series by Leslie Griffin. Just by looking at the cover, you can get an idea that we are going into a really different title, one that goes far from the classic fantasy clichés and that tries to innovate in several ways.
From the start, we are going to appreciate one of the distinctive things in this book, and it is the style of writing. Despite being written in prose, certain fragments adopt a more lyrical narration, especially when we are closer to mystical creatures or Gods, leaving a permanent sensation of being in an oniric part of reality, where divinity is touching humanity in a literal sense.
The first quarter of the book is quite slow regarding pace, as Griffin is trying to introduce a really different fantasy world to others, with a Royal line that is transmitted via mother to daughter, where gods are an active part of how the environment develops, and where a big conflict is rising and could change everything.
Making the best use of different POVs, we are introduced to the different characters that will take a key role in the story, and which are foreshadowed in the first chapter, a sort of prologue that introduces some of the main themes: fate and destiny. Both are really similar concepts, but as Leviathan says «they are not». Bane as one of the main characters is peculiar, as despite having the possibility of ascending to the Throne, he decides to refuse while fighting to restore the real linage and running against the time, as the blood of his family is poisoned, due to the years of false leadership. The Captain is certainly a more mysterious character, as we are almost not given information about it, but whose role is key to the plot. I’m letting talking about the twins the most, as they are probably the most complex and the most difficult to describe characters, but written by Griffin in a really bright way, letting her prose shine the most through the use of really detailed descriptions (à la Tolkien style).
Songs and poems appear throughout the book, serving also as a way to introduce part of the mystical elements of the world, and helping to build cohesive lore meanwhile the story advances, as we as readers lack certain information in the pro of narrative. I have to admit, I’m not a big fan in that regard (again, thanks Tolkien), but it kinda works as they don’t go for too long.
The power of womanhood is constantly explored in the book, while also pointing the unfair disparity between women and men, making even the most powerful female character being reduced to sexualization. As said previously, a royal lineage transmitted via mothers is a rara avis in the genre, and it’s refreshing to see it explored; and in the bigger scale of things, even the basis of the magic tends to adopt this more recurrent theme.
Of Water and Dance is a strong debut novel, an epic fantasy story that brings the spotlight on the power of women. A strong contender for one of my favourite novels of the year, with no doubt, and that you should read.
Leslie Griffin lives with her husband, two small children, and their family dog. When not writing, parenting, or keeping her house from utter chaos, she enjoys time outside gardening and going on adventures with her children. She is passionate about early childhood development and education as well as teaching others about Autism Spectrum Disorder.