Drowned Country – by Emily Tesh

As I mentioned in its dedicated review, my overall impression of Silver In The Wood was something along the lines of: nice, entertaining, but nothing memorable. So what did I expect from its sequel, Drowned Country? Well, basically more of the same? I just wanted to see how the story moved on.

Title: Drowned Country

Author: Emily Tesh

Publisher: Tor.com

Publication Date: 18 August 2020

Genre: Fantasy Novella

Stand Alone or Series: Second book of the Greenhollow duology

Synopsis: Some time has passed since the events of Silver In The Wood, and something at first not mentioned has apparently soured the idyll between Henry and Tobias; the former is slacking around his now decrepit mansion, the latter keeps himself busy hunting monsters as Mrs. Silver’s assistant. One day, when a young lady is apparently kidnapped by a vampire, Henry is asked to join the hunting team; it looks like your standard rescue mission, however we already know that things are never what they seem. Most importantly, as they deal with supernatural challenges, Henry and Tobias are also forced to face their personal difficulties.

Analysis: Not surprisingly, Drowned Country is stylistically similar to Silver In The Wood. The change of perspective – the third person subjective shifting from Tobias’s to Henry’s point of view – comes with a slight change in tone now a little more brooding where it was previously at peace; unchanged is however the magical, timeless atmosphere that permeates both the prose and the setting. The first half follows a linear plot structure, while the second part jumps back and forward in time, finally allowing us to see the first cracks in the two men’s relationship.

Once again, we are treated with a fantasy adventure that, while competently written, is at its core an obvious excuse to add some substance to an atmospheric but flimsy romantic story. It does provide us with some mystery, some folk reference, and a new sympathetic character in the person of Maud Lindhurst, a spirited young lady who would rather deal with occult forces than behave like her station demands (talking about which, it’s worth noting how social constraints and gender roles are briefly mentioned as a source of narrative drama, but are easily resolved as soon as it’s convenient; once again, the author traits the old-timey society as a mainly aesthetic resource, not as something we should think about too hard).

While the evolving dynamic between Henry and Tobias is surely the main point of interest of the novella, its treatment is somehow odd: since for the first half of the novel we can only vaguely infer that something is wrong, and only much later we get some insight on the issue. To an extend, this builds some suspense, however it also drags too long, making us question the reason of such reticence, and eliciting the reader’s frustration as well as their curiosity.

Conclusions & Recommendations: Drowned Country preserve some of the quaint charm of Silver In The Wood, despite being less focused and more uneven. It’s not a particularly remarkable read, but if you got attached to Tobias and Henry and their world’s general vibe, you’ll probably enjoy meeting them again.

Content Warning: Violence – Death – Kidnapping – Toxic relationship – Sexism

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