My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The characters in The Drowning Eyes by Emily Foster are so engaging, their world so compelling, and the book cover art so gorgeous that I feel bad giving this novella only three stars, but the truth is I personally wanted more details and more time in this world with these characters.
The plot finds the crew of the Giggling Goat taking on a new paying customer: an apparently rich young woman who seems to be on the run. What she is running from and where she is running to lead her and the crew she hires on a trip north through a chain of islands. Along the way, I found the world building intriguing but frustratingly sparse. For example, the plot doesn’t give the characters much time to embark on the islands they reach, so there’s not much time for details about these intriguing settings. More details are provided about religion, culture, and class, and there are interesting character conflicts related to these that arise, but in my opinion the swift pace of the work provides little time for the world and its people to coalesce into a satisfying whole.
There’s a creative decision near the end of the story that I like a lot, but the end leaves me confused about what happened. The captain of the ship and where she ends up are particularly confusing to me, especially because I otherwise like the character so much. She seems to be left with just one option, and it is not clear to me why she ended up in this particular circumstance, and what that might say about the larger themes of the story.
What is here in the novella is really good, but I’m left wondering what this story would have looked like as a longer piece with more details and exploration of character backstories and motivations.