Book Reviews

Review: Winter Tide by Ruthanna Emrys

We’re human, just a different kind than you.

My favorite part of this book was the aliens. Let me clear something up, our protagonist is not an alien, she keeps telling us how human she is, but the Yith are alien. Winter Tide is a story about Aphra, a woman who, together with her brother, is the last of her human subspecies. The government detained and was responsible for the killing, both indirect and directly, of her whole community. But now they are asking for her help to determine if the Russians, their enemy, have mastered the Yith form of “body snatching”. Aphra decides to help to save the world from war, but also to have the chance to see some of their community’s records in an attempt to make peace with herself.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past few days, it’s to be suspicious of the stories everyone knows.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. It is heavily influence by H.P. Lovecraft and uses some of the same races. That being said, these ‘alien’ humans, and real aliens, were my favorite aspect of the book. For one, the Yith were incredibly fascinating to me. Don’t get me wrong, what they do and the reasons their behavior is tolerated are not so great. They ditch their hosts when there is a situation that is too difficult to deal with and then their host comes back to their body, usually faced with an insurmountable challenge. Yet their actions are pardoned by their intense record keeping which is invaluable. The Yith challenge the boundary of alienness: bringing the alien inside ourselves. Gone is the opposition between us and them, because the Yith violate it, making them a silent danger to us all.

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 my safety.

Additionally, the three subspecies of humans are all fascinating and this is the source of my main empathy with the main protagonist. At first, I could not relate to her and she was difficult to understand. However, when she started talking about her culture and their desire for books, it clicked for me. Their culture is one where writing and record keeping is crucial. Yet because of their ‘dangerous words’ that are used for magic and rituals, they are denied the means to remember their culture, customs, and dead through writing. So for Aphra and her brother, their quest is about remembering, and they find the books not only to reinstate their culture, but to mourn their dead.

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

As I said earlier, it took me a while to empathize with the main protagonist, and the same can be said for the interest of the book. While you would think that the plot would surround the Communist spy angle, the majority of the book is about Aphra’s own mediation with her culture. In reality there are the two plots and because of that, the pacing can be a little off, until you realize what the main plot is (Aphra).

I saw more truly than ever that even a single day, on a single world, can contain both atrocity and kindness, storm-tossed seas and burning deserts.

It took some time for me to get into it, but once I did I was able to enjoy the characters and their journey. The characters, especially the side ones, are all very interesting. What I loved best, was that this book emphasizes our need and the importance of creating our own family. We can create our own relationships and connections: mixes of assorted characters all with their own mistakes and ambitions who come together in loyalty, learning, and caring. You can pre-order this book here (it comes out April 4) or add it to Goodreads.

Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for an honest review from Netgalley.

Let’s Discuss: What is your favorite alien character?

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If you liked this, you might like my review of White Queen.


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