3.5 8
by Ellen Jensen Abbott

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In this YA fantasy, a teenage girl confronts prejudice, war, and family secrets  See more details below


In this YA fantasy, a teenage girl confronts prejudice, war, and family secrets

Editorial Reviews

Ellen Jensen Abbott's story is a satisfying, well-crafted fantasy yarn. You'll recognize many mythic creatures throughout the adventure: dwarves, fauns, centuars, hags, trolls and fairies. At its simplest, this is a quest tale, and so if you're at all familiar with the fantasy genre, you will settle quickly into this story and world that Ellen Jensen Abbott creates. I felt straight away that there was something old-fashioned about the tone and the characters - and I'm talking old-fashioned in a good way. About a chapter in, I was thinking, "Oh good, this is exactly what I was hoping for." Perhaps it's the way that Ellen has so convincingly drawn for the reader the societies she has imagined. Vranille is a miserable place, and you know it from the start. Watersmeet is full of magic and wonder. There is always enough attention to setting and environment to allow you to be right there with Abisina as she moves from one new experience to the next. In addition, Ellen makes clear the social and cultural differences among the various creatures and communities, from their different rituals to their unique types of music and stories and legends. This differentiation helped to make the whole reading experience that much richer, and made Watersmeet feel all the more exotic and real.

It's certainly a coming-of-age story, as Abisina faces challenges on the way to discovering her family and her future path. She's a tough cookie, and although hers is a world full of magic and violence and strange creatures, I don't think that will prevent readers from connecting to the way she struggles to discover who she is, and what she is meant to do. I can see Watersmeet working beautifully in theclassroom, because it offers complex exploration of many discussion-worthy themes: unity and conflict, prejudice and power, evil and forgiveness and family. Just in case you can't figure out exactly how to take it into the classroom, have no fear! Ellen Jensen Abbott provides some of the best looking Teachers' Guides I've ever seen. Honest. If you don't find her suggestions inspiring, you're in the wrong job. You don't have to do a thing (other than buy the books and hand them to your students). Can you tell Ellen is an English teacher? Lucky kids.
Library Media Connection
The first part of this fantasy novel relates Abisina's life as an outcast in her village. Saved from death by her mother's healing abilities and her own green eyes, Abisina is the opposite of the village's view of purity and beauty. When the village is called to war, Abisina only has her mother's last directions to lead her. She must go to Watersmeet and find her father. The next part of the novel chronicles her journey with a dwarf named Haret where many of her views of the non-human world are challenged. The final part covers Abisina meeting her father and discovering surprising secrets about him. As a debut fantasy novel, the story explores some familiar ground with new touches. The author tends to tell the reader rather than showing in some circumstances, but the readers will forgive this point, because the novel flows so well. Abisina is a strong female character, which is commonplace in teen fantasy, but her prejudices give her a realistic flaw making the novel a good discussion starter on prejudices in real life. Fantasy readers will enjoy this new author's work. Recommended.
School Library Journal
From birth Abisina has been an outcast because she doesn't have light skin, blond hair, and blue eyes. Only her mother's status as Vranille's only healer has saved the 14-year-old from being abandoned outside the village walls, prey to centaurs, dwarves, and worse. The arrival of the long-awaited Charach, the Deliverer, is a disaster. He incites the community to slaughter the outcasts, Abisina's mother is killed, and the teen barely escapes. Armed with her mother's necklace and not much else, the girl heads off to find Watersmeet, and, hopefully, her father. She encounters a plethora of otherworldly creatures, becomes the reluctant traveling companion of a dwarf, loses a toe to evil centaurs, and finally makes it to Watersmeet, where creatures of all kinds live in harmony. She meets her father, who is much more than she could have ever imagined, and reluctantly participates in the battle to save the world from Charach. While there isn't anything particularly new here, this book has a positive message of tolerance and acceptance, and the ending, while abrupt, is ultimately satisfying and leaves the door open for a sequel.
Children's Literature - Allison Fetters
When Abisina is forced to leave Vranville, the home where she has always been known as an outcast, she finds herself on an adventure in search of her father that challenges every ounce of her physical, mental, and emotional strength. In the company of Haret, a dwarf who becomes her travel companion, she begins to question some of the preconceived notions she had developed from early childhood and begins to move away from the narrow-minded ways of the Vranians. When Abisina and Haret reach their goal, Watersmeet, they are met with open arms by a place and group of inhabitants that accept all who wish to live in harmony with one another. Though it seems that Abisina's worries will be over when she finds her father, she is faced with one of the biggest decisions ever made as she fights to overcome the biggest obstacle in her mind and level of acceptance. A novel in which one is met with good and evil and prejudice of all types, Watersmeet is an exciting page-turner that is difficult to put down. Reviewer: Allison Fetters
VOYA - Lynne Farrell Stover
Abisina, a green-eyed outcast, has been shunned for all of her fourteen years and is only alive because her mother is the village healer. When a charismatic new leader incites the violent slaughter of all misfits, Abisina escapes and her quest to find her unknown father begins. Injured and weak, she is nursed back to health by the loving dwarf, Hoysta. It is while recuperating in the dwarf's underground home that Abisina learns she has her own prejudices to overcome. Armed with a magical necklace and a few cryptic statements from her dying mother, Abisina and Hoysta's grandson set out in search of the legendary Watersmeet. Here they find Abisina's heroic father who is the leader of a blissful community where fauns, fairies, centaurs, and humans live in harmony. This idealistic way of life is soon threatened by an invading army of trolls, hags, and minotaurs, led by the ruthless being responsible for the death of Abisina's mother. An easy-to-read fantasy with a female protagonist, this book presents themes of intolerance and discrimination that can find counterparts in current cultural clashes. The story's action, adventure, and attention to detail usually override the author's heavy-handed message of acceptance over bigotry. Even though the contrived collusion, which came about exceptionally quickly, resolved all problems, it would be interesting to revisit Abisina's world to see how it is faring. This would be an excellent companion book for Avi's Crispin: The Cross of Lead (Hyperion, 2002/VOYA June 2002). Reviewer: Lynne Farrell Stover
Kirkus Reviews
Message trumps storytelling in this earnest fantasy quest. Abisinia's dark coloring has incited 14 years of persecution from her fanatically xenophobic people. When a new leader inflames the Vranians to slaughter their Outcasts, Abisinia barely escapes to seek the father she never knew. Her search leads her to ally reluctantly with a dwarf, escape murderous centaurs and discover nascent supernatural powers. She will encounter her greatest challenge, however, at the legendary town of Watersmeet: overcoming her own prejudice and anger. Tolerance is a noble theme, evoked here through scenes of grim horror and homely charm, but worthy didacticism cannot substitute for coherent narrative, credible world-building or nuanced characterization. Assorted magical beings and myths are tossed together in a fantastic mishmash, without any apparent system. The Vranians are so appalling in their vicious religious fervor, the folk of Watersmeet so unfailingly gracious and wise, it's hard to imagine any worthwhile destiny bridging both cultures. Abisinia hardly seems up to the responsibility; self-centered, judgmental and clingy, her prophesied role seems based more on genetics than any inherent strength of character. Well-meaning but deeply flawed. (Fantasy. YA)

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Product Details

Amazon Childrens Publishing
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.48(w) x 8.64(h) x 1.39(d)
780L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 16 Years

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The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

As a dark-skinned girl born to a blond Vranian mother, with no father in sight, Abisina has been an outcast her whole life. When a religious leader visits her village and instigates a pogrom against outcasts, dwarves, elves, and centaurs, Abisina's mother is killed, and Abisina runs for her life, keeping only her mother's necklace and vague directions to her father's home, Watermseet. Along the way, she is joined by a dwarf named Haret, who has his own reasons for wanting to go to Watersmeet. Though harrowing encounters with centaurs who wear human toes as trophies heighten the drama, it is Abisina's satisfying emotional quest to understand the dual nature of her own identity that drives this narrative. Her joy over meeting her father is tempered by her loathing for the centaurs who are his friends as well as deep ambivalence about her father's ability to shape-shift from man to centaur at will. As Abisina and Haret join the folk of Watersmeet in a war to reclaim the land from the religious ruler who began the pogrom in her village, Abisina begins to accept and understand her dual nature as a child of both Vranian and Watersmeet descent. The relationship between Abisina and Haret is warm and engaging, and the dialogue between them cleverly captures the slow development of their camaraderie, as they move from competitive banter to steadfast alliance. Fans of Ursula Le Guin's character-driven fantasies will enjoy this story of Abisina's quest to unify both her divided country and her divided self; an epilogue hints toward a sequel.

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Watersmeet 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
SoManyBookSoLittleTime More than 1 year ago
What a great read! Abisina, Harat, and Reushlan are all fully realized characters. The supporting characters and even villains are complex. I loved that Abisina was both defiant and all too willing to believe what others had said about her. That her father both fails her and saves her rings true for all of us who have to grow up without our fathers. What I loved more than anything though was that her mother's love reached out and lifted her beyond what everyone else had said about her as an outcaste. Isn't that what we want from our mother's love, to sustain us when all else fails? This is a well written book with a fully realized world and a plot that moves at a briskly thoughtful pace. By that I mean, character and setting don't get lost in the journey, nor does their development slow down the pace of book. Indeed all elements of this book work together. There are dark and even a few gruesome moments, an excellently realized battle, and moments of great joy and peace. I was left wanting to know what would happen next in Vran and in Watersmeet. After I finished the book my own mind spun out several possible scenarios for the next book which for me is always proof of a thoroughly satisfying read. I look forward to the next installment.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
W-A-T-E-R-S-M-E-E-T. The word easily rolls off my tongue. The cover with the picture of the girl caught my attention first. She has the look of a scared, caged animal. I want to know what Watersmeet is. As I usually do with fantasy books, I dove into this book with gusto. Any book that can keep me interested from beginning to end and not drag is a good thing..... First time novelist Ellen Jensen Abbott has impressed me with her book, WATERSMEET. There are many forms of prejudice in Vranille. Every day it is a fight for survival for Abisina. Shunned constantly and roughly pushed aside by others, Abisina is an outcast just because of how she looks. The worst thing about being an outcast is the all-consuming loneliness she felt on an everyday basis. There's always a fight for food and no one, unless they were an outcast themselves, is allowed to talk to her. The only thing that kept her alive was her mother, who was the village healer. Things are about to go from bad to worse for Abisina. Someone other than her mother is about to come into power, meaning bad news for all outcasts. Forced to flee, she heads to Watersmeet for help in the form of her father, a man she has never known. Along the way, she sees fauns, has a run-in with centaurs, eats a poisonous mushroom to save herself, faces minataurs, and has the courage to continue on. Will Watersmeet be her salvation or her downfall? The teacher in me came out as I was reading this book - you can easily make comparisons between this fantasy world and the real world we live in. How many times have people in this world faced prejudice, violence, and oppression, all because they were different than the ideal that society has imposed? Remember the Holocaust and Hitler? I saw many similarities between Charach and Hitler. Both were very charismatic leaders and no one saw the evil side of them until it was too late. You can do a lot of interesting activities in the classroom with this book. Abisina changes a lot in the course of this story. There were many challenges she faced that brought upon these changes. First and foremost, and probably the most important, is that she had to look at the prejudices in herself. Once that was done, she became more forgiving, accepting, and tolerant. This, of course, is crucial if she wants to continue the legacy of Vigor. Does that mean we will see more of Abisina in the future? I certainly hope so.
acornucopiaoflove More than 1 year ago
It seems that lately I've been reading books in which some (or all) of the plot involves the subject of prejudice. Watersmeet was no exception. The lead character, Abisina, experiences it on a daily basis. Why, you may ask? It's because her dark hair and skin keep her from embodying the image of Vran (the man who spread his settlement into free territory and cast out the "monsters"). So, Abisina is treated as an outcast, her only refuge is her mother, the village healer. While her life certainly isn't desirable, it is bareable. Until one night she is forced to flee her village, leaving her mother behind. What I enjoyed most about this book (a 2009 debut) was the growth of the heroine. At the start of the book, Abisina hates "monsters", even though she has been treated as one throughout her life. A great example of this is shown by her relationship with Hoysta, a dwarf. Despite that fact that Hoysta nursed her back to health, Abisina still fears her. Over the course of the novel, however, Abisina is forced to confront the ideas she's been taught, and think of what loyalty and acceptance truely mean to her. Eventually she comes to the realization that not every non-human can be labelled "bad", just like every Vranian can't be called "good". Abbott's debut was an interesting read. There were times when I loathed Abisina for her callous treatment of non-human creatures, and other times I felt her fear (i.e when rogue centaurs are on the hunt). I think that may be why I liked the book so much. I was able to connect with the characters because they were flawed. I'm looking forward to the sequel, and can't wait to read more from this author.
ABookVacation More than 1 year ago
This is one of those novels that I definitely think our young adult population should be reading as it addresses many important issues, such as discrimination, bullying, tolerance, and forgiveness. I certainly don’t expect to come across such phenomenal themes when I pick up a novel, but that’s exactly what I got in Abbott’s Watersmeet, and I really enjoyed it. Abisina has had a very hard life, and yet, for the most part, she is relatively normal. I would think that someone who goes through as much as she does, being outcast, jeered at, and occasionally beaten, would not only hate those who treat her so unfairly, but also hate the world. Abisina is a much stronger person than I am, because I don’t think I’d come out on top like she does, but even so, it’s a struggle for her, and I loved that Abbott made Abisina’s character so real. Yes, Abisina comes out on top, but she struggles with her feelings throughout the novel, and even though she was discriminated against by her own people, she easily becomes the discriminator when meeting others, such as dwarfs and centaurs. She’s not perfect, by any means, and though she did and said some things that I scoffed at, in retrospect, I’d probably do the exact same, as shameful as that may be. It is very easy for us to become what we hate, especially if we’ve experienced it our entire life (being bullied to becoming a bully, etc.). It’s just as easy for us to fear a certain thing or group if we’ve experienced unpleasantries because of it/them (such as a fear of all dogs because one bit us once upon a time), and I really loved the struggle that takes place throughout the novel as Abisina must come to terms with the idea that not all dwarfs, centaurs, etc., have ill will towards others. I really enjoyed the fantasy aspect of this novel as Abbott fleshes out the mythological creatures we don’t hear all that much about: centaurs, fauns, trolls, dwarfs, and fairies. Though we learn more about some than others, I was initially drawn to this novel because of the title—I wanted to know more about centaurs and Abbott definitely provided a lot of information. And, I love that she provided both sides of the coin for these creatures; not all are good, and not all are bad, which, again, goes back to the idea that we are all unique and prejudice against others is a terrible thing. Overall, I really enjoyed the journey Abisina embraks on in order to find her father and try to save her people from the evil that has taken over. At some points I did feel like the novel was a bit slow in terms of action, but when the action came, Abbott did a phenomenal job capturing the reader’s attention and bring it all to life.
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Dydear More than 1 year ago
When I picked this up I wasn't sure if I'd like it, but it grabbed me from the first page and I couldn't stop reading! This was an excellent Young Adult novel. The main character, Abisina, was fascinating and raw. Everything, from the storyline, to all of the characters, to the history of this world that Mrs. Abbot has constructed, seems so real and alive-very much like the trees that she wrote about that lived in Watersmeet. It was humorous and tragic, heartwarming and it made me angry in parts. Any book that makes you feel so many emotions is a treasure. And I haven't even begun on the writing! This woman knows her stuff! There was not one instance where I read a line and thought, "That doesn't seem right." This was beautifully written. I cannot wait to get my hands on the next installment! My only issue: What happened to Jorno? I kept expecting to see him pop up somewhere, and I find it hard to believe that such a brilliant character would be destroyed so quickly in the story. I'm holding out for hope that he'll appear in another book. Parents: In case you're wondering, this book contains lots of violence and abuse and bullying, but no sex. Think Lord of the Rings and Narnia.
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worst book you could possibly read dont buy or read this book