Review of Samantha Mills, “Strange Waters”, Strange Horizons 2 Apr. 2018: Read online. Reviewed by Danielle Maurer.
Every now and then, you find a story that resonates with you on a deep level. “Strange Waters” is that story for me.
“Strange Waters” follows Mika, a fisherwoman from Maelstrom, a place where time flows in the waters off the coast and can transport ships backward and forward through history. Mika is lost in time, desperately sailing the waters to get back to her children, refusing to read anything of the years around her old life so she never loses hope.
The worldbuilding in “Strange Waters” is breathtaking. It’s hard to cram so much into so few words, but Mills gives us a fantastic universe in miniature: Maelstrom and all its variable history, influenced as it is by the knowledge of fisherwomen as they travel. There are tantalizing little drops, like the queen in the early 300s and the oligarchy that forms in the 900s. The worldbuilding even extends to the strange fauna that swim the seas, which Mika harvests for her livelihood as she fights to get back.
Mika herself is empathetic and easy to root for. At its core, the story is about a mother’s love and the lengths she’ll go to for that love, in her determination. So far, in fact, that she becomes one of the most famous fisherwomen, her name recorded numerous times in the history book of Maelstrom. And while she doesn’t get exactly what she wants in the end, it’s enough to satisfy her–and us, the reader.
This one grabbed hold of me early and didn’t let go. I highly recommend it.