Jake Stoddard

I recently finished reading Sophia Hansen’s debut novel: Water’s Break.


Water’s Break tells the story of Nica, an Olomi (a mermaid-like people, but with legs instead of tails). When a disaster strikes, changing the very geology of her planet, and “breaking” the ocean, her sister goes missing. She leaves the ocean to look for her sister on land but is captured by a man of an as-yet-unknown race.


Before reading it, my impression was that it would be a classic, high-adventure fantasy with magic, exploration, and myriad fantastical beasts. There was adventure, and the Olomi were certainly a fantastical race. But once the story reached land, it felt more sci-fi than fantasy, and the exploration was not of a fantasy world, but of a concentration camp.

Outside, the book sports an excellent cover (Kirk DouPonce does it again!). Inside, Water’s Break explores important themes of human nature and just how evil people can get when placed in extreme circumstances. It also touches on the struggle to be good in the face of oppression, but not to the same extent.

My favorite part of the book was the deep world-building of the Olomi. They are a beautiful people with cool powers of underwater communication. Hansen does an excellent job incorporating their undersea culture into their speech throughout the book. She also handles the language barrier between the Olomi and their captors well.

Most of the characters end up with two names, one for each language. It made perfect sense for the story, but made it a challenge to keep up with who was who. Sometimes, that’s the price you have to pay for a story with language barriers. But many times, Hansen mentioned both names of a character in context, which definitely helped.


Water’s Break is delightfully free of profanity and sex. It does contain violence, but it is not graphic. Honestly, I felt the heartless cruelty of the villains was worse than the actual harm they inflicted. Performance-enhancing drug use is referenced but not shown and never portrayed in a positive light.

The content should be acceptable for adults, teens, and most middle-schoolers.


In my own writing, I enjoy giving my characters different accents, but I find the prospect of dealing with multiple languages daunting. Making it so characters can’t understand each other, requiring a translator, having one or more characters learn a new language over the course of the story—oh my, I just don’t want to go there. So when another author does it, I can’t help but respect that. And Hansen does a good job with it.

I also respect the immersiveness of the Olomi race and culture. It just feels so real and natural—like if Olomi existed in the real world, they’d look and act exactly like they do in the book. That’s the kind of world-building I aspire to.

Will You Like It?

This book is for you if you:

  • Like an interesting fantastical race with immersive speech.
  • Enjoy a mild mix of fantasy and sci-fi.
  • Don’t mind keeping track of characters with multiple names.
  • Are moved by explorations of depravity and morality.
  • Are middle-school age or older. (If you’re younger, ask your parents first.)

If that sounds good to you, check out Water’s Break