Deep Roots by Ruthanna Emrys science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsDeep Roots by Ruthanna Emrys science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsDeep Roots by Ruthanna Emrys

Deep Roots (2018), a finalist for the Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel, is the sequel to Ruthanna EmrysWinter Tide. This Lovecraft-inspired story is about a race of Americans living in the 1940s who worship, and are related to, the eldritch gods. They are long-lived and, when they eventually mature, they may grow gills and return to the sea.

Most of the People of the Water were exterminated or dispersed when the American government, spooked by their foreignness, rounded them up and put them in detention camps. As far as Aphra and her brother Caleb know, they are the only ones who survived.

Now, with the help of the FBI, Aphra and Caleb are trying to track down any lost relatives so they can bring them to Innsmouth and rebuild their community before real estate developers buy it all up. When the siblings find out about a likely cousin, they learn that he has recently disappeared. As they track him down, they discover that there are other Old Ones who are meddling in human affairs and do not necessarily have humans’ best interests in mind.

Winter Tide

Book 1

As I mentioned in my review of Winter Tide, I love the premise of Ruthanna Emrys’ stories. Inserting descendants and worshipers of the Elder Gods into the context of the Cold War and McCarthyism makes for a strange atmospheric tale that provides a platform for thinking about stereotyping, prejudice, and ghettoizing.

The brilliance of Winter Tide and Deep Roots is that Emrys makes us feel that it’s all very real and that these people may actually be living among us. Then, as we are hoping that Aphra and Caleb, who worship Cthulhu and other Old Ones, will be successful in their goal to round up and grow their congregation, we recognize the danger that the Old Ones represent for humanity. It’s a challenging mix of emotions.

Fans of Winter Tide will love Deep Roots. Both stories are slow moving — a little too slow for me — though Deep Roots is better paced than Winter Tide. But the leisurely pace, the numerous lovely descriptive passages, the characters’ introspections and ruminations, and the lack of flashy action scenes enhances the sense that these are real people living in our world.

Macmillan Audio’s version, which is 12 hours long, is nicely narrated by Gabra Zackman who managed to make all those Eldritch words sound chillingly otherworldly.

Published in 2018. A finalist for the Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel. Ruthanna Emrys’ Innsmouth Legacy, which began with Winter Tide and continues with Deep Roots, confronts H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos head-on, boldly upturning his fear of the unknown with a heart-warming story of found family, acceptance, and perseverance in the face of human cruelty and the cosmic apathy of the universe. Emrys brings together a family of outsiders, bridging the gaps between the many people marginalized by the homogenizing pressure of 1940s America. Aphra Marsh, descendant of the People of the Water, has survived Deep One internment camps and made a grudging peace with the government that destroyed her home and exterminated her people on land. Deep Roots continues Aphra’s journey to rebuild her life and family on land, as she tracks down long-lost relatives. She must repopulate Innsmouth or risk seeing it torn down by greedy developers, but as she searches she discovers that people have been going missing. She will have to unravel the mystery, or risk seeing her way of life slip away.


  • Kat Hooper

    KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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