Review | The Living Waters – Dan Fitzgerald

About the Book

Wonder swirls beneath murky water. 

When two painted-faced nobles take a guided raft trip on a muddy river, they expect to rough it for a few weeks before returning to their life of sheltered ease. But when mysterious swirls start appearing in the water, even their seasoned guides get rattled. 

The mystery of the swirls lures them on to the mythical wetlands known as the Living Waters. They discover a world beyond their imagining, but stranger still are the worlds they find inside their own minds as they are drawn deep into the troubles of this hidden place. 

The Living Waters is a sword-free fantasy novel featuring an ethereal love story, meditation magic, and an ancient book with cryptic marginalia. It is the first book in the Weirdwater Confluence duology; the second book, The Isle of a Thousand Worlds, comes out January 15, 2022.

300 pages (ebook)
Published on October 15, 2021
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I write “sword-free fantasy”. I also write fantasy that deeply explores relationships and the human condition. It’s my jam. So when this book came across my radar, I knew I had to read it. It’s right up my alley. Fantasy minus the violence, an exploration of the human condition and the fluid, changing nature of relationships is what I’m here for. Sometimes I want something a little softer to read. That being said, I think to say this book is “soft” is misbranding it a bit. A book doesn’t have to have swords to be something that impacts you powerfully. I, by far, find personal stories like this to be more captivating than many other stories. Empires rising and falling are great, but the real meat on the bones of any story I read is with the characters’ personal journeys. 

The Living Waters was one of those books that filled me with an infectious sense of wonder. In fact, when I think of my experience reading this book, I realize the overall feeling I’m left with is that very same wonder. Fitzgerald writes with a deep appreciation for the natural world, the awe and majesty of it, and its magic. There were times when he dipped his toes into the waters of lyrical prose (which I freaking love) and the world itself came alive with his vibrant descriptions. A few well-placed words, some poetry-lined sentences, and we have a landscape that felt so real, I lived in it. 

At the core, this book is about the relationship between man and nature, and between man and their fellow man. There’s a lot of relationships in this book, different kinds of them that take different shapes, explore different things, and pull on different emotions. Fitzgerald put a lot of thought into just how he wanted to explore these relationships, and it really pays off with a dynamic book that was both unexpected and extremely thought provoking. Add his careful prose to the mix, and you have a book that is almost hypnotic, it’s so good. Gentle, and yet not, because there is pain here as well, and some mystery. There are moments of inner struggle and emotional turmoil, and yet I never once lost my trust in the author, that he would see me through to the end. We’d arrive on the other shore, safe. 

The characters are well fleshed out and three-dimensional, even the secondary characters impressed me. The social strata, and the way it is structured was extremely interesting, and a very empathic exploration of what truly divides us as people. With characters on opposite ends of the social ladder, readers get a good perspective of the dynamic spread of this society, and how it has structured itself. Add in the poignant emotional notes and that pervasive sense of wonder, and you have something special on your hands. 

In a lot of ways, I felt a very unexpected kinship to this book, because it reminded me so much of some of what I was trying to do with my own Songs of Sefate series, and what I try to do with all the fantasy I write. In fact, I will go so far as to say, this might be the first time I’ve ever read a book and thought, “Whatever genre this is, its pretty close to the genre I write.” And you know, I can’t answer what genre this is. Sword-free fantasy works, but I feel like that’s too limiting a term. This is more of an exploration of the inner landscape, which is mirrored in the outer landscape, and I just absolutely love this sort of thing. It’s full of metaphor and meaning, with a macro-level look at characters and their development, how relationships in their numerous forms impact not just those immediately involved but spread outward and have the potential to impact the very world itself. 

This is my first Dan Fitzgerald book, but it won’t be my last. I look forward to seeing where the next book takes us. The Living Waters came to me at a time when I really needed to read something like this, something a bit more meditative, perhaps. Something that works on a deeper level. Less flash-bang, and more a slowly unfolding story about what it means to be human and and the ripple-effect of relationships. 

5/5 stars