Mermaids, pirates and dragons; characters often used in fantasy literature. So how does one take a clichéd idea and turn it into something fresh?
If you are James L Hill, you create a new mythology replete with events so compelling that you will believe this is exactly how it was ‘before’.
First in the Gemstone Series, The Emerald Lady goes back to the swashbuckling era of heroes, heroines, and anti-heroes you love to see squirm when they get what they deserve.
The tale begins on a normal-enough laden ship about to cross the Atlantic; its cargo, timber. Having left too late in the season, it runs into a ferocious storm the likes of which the crew has never encountered and before the night is over there are only two survivors – Jeremy, the first mate, and Jack, a ship’s boy.
Being an honourable young man, who promised Jack’s mother to look after him while at sea, Jeremy makes sure the boy is safe on a raft before he himself loses all hope. But all is not as it seems in his dying moments.
His compassionate efforts have been witnessed by a creature he does not believe in from afar and as he finally lets go, Shera rushes in. All Jeremy sees is a shark about to end his life and heroically refuses to go down without a fight.
Shera has chosen to live a free and solitary life away from Usea Maya, where Rehema, reigns supreme, expecting complete loyalty. When Shera visits home to request aid to return Jeremy to the surface, the answer is ‘no’ and Rehema makes it clear to the assembled mermaids that they must steer clear of human contact and let the sea claim whomever it wishes.
Shera disregards the command and does all she can to save Jeremy’s life, but in so doing brings about consequences that sends three groups into world-changing events. For not only does she ignore the queen, she also inadvertently causes another sea creature’s death and falls in love with Jeremy, a mere human.
Enraged, Rehema curses the lovers and upends all hope of there being a normal world. She begins to manipulate all things as she pleases and considers her right to do so and finally instigates the split a select few have been expecting for centuries.
James’ tone is rich and imaginative, fulfilling the need for excitement. His characters shine in their mesmerizing descriptions, creating an opulent world packed with both beauty and treachery; a world that is both real and fantastic. But let me not give too much away, read it yourself, and discover a new remarkable world that says, when is number two coming out?
I really enjoyed this book, it was hard to put down. Mixing fantasy of mermaids and love and historical fiction was awesome. A different way to picture our history! I truly enjoyed reading this.!
The Emerald Lady is a unique sort of book, combining pirate and American history with mermaid mythology in a unique and detailed counter-factual historical adventure. This story has an evil queen and lovers cruelly ripped apart by a curse, spending a decade searching for each other again. Hill shows a solid knowledge of nautical terminology (don't worry - the first few pages are a bit heavy on it, but it balances out), although even for me with a knowledge of sailing and time on tall ships, it doesn't quite capture the lure of the ocean. Instead, this is a story of mythology and the lust for power. The book gets better as it goes along, with a fast-paced adventure that I couldn't put down. It is a different sort of book to most fantasy, but enjoyable. Oh, and did I mention it has dragons?
Enjoy discovering the history of this world, and don't get too caught up on the random-fantasy-name generator names. It is a solid read.