Book review · novel

Book review: Winter Tide

Winter Tide (The Innsmouth Legacy #1), by Ruthanna Emrys

wintertide_finalDescription: (from Macmillan)

After attacking Devil’s Reef in 1928, the U.S. government rounded up the people of Innsmouth and took them to the desert, far from their ocean, their Deep One ancestors, and their sleeping god Cthulhu. Only Aphra and Caleb Marsh survived the camps, and they emerged without a past or a future.
The government that stole Aphra’s life now needs her help. FBI agent Ron Spector believes that Communist spies have stolen dangerous magical secrets from Miskatonic University, secrets that could turn the Cold War hot in an instant, and hasten the end of the human race.
Aphra must return to the ruins of her home, gather scraps of her stolen history, and assemble a new family to face the darkness of human nature.

Expected publication: April 4th 2017, part of the Winter Line-Up.
A review copy (e-galley) of this book was provided by the publisher. Some things might change in the final copy.

I’m not a fan of Lovecraft, mainly because I am one of these persons who just can’t separate the writing and the writer (same goes for art/artist and so on). So if I learn that an author is an awful person I just won’t want to read his writing and if I do, I’ll just keep thinking about it. Which is “sad” because I know Lovecraft created a great world. Even today it keeps inspiring hundreds of writers and artists. For instance the last I read and loved was The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe.

All of this to say that I’m not really an adept of Lovecraft’s writing but I’m super happy that new writers are using his ideas and his world and creating new characters and stories without his racism and misogyny. So in my review I won’t really address the lovecraftian details because I don’t know them from their original source, mainly from new authors re-imagining them.

“No demons. And no dark deals – our people have always been like this. We’re human, just a different kind than you. The people of the water don’t age as the people of the air do.  We change, as we get older, to live out our lives deep in the ocean.”

And what a great job Ruthanna Emrys does with Winter Tide!!
Her main and side characters are the aspect I liked more about the novel. The found family theme is one of my favourite, even more when the cast of characters is diverse like it is here.
First we have Aphra, who is not a human of the air like you and me (if you aren’t a human of the air, sorry for the assumption) but is of the water. She is described as plain, or even ugly for the human of the air’s eyes (I have to say I like that, for once, we do not have a main character who is beautiful and uses her charm to get what she wants. I don’t really mind that, but it’s a change.) Her and her people were rounded up and imprisoned into camps, alongside Japanese Americans during WWII. She and her brother Caleb were the only survivors. That’s where she met the family she now lives with, the most important for this story being Neko, a teenage girl.

“Before you share a room with me,” said Audrey, looking at her hands, “you should know that I’m part inhuman monster.”
“It’s okay,” said Neko. “We’re all monsters here.”

Then there is Charlie (the gay Jewish bookshop owner she works with and teaches her magic to) and the FBI agent who came to ask her for help. There’s also a black woman working for the FBI at the university they have to go to do researches, and some other people they will meet alongside the story, my favourite being Audrey!

“Over two years now since I’d gained my freedom, and above all else it was the scent and touch of printed paper that assured me of safety.”

The fact that the plot and interest of the characters focuses a lot on books, lost books, libraries, restricted libraries and such was also a big plus for me. Most of the novel is set at the Miskatonic University where the team has to do researches on a body theft spell because the US government fears Communists spies have already accessed the knowledge of this spell.

“The books are family too. The only family we still have a chance to rescue.”

I loved how the subjects of consent and sexism were addressed. What a sensible and compassionate person Aphra was. Not always making the best choices of word but always trying to do better and not be too judgemental and forgiving despite the awful things she went through. She’s trying to go forward and not get stuck in the past. With her brother, we can see another way to cope which was interesting. It’s not because two people went through the same awful things that they will react the same way.

“It is probably impossible to describe so truly alien a mind in English. Enochian and R’lyehn have better words for strangeness, for thoughts as cold as space, for memories as deep and dense as magma, for minds that know time as intimately as a childhood home.”

I really wasn’t eager for the book to end because I loved spending time with those characters and in this slightly creepy but interesting world. I wanted to keep searching for answers with them, to break into the library with them, walk into the cold and alongside the ocean with them. To see their bond get deeper and deeper, and even learn more about this hidden world, as passionate and enthousiastic as Audrey was.

“I walked into the water. I raised my arms high to protect the symbols painted on them, though it probably looked like I was being dramatic.”

There is not much action in Winter Tide and it is mostly atmospheric, always feeling cold (focusing on the sea, New England, winter snow and so on) but it has a very engaging world and heart-warming characters. I can’t wait to see more of them and of this re-imagination of the Lovecraftian lore by Emrys, I know I will jump into her following stories with great joy. I’m really looking forward for more! (Announcement: Acquires Two Aphra Marsh Novels from Ruthanna Emrys)

Trigger warning: rape is mentioned, life in the camps described and re-lived through flashbacks

Ruthanna Emrys first wrote the novelette The Litany of Earth and since people kept asking for more it led her to Winter Tide. I haven’t read it yet, but I really plan to!

You can also read excerpts of Winter Tide on, easily found on her profile page (I love authors profiles on their site!) :
Ruthanna Emrys lives in a mysterious manor house in the outskirts of Washington DC with her wife and their large, strange family. She makes home-made vanilla, obsesses about game design, gives unsolicited advice, occasionally attempts to save the world, and blogs sporadically about these things at her Livejournal. Her stories have appeared in a number of venues, including Strange Horizons and Analog.

Update 10/2017: I have won a physical copy of this wonderful book on a twitter giveaway so here are some pictures!

8 thoughts on “Book review: Winter Tide

  1. Tor sent me an ARC of this book unsolicited and I didn’t know what to expect because I had never heard of the game! x)
    I’m not a fan of Lovecraft at all, but I will read books inspired by his world and mythology. As long as the racism is left out of their writing. So I’m glad that you enjoyed this book. I wasn’t sure if I was going to read it because I didn’t ask Tor for it, but I may give it a try sometime. Maybe not before the book releases, though.


    1. Oh I didn’t know there was a game?

      Yeah same, not at all, I’m tired of seeing him so often in SFF discussions and being talked about as a hero with no mention whatsoever of what kind of man he was.
      BUT when I read that someone subverted his world like that I’m totally interested!

      I almost didn’t read it but I read some very nice things about it that I gave it a go and was not disappointed at all 🙂 It’s a slow read and takes some time to really start but I liked it a lot 🙂


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