Water Sight is an epic fantasy novel, the second installment of the Last of the Gifted series written by Marie Powell in 2020. The audiobook was gifted to me in return for an honest and thorough review.
Unlike the first installment, Water Sight had a focus on one particular character who I felt drawn to as a listener. The first book seemed to be centred around Hyw and his journey with his extraordinary gift of shapeshifting, in this book we are given more detail in the story surrounding his sister, Lady Catrin, who has the gift of foresight. She plays a pivotal role during the conquest of Wales and how the people fought against King Edward.
I found it fascinating how Powell has such energy and passion in doing her research of the era, studying the Welsh language and delivering such a moving novel. Being raised in England, I was intrigued by the history that Powell delved into, it was very much a love story about the country and its people and I was enchanted from the first chapter onwards. Alongside managing to deliver accuracy in the language and history of the time, Powell weaves a detailed and wonderful story, it made me reminisce about stories I would read as a child. These memories made me feel strong emotions and inspired me, at the time, to dive into reading, discover new worlds and completely immerse myself in the story I read. Listening to Water Sight was no different as I quickly built up tender feelings to the characters, my favourite being Rhys. He is a strong man, who dearly adores Lady Catrin, but is aware of her gift, and is loathe to distract her from her path as he believes her to be the ‘Morrigan’.
Managing to bring a piece of ancient lore into a story with realistic timelines is a difficult job to handle, and the idea of the Morrigan, is one that has been covered in the likes of TV shows such as Merlin and popular mainstream video games like Dragon Age Origins. However, Powell has identified this and has created her own version, which feels much more authentic and threatens to bring the world of magic directly into the world we reside in. I say this because it seems as though it could be real!
Then there’s an absolutely fabulous tale of a woman who shows her worth by outsmarting one of the Kings’ generals, gaining his trust (to a point) and repeatedly manages to save her people over her own safety. Lady Catrin’s character is such a beautiful role model, who is ready for anything thrown at her, intelligent and I think she is a really important character to focus on in this story. Being a YA novel series, Last of the Gifted showcases fantastic examples for young people on realistic scenes that they can take inspiration from, as well as be inspired to write and read more.
The love story between her and Rhys is as powerful as the love story between Rose and Jack from Titanic, while it’s not about two warring families or communities, the love and passion they hold for each other holds strong enough to keep them connected throughout the whole story. When Rhys instructed Catrin to escape her captors, he said that should they hurt her he would not be able to stay silent and might give away information about the Welsh Revolution. While she did manage to escape, she came back and created a brilliantly thought-out ruse to trick Rhys’ captors into allowing them to waltz in and take Rhys back. The ending for Rhys and Catrin is one of a ‘happy ever after’, but after their toil and stress, I feel as though they deserved it!
‘He shook his head. “How can we risk it? Your visions may be our only advantage now”… Cat turned away from Rhys, but his arm came around her shoulders and drew her toward him. His quick response surprised her, and she let herself be drawn.
“Do not think you will get away so easily. Once the English return to their own land…” He bent his head to her and waited until she raised hers to meet him. Then he kissed her gently, as he had in the garden at Bere, and this time she responded.
When he drew back, the blue of his eyes had darkened, and his voice was husky. “I know your value, Cat, and not only as a morrigan. We will be man and wife, if you still will it, but we two must wait until our people are safe.”‘
The heat and intensity in this exchange describes their feelings and intentions to each other, showing the reader how respectful Rhys is to Catrin, a role that all men should play. Not only was he mindful of protecting her powers, but also it suggests he is aware of her modesty and aware that she too can make a choice about their relationship.
Another storyline that was feeding parallel to Lady Catrin’s, was that of her brother’s story: Hyw. He is able to shapeshift into any animal and has to hide his gift, lest he is made to feel isolated within the community – imagine what damage could happen in a war if that power were in the wrong hands! We get a glimpse near the beginning, of his secret desires of being pulled into the shape of a horse, and how he seems to long to be that creature. His family recognises how dangerous that could be, as he could lose his humanity, something which nearly happens when he sees his mentor die in action. The scene where this occurred absolutely broke me, and kudos to the narrator Dawn Lewis for delivering such a touching and upsetting scene. Powell shows Hyw has transformed into a hawk, in order to slip away from the battle and get help, but his mentor is struck down while fighting, a sword through the chest. Hyw is devasted and refuses to move from his mentor well after the soldiers have disappeared and is found by one of his friends, Margaret. Here we see how Hyw cannot physically let go of his mentor, and grips to his chest as a hawk, digging his talons into the armour, which is so symbolic of his grief and shows how he starts to slip.
This scene was so heartbreaking it actually moved me to tears, because the feelings of grief, being unable to leave someone’s side when they die, is so terribly hard to do. His guilt, shame and sadness seem to overwhelm him and he stays trapped as the bird, he has ‘lost’ himself. Over the next few chapters, we don’t see another account from Hyw, the human, which drives the message home to the reader how far gone he is.
All is not lost, Hyw does manage to find his way back to humanity, and through none other than his secret love for an old friend, James. Yes, I love that this had an LGBT spin in there, and it feels so right!
This final installment of the Last of the Gifted was truly beautiful, heartwarming and also inspirational. We see the running theme of pride of country, where the Welsh have worked to overcome hardships brought on by the English as well as staying together and keeping their customs alive. This is true and something they are still working hard on today, by keeping their language alive and ensuring that other traditions are in place.
It is truly wonderful to see the author having strong connections throughout the series of the Welsh language and using Welsh slang appropriately – it really does make you want to shout out: For Cymru!
In my previous review, the audiobook let down the story. However, for this installment, I feel that the quality was fantastic, no disruptions or repetitions and the narrator was brilliant. It was so important to hear the story through someone who speaks Welsh, because the names and locations are difficult to pronounce, and it does it justice. This audiobook is a great listen, just be careful to have breaks here and there or you will not be able to turn it off!
Water Sight Summary
Theme: this is an epic fantasy novel, largely focused on love, Welsh pride and is written as though it was from the conquest of King Edward 1.
Description: I would describe this as suitable for all ages, it’s a ‘PG’ book, so to speak, where there’s no mention of serious gore and no mention of anything sexual. Just a kiss!
Narration: this is managed by Dawn Lewis, a Welsh-speaking narrator, and is written in a third-person style which suits the storylines as Powell covers different character accounts.
A huge thanks to Marie Powell’s publicist at Creative Edge for letting me ride along this journey!
BBC TC Show, Merlin: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merlin_(2008_TV_series)
EA Games: DragonAge: Origins: https://www.ea.com/games/dragon-age/dragon-age-origins
Marie Powell’s Website: https://mariepowell.ca/young-adult/last-of-the-gifted/
Titanic film by James Cameron: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Titanic_(1997_film)