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


Weekly Wrap Up : 22nd December 2019

This has been a busy week I’ve only managed to fit in one book this week but it was a very good one that I should be reviewing soon.

So, here’s what I’ve been reading:

  1. Deeplight by Frances Hardinge


Next scheduled reads:

  1. Forever and a Doomsday by Laurence MacNaughton
  2. Where Gods Fear to go by Angus Watson

Upcoming Reviews

  1. King of the Road by RS Belcher
  2. Queenlayer by Sebastien DeCastell
  3. The Absinthe Earl by Sharon Lynn Fisher
  4. Deeplight by Frances Hardinge

I’d love to know what you’re reading this week.