I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Merciless Waters by Rae Knowles
Published by Brigids Gate Press on 14 November 2023
Source: Blog Tour Organisser
Buy on Amazon
The sea never changes. Neither do Lily and Jaq.
Aboard the ship Scylla, there is no future or past. Jaq, her fickle lover Lily, and their all-female crew exist in an endless present. It’s better this way. At least it keeps Lily by Jaq’s side, where she belongs. But the meddling gods care little for Jaq’s longing, and despite her protective rituals, their punishment arrives all the same:
A man, adrift on the open ocean. Delivered to snatch Lily from Jaq’s arms forever.
Jaq knows what to do. She’s lost Lily before. Her lover will return—when this interloper, this distraction, is snuffed out. But Jaq’s murderous schemes may not be enough. The intruder’s presence infects her crew with a plague her spells cannot cure: memory. And as the women recall how they came to Scylla, their minds bend one by one towards revenge.
Including Lily’s. Especially Lily’s.
Now Scylla draws closer to shore, leaving Jaq with an impossible choice. Deny Lily and evoke her ire. Or join her—and possibly lose her for good.
Merciless Waters by Rae Knowles nearly killed me in the most fabulous way. It’s sublime in its creepiness, its sense of obsession and its deeply hypnotic prose. Rae Knowles has become an auto buy author for me as of right now!
Misogyny, toxic friendships, gaslighting, suicide attempt & animal death.
5 Reasons why you should read Merciless Waters
1. It’s gay as fuck…
As a straight white woman, i can’t obviously fully relate to gay stories but it doesn’t stop me trying to seek out these different perspectives. In the same way that I want to read more diversely in 2024, I also want to read more gay stories.
Having diverse characters and stories in literature is crucial for representation. It allows individuals from the LGBTQ+ community to see themselves reflected in stories, fostering a sense of validation and belonging. I want to be apart of that, I see myself as an ally and part of that is highlighting stories such as Merciless Waters by Rae Knowles.
2. A sense of family…
Merciless Waters examines the lives of seven women aboard the ship The Scylla. Captained by Lucinda they travel across the waters of the Adriatic Sea. The women have a mysterious backstory, hinted throughout the opening chapters. The women cannot recall their identity from before Lucinda rescued them.
They all have a shared experience and rely on each other for emotional support. This was probably my favourite aspect of the story – how they all care and look out for each other, a real family connection between the female crew members.
3. The Violence of men…
Whilst sailing the seas of the Adriatic they rescue a man, Reginald, who has become shipwrecked. Immediately Jaq is wary of the man. His story seems to be missing key details They are crew of women, they don’t need an interloper affecting how they do things. Reginald alters the core of the group of women, and witnessing the plot unfold from that point onwards can only be described as experiencing pure, unadulterated feminine rage.
I don’t want to divulge too much but, what Merciless Waters does exceedingly well is the infiltration of a man into a women only space and just how subtle things start to become unravelled. When Jaq’s partner, Lily takes a sexual interest in this man, Jaq vows to extract him from the root.
4. Merciless Waters has an almost brutal poetic prose…
Rae Knowles has created a delicate dance between words, the prose tiptoes along the precipice of poetry,each sentence a carefully crafted stanza. Every moment counts; Knowles doesn’t waste a word; it’s always going somewhere. This is what I love about horror written by women – although the horror is obvious, your journey is steeped in realism.
5. It’s based on the wild sea’s…
Horror stories on the sea have always tapped into something primal in me. I find the idea of the sea terrifying. The vastness of the sea, the potential of something horrific lying in wait – knowing that the sea’s have been explored less than space. Why is that? For me it simply isn’t just about drowning. No, I think there’s far more to fear other than drowning in its icy depths.
Merciless Waters explores the isolation and the vastness of the sea, adding an extra layer of depth into the story of feminine rage. There’s nothing worse than being lost out there – no method of communication, just the inevitability of the end.
credit: William Huddlestone
Merciless Waters is brilliant, vicious and sensitive. A gearstick that pushes higher and higher with every twist and turn.
Rae Knowles is a queer woman who holds a BA in English Language and Literature with a minor in Creative Writing. Her debut novel, The Stradivarius, released May ’23, her sapphic horror novella, Merciless Waters, in November ’23, and her collaboration with April Yates, Lies that Bind, in February ’24. Her short stories have been published widely by publications such as Seize the Press, Dark Matter Ink, and Nosetouch Press. Rae is represented by Laura Williams at Greene & Heaton.