Deeplight by Frances Hardinge

Posted On 10 February 2020

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DeeplightDeeplight by Frances Hardinge has to be one of the most impressive YA fantasies that I’ve read for a long time.  Imagine a world terrorised by Gods that rule the Undersea, massive monsters that are a strange combination of different elements that ultimately feed on fear.  Then imagine that these Gods annihilate each other in some strange cataclysmic event driven by the desire to be …  well, I can’t tell you more about that without sailing into the land of spoilers.  And, yes, this review is going to be chock full of cheesy, nautical and fishy references and overflowing with gushy good humour.  I don’t know where Frances Hardinge has been hiding all this time but I’ve found her now and I’ll be picking up plenty more of her books.  Also, take a minute to look at that cover.  I loved it when I first laid eyes on it but now I’ve read the book I’m able to see all the beautiful and relevant details and it’s even more stunning.

So, Myriad is an archipelago of small islands that, since the demise of the Gods, is thriving.  No longer held hostage by the whims or mercy of ruthless underwater creatures the people can sail further abroad to trade goods and with the abundance of Godware available since the cataclysm business is booming and tourists flock to the area for glimpses of godlike treasure.  With this in mind we start the story with an introduction to Hark, a young boy who makes his living off aforementioned tourists, conning them into parting with their cash.  Hark’s longest known and best friend is Jelt.  Jelt is a little more ambitious than Hark and likes to think of himself as something of a player.  Unfortunately, his latest scheme to ingratiate himself with the local pirates goes pear shaped and Hark finds himself left high and dry taking the blame for the entire operation.

I’m not going to elaborate further on the plot. What I particularly liked about this is it went in a direction I really hadn’t anticipated and that I thoroughly enjoyed.

So, the good, the good and the good?

Well, the worldbuilding is excellent and the bonus is you’re barely aware of it, it’s so inextricably linked with the overall story.  No exposition, no info dumps, no history assignments, everything feels like it’s naturally delivered as the plot progresses and I just love this.  It’s so immersive.

Then the characters.  Let’s be clear, Jelt is an absolute jerk – in fact that was how I started to read his name he got on my last nerve so much.  He is such an abusive character but Hark had too much attachment to him, this wealth of history that they shared and the protection Jelt offered Hark when they were young lonely orphans.  I just wanted to punch Jelt and shake Hark!  There is also Selphin.  I loved her character.  Like Hark and Jelt, she isn’t perfect, she makes mistakes and does things she regrets but she’s a great addition to the story.  Selphin almost died in a sea incident and although she survived the underwater experience left her death.  In fact being ‘sea kissed’ is common for Island people who deep sea dive and is considered with a sort of reverence by the Myriad people, in fact most of the people on the island learn how to sign as the norm.  This brought such an interesting aspect to the story that I loved.  It was seamlessly worked in but at the same time it made you sit up and take note.

The plot is probably the weakest aspect of Deeplight, not that it’s weak, more that the world building, the characters, the creativity at play here, the wonderful writing, well, the plot almost played second fiddle in a way – it is a good story though, don’t get the wrong impression from my ramblings.

In terms of criticisms.  I don’t really have anything, maybe a slight slowing down of pace at certain points but nothing that was really noticeable.  I was totally hooked.

To summarise.  Unusual and fearsome Gods, smugglers, crazy scientists, monks who no longer have a vocation, lots of tentacle waving and underwater scenes that really do come alive on the page.  A beautifully written, highly creative and evocative story, at its core a coming of age tale about two boys who have outgrown each other but also a story that shines a light on fear or uncertainty – better the devil you know?

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating 4.5 stars



24 Responses to “Deeplight by Frances Hardinge”

  1. Tammy

    I’ve never read Frances Hardinge and I’m not sure why. I think this might be the first of hers I read:-)

    • @lynnsbooks

      I thought it was great. In terms of originality and world building I enjoyed it as much as the Pullman trilogy.
      Lynn 😀

  2. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    I really love her books, she’s just so full of amazingly unique and creative ideas. Looks like the US won’t be getting this one until spring, but I’ll be reading it (or listening to it) for sure!

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yes, this was my first book by her but I’m going to look at her others now and see what else I fancy. This was one of the most original YA series that I’ve read since Pullman.
      Lynn 😀

  3. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    Fantasy tales set on the sea, or near it, are not so common, so this one sounds like a breath of fresh air in the genre, and those characters look downright intriguing. A book to keep in my sight, indeed – and with that cover it will certainly not be difficult… 😉
    Thanks for sharing!

    • @lynnsbooks

      This was such a good read. I seem to recall the pace slowed a little in the middle but it was a very brief feeling. The imagination at work here is so good, I loved the whole history behind the dead gods and all the time spent not just at sea but beneath the waves too.
      Lynn 😀

  4. waytoofantasy

    I love the premise of this one! And glad the story lives up to that cover. As soon as my book buying ban is over I am getting a copy of this because it’s too pretty to pass up.

    • @lynnsbooks

      I will definitely be reading more by this author. This was very impressive.
      Lynn 😀

  5. LizScanlon

    *insert surprised face emoji* – this looks and sounds really good!!! I especially love the sound of seamless delivery where everything is weaved into the story without feeling info dumpey or *eyes glassed over* history lessony!
    I shall keep my eye out for it – adding to TBR!

    • @lynnsbooks

      Well, I will certainly read more of this author’s backlist based on how good this was.
      Lynn 😀

  6. jessicabookworm

    I think this sounds exactly my cup of tea! 😀

  7. Captain's Quarters

    I really enjoy this author’s work and am very much looking forward to this sea yarn! Yer review has made me even more excited. Arrrr!

    • @lynnsbooks

      So, what other books have you read of hers? I’m quite interested in reading something else given how good this one was?
      Lynn 😀

      • Captain's Quarters

        I read the lie tree and the skinful of shadows. I liked both for the atmosphere and ideas. I think the plot of the lie tree was stronger (and the tree is AWESOME) but her work is different and fun and I enjoy it very much. I am hearing that deeplight is her strongest book so keep that in mind when reading her older works. Arrr!
        x The Captain

      • @lynnsbooks

        Deeplight was very good and I think you always have the possibility that earlier works might not be as strong although it’s not always the case and I like that this author produces standalone novels. I already bought the Lie Tree so it’s good to hear that you liked that one.
        Lynn 😀

      • Captain's Quarters

        Glad to hear ye picked up the lie tree. I started reading her books because they were standalones. Looking forward to yer review of the next when ye get around to it.
        x The Captain

      • @lynnsbooks

        Hopefully sometime in the next couple of months. Probably when I finish up SPFBO.
        Lynn 😀

  8. Friday Face Off : ‘The sea brought you.  The sea shall have you back’ | Books and travelling with Lynn

    […] up).  This week my book is Deeplight by Frances Hardinge – which was great and my review is here.  Only three covers this week – which doesn’t make choosing a favourite any easier […]

  9. Looking Back at 2020 : The Ghost of Books Past | Books and travelling with Lynn

    […] Deeplight by Francis Hardinge – this was my first introduction to this author and it was an impressive read – I’ve since read A Skinful of Shadows which was also an excellent read and due for forthcoming review. […]

  10. A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge | Books and travelling with Lynn

    […] second Hardinge book and to date this is an author with a 100% track record because both this and Deeplight were excellent.  Without doubt I will be checking out more backlist books from this author and in […]

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