Samhain Publishing, $5.50, ISBN 978-1-61923-333-1
Fantasy Romance, 2016
I give Jane Kindred some props for injecting some interesting ideas in The Water Thief. It’s rather unfortunate that end result is more like, say, a meal of soggy instant noodles rather than some gourmet pasta dish whipped up by a Michelin star chef.
On paper, the whole thing doesn’t sound too bad. Since he was thirteen, Sebastian Swift was locked up in a loonybin and haunted by nightmares in which he drowns. They told him he was guilty of the murder of his twin sister August, but August’s ghost shows up one day to guide and advise him, so he couldn’t have killed her, right, or she wouldn’t come back to him? He breaks free, meets this guy who shags him and teaches him to survive in the cruel world, and Sebastian learns that he has special powers that are being siphoned away by his guardian. While he is rotting away, the guardian, Emrys, has instituted his heir Macsen (his bastard son) as the heir of all those things that should have been Sebastian’s.
So, for some reason Sebastian and his new friends think that it’s a great idea for him to dress up as a girl and pretend to be sister to visit the evil guardian. Can you guess what happens? Fortunately, Macsen has the hots for “Lady August”, and when he realizes that his father is not stealing magic from a drugged-up befuddled young man in kit gloves – oh no, Daddy hurts a hot boy that he’d like to shag, so Daddy is now evil, when Macsen was enjoying the fruits of his masquerade as Sebastian early on – he decides to help Sebastian. People, this is why you should raise your kids not to be easily swayed by a hot piece of rear end or front end, depending on your kids’ preferences.
Anyway, we have magic, ghosts, and then the author does some… time-travel thing, or maybe it’s an inter-dimensional thing. I have no clue, to be honest. The trouble here is that the author may have a clear idea of her setting in her head, but she didn’t convey that well in her story – I get this impression that she’s making things up as she goes along, and it becomes too obvious that twists abruptly happen when they are most convenient to move the plot. Things get more fantastical and ridiculous as the story progresses, Sebastian becomes more and more of a special, powerful, but oh so vulnerable snowflake, and throughout it all, I’m more bewildered than amused.
And then we have POV hopping from first to third person, some odd and bizarre kind of… thing… where more historical concepts exist alongside modern concepts, and everyone is apparently keeping secrets or trying to cheat the other person, and The Water Thief ends up being a story which comes off as a little too desperate to impress. There are all kinds of narrative gimmicks and tricks here, as if the author was inspired to use all the tricks she’d learned in writing classes in one single story, but so few of them actually work or even make sense. Maybe the author needs to take things easier, go back to basics, and stick to telling a good story the “old fashioned” way with fewer gimmicks and more plot and character development.