Romance literature can easily seem like a stale genre. There are certain beats and plot points which we know most romance novels will follow. We know the characters long before we open the first page or even learn their names. There is an entire industry based around this, and authors take full advantage of our desire to experience love vicariously. The male and female protagonists—and there are nearly always white—may fall in love at first sight. The entire world may try to get in there way. There will be a sex scene, or multiple, described in such circumstantial language so as to not appear pornographic. The Shape of Water novel is not like this. These are characters you have never met, experiencing life and love in different ways. Even the sex is new and strange and different.
Magic is a fascinating concept. An invisible, unknowable force that will somehow allow normal people to accomplish extraordinary things. The wizards in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series can conjure creatures, fly, teleport, and more. Going back to the middle ages we can find stories of alchemists attempting to create homunculi through arcane spells. Even farther back, ancient Greece had the oracles, young women who could commune directly with the gods. There are still those today who believe in magic, but the magic they believe in is very different from what came before. Instead of wizened crones serving the village, we have the internet. Instead of elderly wizards studying in towers, we have teenagers holed up in their bedrooms.