A red tide is rising.
As the daughter of one of the mer-king’s trusted advisors, seventeen-year-old Jade has great responsibilities. When her fiancé murders a naiad, plunging the underwater city of Thessalonike into uproar, tensions surge between the mer and the naiads. Jade learns too late that the choices she makes ripple further than she’d ever imagined. And as she fights against the tide of anger in a city that lives for scandal, she discovers danger lurking in every canal, imperiling her family and shattering the ocean’s fragile peace.
Can the city’s divisions be mended before the upwelling of hate rips apart everything Jade loves?
An underwater fantasy about a city of mermaids and naiads, Breakwater takes a contemporary topic and applies it to a different setting. If you haven’t been living under a rock for the last couple of years, you will see the allegorical lines between the book and racial tensions in USA. The king of Thessalonike had provided sanctuary to naiads, but they are not accepted by the populace as a whole. Racial and class differences drive the majority of the plot, in which a privileged noble mer Jade has to decide whether to report her fiance murdering someone and risk open civil war in their city.
In the world of Breakwater, the mers and the naiads are living in a reef in the ocean, protected from the deeper parts and thus essentially corralled into a single city. Travel outside is risky and naiads rarely risk moving out of the city and venturing to other, more favorable places. So, they accept their low status in the city and try to coexist with the mers who treat them like servants and in some cases, expendable. Jade is quite naive in that regard, because she doesn’t see the injustice of it until she gets involved in protecting the naiads, and even then she frequently defaults to worrying more about what the whole ‘scandal’ is doing for her reputation rather than focusing on the fact that, you know, mers are oppressing the naiads. She is not a likeable protagonist in that way, and I was rolling my eyes quite a few times with her, much like the naiad Pippa who has to frequently educate her on the subject.
As for the world, there is nothing much different about it from a standard historical novel set in the Victorian times. The society structure is similar, and the class system is too. For a society of mers that literally can swim in all directions, the city seems awfully confined to traditional land-like houses. Why have walls and courtyards, canals and doors and such in a REEF? It made no sense, and the world-building did not lend to the plot in any manner. And the writing was haphazard, starting with an abrupt introduction and then plunging headlong into the ‘scandal’, devoting half the book to the murder case and Jade’s fashion (of all things).
Overall, as a concept Breakwater is interesting but the book need to be have written/edited better.
Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from Fathom Ink Press, via Netgalley.