Genre : Science-Fiction
Publisher : Tor.com
Length : 112 pages
Format : eARC
Rating : 4,5 stars
Publication Date: February 23rd 2021
Gene-edited human clans have scattered throughout the galaxy, adapting themselves to environments as severe as the desert and the sea. Atuale, the daughter of a Sea-Clan lord, sparked a war by choosing her land-dwelling love and rejecting her place among her people. Now her husband and his clan are dying of an incurable plague, and Atuale’s sole hope for finding a cure is to travel off-planet. The one person she can turn to for help is the black-market mercenary known as the World Witch—and Atuale’s former lover. Time, politics, bureaucracy, and her own conflicted desires stand between Atuale and the hope for her adopted clan.
Humans have been engineered to live on planets with severe environments and some of them are now able to live in the sea. Atuale is one of those humans, she was born as the daughter of sea clan lord and she was supposed to be an important political asset for her clan. However, for love, Atuale decided to leave the sea and go live on the land to be with her husband Saareval, a member of the Vo. For twenty years, she has stayed away from the sea but, when the Vo all start dying from an unknown plague, Atuale has to find a solution. And her only hope lies in the sea – and in space.
Sun-Daughters, Sea-Daughters is a retelling of the Little Mermaid but you don’t have to be a fan of Ariel to enjoy this novella. It is indeed a love story about a mermaid who leaves her people to go live on the land but it’s also a tale of love, forgiveness and friendship.
Ogden’s prose is gorgeous and, in about a hundred pages, the author managed to create a lush and fascinating world with complex characters and themes. The richness of the world was almost overwhelming at first – especially when Ogden introduces the different clans and their traditions. However, after a few pages, I got used to the rhythm and the fairytale quality of the story and I was able to fully enjoy it.
The theme of the journey is central to the story: it is first physical, Atuale has to go back to the sea and then travels off-world to find a cure but, this journey it is also emotional. Atuale has to mend her relationship with Yanja and she has to reflect back on difficult decisions she had to make in order to escape from her father’s influence.
The story is focused on Atuale and her past and not on her relationship with Saareval. He’s the reason she’s searching for a cure but the story isn’t really about him. Indeed, the relationship at the heart of the story is the one between Atuale and Yanja. They are former lovers but they are also long-time friends. At least, they were until Atuale left the sea for love. I don’t want to say too much because it’s a novella but they have each other hurt each other quite a bit in the past. And now the faith of Saareval and the Vo rest is in Yanja’s hands. If Atuale wants to find a way to help her husband, both characters will have to have to confront their past mistakes.
Another element that I really enjoyed in Sun-Daughters, Sea-Daughters is how queer it is. Early on in the story we learn that mermaid can change genders when they age – the transition from one gender to another is called a “change”. Since Atuale left the sea and was modified to live with the Vo, she hasn’t changed gender. However, Yanja has changed and he is now male. If Atuale is a bit surprised by the change at first, she quicky accepts Yanja’s choice without questioning her. A change is seen as completely natural in her culture and Yanja clearly says that he is more comfortable with his current body.
Sun-Daughters, Sea-Daughters is an emotional story of love and friendship that blends fairytale and science fiction. The world and the characters were fascinating and I’m amazed by how many interesting themes and ideas Ogden managed to pack into this short novella. It worked well as standalone story but I hope Ogden will revisit this world in the future because I want more! 😀
I received a copy of this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. My thanks to Tor.com and Netgalley for providing me with a review copy.