Disclaimer: The author of this book contacted me via my WordPress site and requested a book review. I said sure, but I bought my own copy with my own hard-earned money. So there you go. Consider yourself informed.
The official title of this book is, The Water Travelers: Heir of the Unknown. It’s the first book in a series by first-time author Daniel Waltz (as of this writing, book 2 is available). I don’t know if the concept in this book is unique, but it was unique to me, so I was curious about what kind of story the author was going to tell.
There are worlds beyond this one; worlds magically linked together by water. Those with the gift of water travel can move freely between worlds through any body of water in which they can immerse themselves completely. But one world, Earth, has forgotten the waterways and moved on, replacing magic with technology.
Aaron Archien is a young prince and heir to the throne of the world of Upitar. He only needs to prove his ability to lead his people before he can take his place as ruler. A prophecy exists, claiming that a female from the world of Earth will destroy the waterways and bring about the end of Upitar. The king sends Aaron on a mission to Earth to find and kill the one who would end their world. To complicate matters, Upitar is already under assault from an unknown enemy. Spies are everywhere. And no one knows what their ultimate aim is.
Aaron dutifully accepts his task, but, upon arriving on Earth, he meets an unexpected girl named Madalyne and finds himself putting aside his mission to be with her.
What I came away with:
The Water Travelers seems to be aimed at teen readers, as it should be. The author states on his website that he started writing it in high school. That also means that readers should be prepared for some of the obstacles a very young writer often faces when delivering their freshman effort, such as character choices that sometimes appear to be forced to fit into a plot point, telling instead of showing, some odd stock characters that probably could have been left out, and, I feel like I have to point this out, overuse of the word “joked.” Rein it in! The writing is also somewhat stilted because the author uses a lot of short sentences (relates to the telling vs. showing). However, these are things that experience should allow the writer to easily grow out of.
The author has a crafty imagination, which you need when writing a fantasy. He gives you more than just the standard parallel-worlds fare. There are mysteries in these other worlds, even to the denizens of those places, and he uses both the mysteries and the water-traveling hook to good effect. The plot moves along at what feels like the right pace, and there are enjoyable scenes that take you out of the character’s angsty teen heads and let you enjoy the moment, such as stealing away on a freight train to get into town, or a sudden battle with ice creatures at the top of the world (which world? I won’t say). There is also some good character building for Aaron with a story about his older brother at the beginning of the book. His slightly crazy king/father is well-drawn as well. Beyond that, the plot is also unpredictable for the most part. I really wasn’t sure where it was going and that was absolutely fine. It kept the story fresh and interesting all the way through.
That said, other moments of character development are rushed to move things along. The book starts out from Madalyne’s point of view, but only lasts a couple of pages. I thought the author needed to dig in more and give a deeper sense of the character’s situation and her personality, which would lend more believability to her future actions when Aaron shows up suddenly. The ideas are there, but he only scratches the surface and then moves on. I also thought that Upitar, as the showcase world for the first book (there are many other worlds) needed some additional world-building. When the reader picks up this book, it’s the first time they’re reading about that world, so the author shouldn’t be afraid to take some time to provide those details that bring an extra dimension to the setting.
In the end, I liked this book, not everything, but enough. I liked the two main characters and their plight. I also enjoyed the concept of instantaneous travel by water, which unravels all kinds of possibilities. The author didn’t hesitate to use those possibilities to build up his story, and there are several surprise turns along the way, especially in the last third of the book. The next novel could get quite complicated.
Just keep in mind what you have here: a young person just starting out as a storyteller in the fantasy market. That may not be your thing. For me, I’ve read some junky fan-boy fantasy novels in the self-publishing world (I didn’t bother to review them). While I think this author has some work ahead of him, his novel felt original and, most importantly, it was ultimately about the characters and not the action.
A lot storytellers don’t get that.