book review, D W Peach, fantasy

The Ferryman and the Sea Witch by D Wallace Peach

After King Thayne’s navy capture and kill a daughter of the Sea Witch, any ship that seeks to sail the deep waters surrounding the island nation of Brid Clarion is doomed until the king pays his blood debt. All save one, the Windwraith, captained by Callum, the titular ferryman. Due to his act of kindness in attempting to save the captured merrow, Callum is allowed traverse the deep waters, but his boon is more a curse than a blessing.

The Ferryman and the Sea Witch presents an interesting fantasy world, where elemental merrow control the seas, and two kingdoms are paralyzed by their pride.

Thayne, king of Brid Clarion, refuses to pay the blood debt to the Sea Witch, but happily supplies Callum with victims to sacrifice when he crosses the deep. He’s so unscrupulous that one wonders why he didn’t seek to father a child and toss it to the Sea Witch in order to end the embargo on sea travel decades ago.

On the other side of the deep lies Haf Killick, a raft nation of anchored ships rotting away under the brutal leadership of Queen Caspia. Perhaps once her followers were pirates who survived by plundering, but they’re now solely dependent upon Callum’s frequent visits with supplies. Caspia’s vulnerability might make more sense if she didn’t have King Thayne’s son living with her. How or why this scenario came about isn’t explained, but why such a ruthless woman allowed the heir to survive when she could have ended the curse and freed her people is puzzling.

I loved the merrow. In appearance like mermaids, the mercurial spirits are like the personification of the sea itself. Constantly making bargains with the humans, they’re shown to be consistently more patient and merciful than mankind.

Callum is a good, complex character. Despite his initial act of disobedience, he doggedly performs his duty, sacrificing many people as he caters to the whims of Thayne and Caspia. Although he is broken by their orders, he continues to carry them out. His actions brought to mind people who commit atrocities and defend themselves by saying they were told to do it. Completely mentally defeated, he never utilizes his unique ability to his advantage or to find another way out of his predicament.

Daylin, guardian to the Princess, is my second favorite character. Unlike Callum, she is always looking for a different way to do things. I loved that aspect to her character, as well as her selfless nature, and the heroic way she bore her suffering.

While I loved the idea of the island nation of Brid Clarion and the kingdom of old ships, Haf Killick, I would have loved a little more world building to explain how they came about and functioned.

I would have also liked to know why the merrow was captured in the first place, and why Caspia and Thayne waited twenty years to pay the debt. I’m sure they had their reasons, but it wasn’t clear to me why they’d waited. They could have had more children.

The writing flows well, with an almost fairytale quality, and many of the descriptions of the sea and ships are beautiful.

I award The Ferryman and the Sea Witch

8 thoughts on “The Ferryman and the Sea Witch by D Wallace Peach”

  1. Thanks so much for the review, Iseult. What a wonderful surprise to find it here. I actually loved that you were engaged enough to want more backstory. It’s a challenge to know how much to share without slowing down the plot. I’m glad you enjoyed the characters and the writing. Huge thanks for reading! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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