After attacking Devil's Reef in 1928, the US government rounded up the people of Innsmouth and took them to the desert, far from their ocean, their Deep One ancestors, and their sleeping god, Cthulhu. Only Aphra and Caleb Marsh survived the camps, and they emerged without a past or a future.
The government that stole Aphra's life now needs her help. FBI agent Ron Spector believes that communist spies have stolen dangerous magical secrets from Miskatonic University, secrets that could turn the Cold War hot in an instant and hasten the end of the human race. Aphra must return to the ruins of her home, gather scraps of her stolen history, and assemble a new family to face the darkness of human nature.
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Magic, Cold War history, family, and survival
"Winter Tide" is a gripping mystery woven through with magic, cosmic wonder, and the taste of deep time. It is also a beautifully written meditation on surviving atrocity, creating family, and risking love in the face of mortality.
Just a few years after the end of WWII, US/USSR tensions are building and there are rumors that the Russians have acquired dangerous magical knowledge. The FBI asks Aphra Marsh for her help in their investigation. Though she has every reason to refuse to help the government that destroyed her home and family, there are equally compelling ones to leave San Francisco and her beloved adopted family the Kotos, with whom she survived the US internment camps, and go back east to Miskatonic University with Agent Spector.
"Winter Tide" is set in a Lovecraftian world, replete with books of ancient lore, fish people, godlike aliens, and cycles of life beyond human comprehension, but you don't have to have more than a passing cultural familiarity with Lovecraft's Mythos in order to be pulled into this book. Emrys' Miskatonic University and Innsmouth feel real and solid, her magical system well-thought out, her theology compelling and deeply felt. Her characters, alien and several flavors of human, are real people with fascinating back stories and complex motivations.
I also strongly recommend this book for long-time Lovecraftians like me. Emry's world-building is excellent, deepening our understanding of familiar characters and locations while finding many interesting new corners to explore. For example, Miskatonic feels like a real university with real students (complete with flighty undergraduates) instead of a convenient repository for forbidden tombs and statuary (and scholars prone to syncope). If you love the Mythos but are troubled by Lovecraft's naked bigotry, you will love the effortless (and entirely non-preachy) way she turns all that on its head, allowing us to live inside the heads of people, human and otherwise, that Lovecraft drew as monsters.
The Winter Tide on the beach, in the face of terrible danger to some of the participants. Such beautiful love and courage.
I wouldn't love this book less if I had read instead of listening to it, but the narration was perfect. No off notes at all, just effortless storytelling. Each character's voice was distinct and consistent but none were stereotypical either. She handled the unusual names and vocabulary well too.