Review: Waiting in the Water

My favorite book in the Enchanted Kingdoms anthology was Crumbling Towers by Anne Stryker. I was so impressed by her innocent and whimsical imagery that I decided to look into some of her other works. From what I've seen on her website, she appears to be very good at starting series, but not at continuing them. She has a number of fantasy series that only contain one or two books each. I selected two of her books to introduce myself to her fantasy realms. One is about faeries, and the other is about mermaids. Though I was going to start with the faery book, Day of Wishes and Wonder, I had trouble opening it on the Kindle Cloud Reader, so I switched to Waiting in the Water instead. Waiting in the Water is the second book in Anne's Beyond the Veil series. It made no references to any earlier story or series of events, so it can easily work as a standalone.

Waiting the Water by Anne Stryker

Waiting in the Water is inspired by "The Little Mermaid," but not based on it. It reads like a gender-bent version of the tragic fairy tale but is very much its own original story as well. The title may sound a little unsettling, but it leans far more toward fantasy than horror. In fact, it possesses several similarities to Barbie in a Mermaid Tale. The protagonist, Asaria, is modern-day surfer girl who feels a close connection to the sea and doesn't understand why. She is unhappy with her life on land because of her abusive family, so it is a dream come true for her when she is rescued by a merman-like creature and given a magic potion by a nefarious squid that turns her into a mermaid. The rest of the book is an enchanting underwater adventure in which Asaria explores the magical kingdom of Ocea as well as the dark waters of her own subconscious.

In general, love books that are short because they grant the opportunity to absorb the entire story in a timely manner. However, I think this book could have benefited from a few extra chapters. Parts of it were confusing or rushed, and it would have been easier to understand the characters' motivations if they had been explained a little better. Yuval comes off as the man of Asaria's dreams right from the get-go, but she gets mad at him later when she learns that he broke the laws of space and time to find her even though his intentions toward her are quite honorable. The sudden shift in her feelings toward him is explained later on when we learn that Asaria suffers from severe anxiety and self-loathing, so it is more likely that she didn't find herself worthy of Yuval's love, which, to be fair, comes on quite strong. Over the course of the book, she discovers her own inner strength and grows into a healthier person, even if that means she can't remain at Yuval's side forever.

The book's glorification of escapism as a coping mechanism reminded me of WandaVision, and I loved it for that. Most people who are fond of faeries and mermaids are at least a little dissatisfied with the real world and wish they had a magical refuge to escape all of their problems. Anne Stryker has an innate understanding of that desire and applies it perfectly to Asaria. Her love of the ocean stems from a desire to escape her awful family. Yet, even in her magical fantasy world with her devoted merman hunk by her side, Asaria must still face her own personal insecurities when the book reaches thrilling climax. I appreciate that it has a hopeful ending in spite of everything and doesn't try take the trite route of revealing it was all a dream or forcing Asaria to give up Yuval forever. The story wraps up in a way that satisfies all possible outcomes.

Waiting in the Water is creative and whimsical adventure that explores the nuances of dreams and escapism. The story can be interpreted as a metaphor for taking control of one's own decisions just as much as it can be enjoyed as an undersea adventure filled with magic and romance. It is a bit rough around the edges in comparison to Crumbling Towers from the Enchanted Kingdoms anthology, but Anne Stryker has a talent for pinpointing the innocence of fantasy and fairy tales that few other authors possess. I look forward to reading more of her magical adventures that combine modern-day philosophies with the innocence of childhood.

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