Book Review: “Mud and Water” by Cherie Haines

Mud and Water cover image for book review

“You never know what you’ll find in the forest. Could be danger, could be treasure. But always you will find adventure.” –Sol, from Mud and Water by Cherie Haines

Mud and Water Summary

The dark forest of Delderia knows the sound of lost footsteps well. Orphans, children whose parents have too many mouths to feed, elders whose families no longer want them, all find themselves abandoned on the edge of the woods as a sacrifice to the Wild Ones. Together, these unwanted children and elders have shaped a caring community in the depths of the endless trees.

Seth and Selene are not cast-offs. They’re just two modern teenagers camping with their family. But when they fall into a pool while exploring a cave, the two siblings find themselves in a world unlike anything they’ve ever known. Trapped in a land with two moons and dragons and colorful sand pits ready to drown them, Seth and Selene will have to trade their cellphones for swords in order to survive. As they become accustomed to their new lives with the clans of the forest, Selene begins to wonder whether she wants to find a way home.

Here in Delderia, the clans are her family. And the more time she spends with them, the more she learns of the dangers of this world. Threats are coming to the forest. War may be following soon. Can Selene and Seth let go of the past and find a way to protect the people they’ve grown to love?

About the Book

In Mud and Water, an immersive New Adult fantasy, Cherie Haines builds a plot of full adventure. Her setting is rich with detail, from the strange creatures found in the woods to the culture of Delderia’s societies. Readers will delve into the different lifestyles of the forest clans, nomads, and townsfolk. They’ll get to run through the treetops and trek through the snow alongside Selene as she explores this incredible landscape.

However, Haines’s treatment of relationships and humanity captivated me even more than her wonderful worldbuilding.

The budding friendships and individual character growth kept me fully engaged from start to end. Each character is well-developed and almost always sympathetic, even those characters who Selene doesn’t initially like or understand. Haines describes people Selene meets for just brief scenes with enough detail to give us a sense of their full personhood. This not only adds to the realness of the story, but also fits with one of the book’s core messages: the recognition of life’s inherent worth.

Compassion for the outcasts rests at the heart of this story. Through the way the clans seek out the lost children and elders, Haines reminds her readers that every person matters. When Selene meets people from the nomadic tribes and the villages, she learns to see past the prejudices which divide people so harshly. Selene’s empathy grows, even while she’s hardened by the necessity of fighting for survival.

This simple truth–that all people matter–takes an action-packed, battle-filled tale and turns it into a meaningful novel which doesn’t just entertain, but also encourages us to be better. It’s a beautiful, engaging story which leaves you eager for the sequel. I look forward to the next installment of the Elements of Life series.

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