Amanda Kirasdotr, the main character, grew up on the colony world of Goddard. Enough time has passed that her people are natives of the world and generations behind Earth in technology. It makes the interstellar visitors an incredible novelty, though they have little interest in the colonists. That is, until Amanda saves on who had the misfortune of going sailing without knowing how to swim on a world that lacks the many safety systems they’re accustomed to. This one act turns her life upside down, and it may change her world. And that is the beginning of the book Mistress of the Waves by George Phillies.

 

The Strengths

The details of the society make it real, regardless of what you think of it. It is simple on many levels, but it works. One can imagine the ancestors of the colonists coming to this world to flee the impersonal high tech home world and build such a society. For them, a young woman healed of her injuries and left with an enhanced metabolism and slowed aging is a violation of the rules, someone to be pushed away as stained. This ends up being a decent reason to want to leave your home. It is far better than the trope “OMG, these colony worlds are so backward and boring, show me the universe!”

It has a young libertarian female protagonist, something that’s rather rare in science fiction. I noticed that immediately, but then again, I’m named for a Robert Heinlein character.

There is a slow revelation of the mystery regarding their world that serves as a secondary plot for the book, the first being the young woman’s slow growing empire and her efforts to achieve her dreams.

 

The Weaknesses

There are points where the lack of editing is a distraction. For example, the main character is in the middle of rescuing a spacefarer who is drowning, and it says, “He calmed down, enough hear me” instead of “calmed down enough to hear me.” At another point, it says “Are in in port long?” Yes, she can be in port for a long time.

Amanda is brilliant. The repeated detailed injected to prove she’s smart and not another dumb yokel colonist is repetitive and often forced. Conversely, she’s a very realistic, human character. She doesn’t know everything. She has tidbits of knowledge, and she slowly builds it up through experience, training and interactions.

 

Observations

Have you ever wondered about the economics of a medieval fishing town? Do you want a strong lesson in economics in general? This book provides it in spades. From supply and demand to interest to profitability on a venture to outsourcing. It starts with managing minor profits on a fishing dory and moves into profit sharing and corporate finance over the course of the book. The effects of inflation and deflation are demonstrated in accessible ways on an entire community. Oh, and it is a story that contains these lessons, not the boring lessons that they try to build a story around.

While there are deaths, murders even, the book is a solid PG bordering on PG-13. It is suitable to give to a teen or preteen to read.

There is enough action from attempted murders to pirates to keep a reader engaged, though some of the technology and society building scenes could have been shortened and taken 20+ pages out of the book. However, the intensely complicated design of their world and its artificial nature is hinted at throughout the book. You see the shape of the design before the totality of it is revealed. In this regard, it reminds me of David Brin’s Glory Season.

Mistress of the Waves is intended to be the start of a series, but it can be read as a stand-alone novel.

 

Summary

I give the book Mistress of the Waves four stars. It is an excellent adventure book that happens to include economics, personal development and a decent mystery.