Deeplight came to me through the post as a surprise; I fell in love with the proof cover but was unsure if I would enjoy the story as it didn’t sound like my usual kind of read… well, I was very, very wrong. I was completely hooked on this book & couldn’t stop thinking about it when I wasn’t reading it. I can’t wait to read more of Frances’ work!
I was sent this book by the publisher in return for an honest review.
⚠️ This book contains violence & discussions & phobias of drowning ⚠️
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.
I’ve included the synopsis of Deeplight in this review because it’s a hard book to explain; the story has a powerful magic about it that slowly consumes it’s readers – much like the godware featured in the story. Set in the Myriad, Deeplight explores a world full of priests no longer needed, pirate gangs looking to find their fortune, reckless orphans & a world scarred by the wrath of the gods of the past. I was unsure about this book to start with but it was clearly incredibly unique from the get go & when the adventure ended I was left speechless.
I own The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge, & have read her work in an anthology, but this was the first full novel of hers that I’ve read – & her writing was incredible. The world-building that Frances has managed to stitch together was intoxicating & was very easy to picture in my mind, showing that Frances has not only a great imagination, but fantastic writing skills too. I always saw the scenes as dark, with a tint of blue in the light, full of dark shadows & rainy skies. This was a dark story, but not necessarily a scary one, & explored a world healing from a serious tragedy.
There were two forms of disability representation in this story that I hugely appreciated; the first is that a large percentage of the characters featured are deaf. The artefacts left behind by the gods of the past are both valuable & dangerous – if one spends too much time swimming for godware they’re likely to lose their hearing & so Frances’ whole world is based around a community that have adapted to ensure that their “sea-kissed” residents are able to communicate as well as everyone else. The archipelago have their own form of sign language & it’s used consistently throughout the story; this was at once an interesting addition to the backstory of the godware & the waters of the Myriad, but also an excellent example of a world where ableism isn’t the norm. Thank you Frances.
The other form of disability featured in Deeplight is an illness that consumed the priests that once worshiped the gods of the sea; I have read a collection of reviews by other readers but haven’t found any that mention the fact that the priests all appear to be experiencing different stages of dementia. When the gods disappeared the priests who dedicated their lives to worshipping them lost everything; the priests all now live together, receiving the care that they need as they gradually age. Our protagonist Hark ends up working with the priests after he takes the blame for a crime his best friend pushed him into as a kind of community service, & that is where the story gets going.
I could talk about this story for hours because there was so much packed into it’s 400+ pages but I’m only going to talk about one more aspect of the story – the toxic friendship that Hark finds himself tangled up in. Jelt is an orphan, like Hark, & the two have grown up together. They view one another as their brother, but as they’ve aged the pair have started to drift apart; Jelt is manipulative, cruel & neglectful, whilst Hark wants more for himself than joining a local pirate gang – especially after he starts spending his time with the priests who have a library of stories to tell him. The toxicity of the friendship is a strong theme throughout the story & leads a lot of the problems Hark finds himself tangled up in. I spent the whole book wanting to punch Jelt, if I’m honest.
I haven’t mentioned the best character in the story, Selphin, because if I did we’d be here all day, but trust me – you’ll love her as much as I did. This has got to be my longest review ever so I hope it’s sold the book to you (what a waste of time if it hasn’t, ha) – use the links below to grab a copy:
Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.com | Book Depository | Waterstones | Wordery
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