Watersmeet by Ellen Jensen Abbott YA Novel Review

Title: Watersmeet

Author:  Ellen Jensen Abbott

Publisher:  Marshall Cavendish

ISBN:  978-0761455363

Abisina’s world is dark and compelling, and the way you look determines whether or not you’re accepted by the people of your village.  Abisina is dark, with green eyes, the total opposite of the what is considered socially acceptable.  Judged almost solely on looks, Abisina doesn’t resemble Vran, the blond haired, blue eyed hero who led her people from the mountains to their new land, a larger than life character who is now worshipped like a god.  As a result, she has been shunned her entire life, spit on, kicked, verbally abused.  Abisina’s existence is bleak and brutal, as she struggles to survive on the fringes of a society racked by intolerance, famine,and deadly encounters with centaurs.  Only her mother’s status as the village healer kept her from being abandoned to the elements when she was an infant.

After the citizens riot in her village, their hatred for the outcasts flamed into a night of rage and senseless murder, Abisina is forced to flee, with  her mother’s necklace her only possession.  The necklace was a gift from her father, and Abisina has been told to seek him out in Watersmeet.  The only problem – she has no idea how to get there.  With the help of a reluctant dwarf, Abisina sets out on a journey of danger and self-discovery.  She must learn to overcome the prejudices she has fostered all her life, and also learn that just because someone looks different doesn’t mean that they are evil.

I don’t know what I was expecting when I picked up Watersmeet, but it wasn’t this richly imagined fantasy.  In a world peopled with dwarves, fairies, and centaurs, humans struggle to find a place for themselves.  The Vranians battle other species to dominate and drive them out of the land, while the people of Watersmeet believe that everyone has value and everyone can live together peacefully, for the good of all species.  Abisina is a victim of both her upbringing and her own fears, but at her core, she’s just a lonely girl who wants to be accepted for who she is.  During the course of her journey, she finds the courage to grow and accept others for who and what they are.  This allows them to give her the friendship she is so desperately craving.

If I have one complaint about the book, it would be that I got a little frustrated with Abisina when she stubbornly clung to her judgmental upbringing.  Her run in with a herd of savage centaurs reinforces her fears of them, but once she reaches Watersmeet, she is treated with nothing but kindness and acceptance.  Her inability to do the same, though understandable, soon became grating.  She is often difficult to like, because she is so intolerant, but it is rewarding to follow along as she learns to break free from her narrow worldview.

Watersmeet is a satisfying fantasy about a girl who must look beyond the wall of intolerance she’s trapped in and embrace the differences in those around her.  She must find the courage to stand up for what’s right, and she must battle an ancient evil that has returned to menace the land.  Non-stop excitement keeps the pages turning  in this unique and engrossing fantasy.

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by publisher