Fantasy · historical fiction · Horror

Deep Roots – Ruthanna Emrys

5 Stars

The sequel to the stunning Winter Tide, Deep Roots explores more of Lovecraft’s mythos. Aphra and her confluence are on the trail of a mist-blooded relative and find so much more than they expected.

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Cover from Goodreads

Aphra Marsh, descendant of the People of the Water, has survived Deep One internment camps and made a grudging peace with the government that destroyed her home and exterminated her people on land. Aphra’s journey to rebuild her life and family on land, as she tracks down long-lost relatives on land. She must repopulate Innsmouth or risk seeing it torn down by greedy developers, but as she searches she discovers that people have been going missing. She will have to unravel the mystery or risk seeing her way of life slip away.

Deep Roots wrestles with so many of the things we wrestle with in our own lives, especially when confronted with our loved ones choosing paths we’d rather they didn’t. How do we believe that they haven’t been coerced? When is it right to let someone go, and when do we cling to them and hope they forgive us at the end? When is it right to walk away, to call someone out, or to ask them to reexamine their deeply held beliefs? Now, more than any other time in the last thirty years, many of us find ourselves wrestling with these questions within our own families as political rhetoric threatens to tear us apart by othering each other into separate camps.

One of the myths that Deep Roots tackles isn’t from Lovecraft’s mythos, but rather from current Western society. Emrys shows us that the idea that “One who has been othered, can’t also be othering” is false. I see the sentiments that “I can’t be racist, I’m black” or “I can’t be a lesbophobe, I’m gay” or “I can’t be a misogynist, I’m a woman” or “I can’t be ableist, I’m also part of a marginalized community” pretty frequently. These aren’t true statements, but I hear variations of them all the time. Deep Roots explores how even groups that have been othered can have and hold othering beliefs about groups, cultures and people not their own. This is why intersectional activism is so crucial. Despite their own experiences being discriminated against Aphra and the Deep Ones hold strong beliefs about the Outer Ones that are explicitly called out as offensive within the narrative. Aphra is forced to rexamine her beliefs in order to navigate the situation at hand.

I am SO glad to get more of Aphra, Neko, Audrey, Charlie, Specter, Dawson and Caleb. Emrys writes them so vividly, the time between books felt like missing friends. Deep Roots felt like opening a letter from someone who had gone on a long trip into a remote place without technology.

I am impatiently waiting for my next letter from the Confluence. I can’t wait to see what they get up to next.

Deep Roots is on sale now!

 Thank you to Tor.com for providing me with an eARC in exchange for my honest review. 

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Fantasy · historical fiction

Winter Tide – Ruthanna Emrys

5 Stars

On the recommendation of one of my favorite authors, Seanan McGuire, I picked up Winter Tide by Ruthanna Emrys. I knew little about the story other than it was Lovecraftian, queer and highly recommended. I have read very little Lovecraft, given his reputation for being sexist and racist.

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Cover from Goodreads

Synopsis from Goodreads:

After attacking Devil’s Reef in 1928, the U.S. Government rounded up the people of Innsmouth and took them to the desert, far from their ocean, their Deep One ancestors, and their sleeping god Cthulhu. Only Aphra and Caleb Marsh survived the camps, and they emerged without a past or a future.

The government that stole Aphra’s life now needs her help. FBI agent Ron Spector believes that Communist spies have stolen dangerous magical secrets from Miskatonic University, secrets that could turn the Cold War hot in an instant, and hasten the end of the human race.

Aphra must return to the ruins of her home, gather scraps of her stolen history, and assemble a new family to face the darkness of human nature.

I fell in love with Aphra and her struggle to balance her safety, comfort, sanity and her desire to learn with the pressure that comes from being the last of her kind. She struggles with what she wants and what she is told is her duty to her people. She grapples with doing what is right in the short term, in the long term and what is easy. Aphra struggles with the weight of the future of all the Deep Ones on her shoulders.

 

Ruthanna Emrys paints a poignant picture of what it is to be Other. Aphra and Caleb’s tenuous existence is contrasted with the Japanese and African American experiences and set against the political backdrop of a post-WWII, pre-Cold War America. Aphra and other important characters have the additional barrier of being women to navigate.

Despite the historical setting, Emrys uses a diverse cast, not defaulting to “everyone is white because History!” and making Winter Tide more richly developed because of it.

I listened to Winter Tide on audiobook and found the narrator to be a wonderful additional layer to the story. I certainly appreciated her pronunciation of many of the words that were I to read would mentally come across as “kfslkjf” – Lovecraftian vocabulary is notoriously hard to pronounce.

I am looking forward to the next book in the series, out later this year, Deep Roots and am so glad I picked up Winter Tide.