Book Review

The Water Crown

I was provided a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The tagline for this book immediately caught my eye: “A world running out of water, kings and queens struggling to control what is left, and a diaspora trying to stop them.”

Sci-fi is not generally a reading genre I gravitate towards, but I couldn’t resist giving The Water Crown by James Suriano a chance. It is an intriguing and fast-paced novel that I struggled to put down. I found this to be a highly enjoyable book and definitely recommend this to both sci-fi fans and those who are not avid readers of this genre.

The story bounces between the perspectives of two very different characters. Zyan is a 10 year-old Bedouin boy in the deserts of Morocco, who is learning the ways of his nomadic people through his father’s actions and stories. Jade St. John is a woman known as an “unconventional,” or person with magical talents, who splits her time between her family estate in South Africa, protected by enchantments set in place by her grandmother, and her secure apartment in Tel Aviv, when she isn’t on assignment for her mysterious employer. Their paths cross when Zyan sees a vision of Jade while he is drawing water at a well one day, thinking that she is a jinn. As the world is drawn into a drought and a crisis over control of dwindling water supplies ensues, the thread connecting Jade and Zyan pulls them closer, while her responsibilities pull her in a different directions. Jade and Zyan realize that the only way they can survive is by working together.

The author has a beautiful way of using description, making me feel as though I could see places I’ve never been to in my life. His descriptions of Africa are lush and picturesque, but I feel that the most vivid descriptions are of the desert scenery in Morocco:

“The night brightened, with a dense layers of stars backlighting the sky while the moon took front stage, turning the browns and oranges of the Sahara into a palate of many grays. Zyan felt reinvigorated by the cool air and the sugary fragrance of a far-off tree or flower that had opened in the welcoming light of the moon and released its sweetness.”

I like reading about the characters as well. Much of Jade’s character development is presented through flashbacks to her childhood, while Zyan’s growth happens throughout the book. He flashes to stories that his father has told him as morals and lessons, and then is presented with choices in the present. I find it especially fascinating to compare how mature Zyan is at 10 years old compared to children in more “advanced” societies. Even as a comparatively responsible and mature 10 year-old, he shows considerable growth throughout the book.

At times, I would get a bit lost in the more sci-fi type descriptions of situations, and would find myself having to go back and read a passage two or three times to get a sense of what the author was trying to convey. Some of the concepts are a bit difficult for me, but as I’ve mentioned, I’m less oriented to sci-fi than other sorts of books. However, I did find this book to be fascinating. The complicated passages aren’t a turn-off in the least. I wanted to grasp the ideas, which is why I went back and re-read them until I understood.

The plot itself is a little complicated, with a lot of moving parts, but it did come together in a way that I didn’t quite see coming. The ending is amazing. I won’t say more than that, other than you should definitely read this book. It is an enthralling novel, with emotional aspects that I definitely did not expect, since the few sci-fi books I have read have been somewhat clinical and detached (think Brave New World).

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