Hello Humans! Are you ready for my review of one of my favourite reads of the year so far? I’m talking, of course, about Frances Hardinge’s Deeplight. I mean, this book had everything going for it, it’s about the ocean and stories and it was written by one of my absolute favourite authors. I was so nervous, going in, that I wouldn’t like this book but in the end, I utterly loved it. I’m sorry in advance if this review is just me screaming incoherently.
For centuries the gods of the Undersea ruled the islands of the Myriad through awe and terror: they were very real, and very dangerous. Sacrifices were hurled into the waters to appease them, and every boat was painted with pleading eyes to entreat their mercy. They were served, feared and adored. Then, thirty years ago, the gods rose up in madness and tore each other apart.
Now, none remain. The islands have recovered and the people have patched their battered ships and moved on.
On one of these islands live Hark and his best friend Jelt. To them, the gods are nothing but a collection of valuable scraps to be scavenged from the ocean and sold.
But now something is pulsing beneath the waves, calling to someone brave enough to retrieve it.
WHERE DO I START?
Ok, let’s kick off with our main character. I rarely ‘get on with’ main characters who are men/boys, especially when the book is aimed at younger readers* but Hark was great. What I liked was that Hark managed to have character development through the story but it wasn’t ‘he starts the book as an ass and by the end is basically a decent human being’. Hark isn’t a great person when the book starts, he’s mid-crime as the book opens, but he isn’t obnoxious in a way that other male main character’s can be.
It’s possible I have just been deeply scarred by Killer T and will never fully trust a male main character again?
But no, Hark not only grew on me as the book went on, I liked him from the beginning. He manages to feel reckless but also to have a dose of common sense at his core which isn’t something you see all too often.
*I’m no expert but I think I’d probably stick this in the ‘upper middle grade – younger YA’ category.
The setting my friends, THE SETTING.
I’ve said it so many times but Frances Hardinge has this way of writing worlds that totally suck me in, I’m utterly in awe of the way she creates cultures and superstitions in each of her books, all of them drastically different and detailed and OH MY.
This is no exception. It’s a world where the gargantuan undersea Gods have vanished but all the superstition surrounding them is still there. The idea of a black market (and a legitimate market) for the remnants of the old Gods was so well done, along with the idea of priests becoming defunct and needing care – it is all so well thought out. I need someone to do a whole set of art prints of the creatures described in this book because I want to festoon them throughout my home.
I can’t exactly explain it because you have to experience it for yourself but I will say that this felt like the essence of Pacific Rim but a fantasy novel and SO MUCH more.
I did say this would be incoherent, didn’t I?
But no, it was everything, and I can’t get into some of it because I think it would be a spoiler but Frances Hardinge continues to be the master of the ‘last-minute plot reveal that you just weren’t expecting that makes everything fifty times more amazing’ in this book too.
I cannot wait to re-read this book, I may have to plan in a re-read within this year, that’s how much I liked it. The characters, the plot and (most significantly) the setting totally captivated me and I would gladly read fifty more books set in this world.
Frances Hardinge remains one of my ‘auto buy’ authors.
My rating: 5/5 stars
I received a digital advanced review copy of this book from the publisher. All opinions are my own.
Deeplight publishes October 31st!
Please please please comment below and let me know you plan on reading this!