Title: Watersmeet
Author: Ellen Jensen Abbott
ISBN: 9780761455363
Pages: 341 pages
Publisher/Date: Marshall Cavendish, c2009.

Next to her, Jorno put a warning hand on her arm. “Be ready to run.”
Abisina spotted a large man throwing himself through the crowd like a fish swimming against the current. “The outcasts!” he screamed. “The cursed outcasts!”
His cry spread, and the crowd rounded on the outcasts. Without a second thought, Abisina was running–vaulting a fence, rushing down a lane. Jorno matched her stride for stride. She glanced back only once as the surging crowd trampled two outcasts who had fallen. She turned and ran for her life. (45-46)

Abisina doesn’t know who her father is, but does know that the only reason she’s alive is that her mother is the village healer. As an outcast due to her darker skin and hair, Abisina is abused by the villagers, not allowed to talk or make eye contact with anyone, and is constantly fearful of being left outside the village wall to be captured by centaurs. When a powerful leader arrives at the village and encourages the persecution of the outcasts, Abisina escapes across the mountains to find her father. She’s aided by an unlikely companion, but what she finds is not what she expects, and danger is following close behind. Will she find help or more heartache in Watersmeet?

Although I’ve never read Lord of the Rings, I’ve seen the movies and I kept comparing aspects of the movies to this book. Abisina has only one thing to guide her in her search for her father, a necklace given to her mother by him. The necklace ends up playing a key role in her search for her father, and a dwarf’s lust for the material it’s made of reminded me of the ring in Lord of the Rings. There’s a major journey, a massive battle between the opposing forces, and each mythical creature has their own prejudices to overcome about some of the other races. The village’s idealization of pale skinned, pale haired, and light eyed people is also reminiscent of the Holocaust, which distracted me from the plot in the beginning.

I’ll be honest, I was never really fully engaged in this book. The pacing was slow as Abisina and her travel companions toiled first north over the mountain to find her father, and then back south over the same mountain range to confront the evil and stop it from spreading and advancing. While I think the author stayed realistic to the setting, I really wish by the end of the book that the plot had progressed at a faster pace, because the climax occurred within the last 20 pages of the book and felt almost anticlimactic. The build-up did not match the resolution, and it was disappointing at how little time was spent on the actual fight. The author left the book open for a sequel in the epilogue, and while some readers might wonder what happens since the “vision of true unity had not yet been realized. . . .” (341), I’ve kind of had enough of the long-winded trail of over the river and through the woods.

Abisina is a likeable enough character, who seems to handle herself in the face of danger but expresses extremes in her emotional outbursts. Her feelings are rightfully complex though, fighting the urge to leave the people who tortured her for her entire life to die at the hands of evil. This evil, called the White Worm, is never really described or explained until the very end, and the vagueness of its origins, powers, and motivations leaves a gaping hole in the narrative. She also struggles with accepting that not all the stereotypes that she has been told throughout her life are true, equating her feelings against centaurs and other mythic creatures to the villager’s feelings against her because of her skin and hair color. It’s a thinly veiled commentary on racism. It’s her resiliency that captures my attention, suffering multiple hardships and twists of fate along the way to her father and never giving up.

The book is eye-catching, with the girl’s only visible eye piercing through the otherwise dark cover. It draws your eye to it almost immediately. The same could be said for the title, which is an equally eye-catching bright blue amongst the yellow and brown hues.