By: Dan Fitzgerald
Genre: Sword-free fantasy
Publisher: Shadow Spark Publishing
The Living Waters is my first book by Dan Fitzgerald and I was eager to read his work and it did not disappoint. It is a unique fantasy and beautifully told story. I have seen Mr. Fitzgerald’s many nature photos, and his love for the natural world leaps off the pages. His prose as he describes in detail the organisms in the world he has created, is nothing short of remarkable. Having a degree in Environmental Science, when I read about ecosystems, they must make sense to me. All of what Mr. Fitzgerald writes about the animals and interconnectedness, was so detailed and vivid, I felt as if I was there along with the characters.
The story centers around Sylvan and Temi, who are from wealthy families, though Sylvan’s family has quite a bit more money. They have been sheltered and pampered and come from a society that has odd behaviors about skin color. This was the only part that was a bit confusing. Both wear paint to cover their skin, but how pale one is seemed to be better. The paint protects them from the sun and they use many different colors. Sylvan has a doctorate in the natural sciences and Temi is an artist. They embark on a river journey, called a roughabout, with a man named Leo as their guide and Gilea as their protector. Leo is truly adventurous, often diving into the water to escape the confines of the raft they are on. Gilea, as protectory, watches over Sylvan and Temi. While she does not wield magic, she has a unique power. Through her meditation, she can sense people and how they feel, and she can touch minds with others, sharing their deepest thought and forming a bond. She is a skilled healer as well. Temi and Sylvan would go on this journey, have some adventure before returning to their pampered lives. It becomes complicated when Gilea and Temi develop feelings for each other. It is a beautifully written part of the book. The characters are well developed, and the LBGTQ representation in the book is so important.
Sylvan has a natural science book with him that he uses to identify the many species of animals they encounter. While it was written by a famous naturalist, there are marginal notes that give more accurate information that was added later by another scientist. Mr. Fitzgerald’s details were a field guide to this entire system. They all fit in perfectly with the environment and it all felt organic. Detail like this is very difficult to accomplish. It was not only the animals, but the plant life as well. This is just one detailed example of a fish and note how detailed it is. There are so many examples of the complexity that he pours into each species:
“…they’re said to be much more sensitive to vibration than other fish, and the plates on their head are thought to be some kind of sensory organ. I wonder if the optic nerve somehow connects to those plates as the grow over the eyes, so it can feed by sight alone.” Dan Fitzgerald, The Living Waters
What are the Living Waters? It’s a place that both Leo and Sylvan are eager to find. What resides there? As they traverse the river on the roughabout, the encounter swirls of water that seem to have consciousness. These swirls only pique their curiosity and even more determined to find the living waters. They find the Living Waters along with a humanoid race, the ipsis, that has lived there for generations, hidden from the rest of the population. They are kind and welcoming. The water is living. The swirls are beings that arise from the water in various forms, most taking a human shape. Danger lurks in the Living Waters and the ipsis turn to our four companions for help. There are many twists and turns in the book. The touching of minds was a very important component and it added a nice level of uniqueness to the fantasy. The description of the Living Waters is beautiful-a place I would love to visit.
“The Living Waters” he breathed…dragonflies and half-moon butterflies danced above the grasses, tracing erratic patterns in the gray skies. Splashes, croaks, and high-pitched humming if insects filled the air…brown, green and even blue stickbirds waded silently away…several swirls floated alongside them as they went…the shimmering water formed into a hump, which rose above the surface, thinning into a shape like a staff made entirely of water…” Dan Fitzgerald, The Living Waters
I enjoyed the Living Waters and I think fantasy fans will certainly enjoy it as well. The natural diversity developed by Mr. Fitzgerald is brilliant in its complexity and organic nature. The characters are very well-developed and it’s always wonderful to have LBGTQ representation. The mystery of the Living Waters was beautifully written, and it contrasted with a deeper, deadly mystery. I loved the adventurous spirit of Leo, the scientific nature of Sylvan, reading how Temi goes from a timid young woman to one of strength through her experiences, and finally the tough protector, Gilea, who falls in love with Temi and forms a bond that know will never break. The Living Waters is a wonderful book and I highly recommend it.
Summary (from Storytellers on Tour)
When two painted-faced nobles take a guided raft trip on a muddy river, they expect to rough it for a few weeks before returning to their life of sheltered ease. But when mysterious swirls start appearing in the water, even their seasoned guides get rattled.
The mystery of the swirls lures them on to seek the mythical wetlands known as the Living Waters. They discover a world beyond their imagining, but stranger still are the worlds they find inside their own minds as they are drawn deep into the troubles of this hidden place.
The Living Waters is a sword-free fantasy novel featuring an ethereal love story, meditation magic, and an ancient book with cryptic marginalia.
Find out more about Dan Fitzgerald on his website: https://shadowsparkpub.com/dan-fitzgerald
Purchase The Living Waters here at Barnes and Noble
My thanks to Storytellers on Tour and Dan Fitzgerald for a beautiful copy of the book