If you’re looking for a captivating fantasy adventure with lush, gorgeous writing,
I received an advance copy of the book from Amulet Books via Media Masters Publicity in exchange for an unbiased review. All opinions are my own. This post may contain affiliate links.
SynopsisDeeplight by Frances Hardinge
on April 21, 2020
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, Epic
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Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea meets Frankenstein in Frances Hardinge's latest fantasy adventure
The gods are dead. Decades ago, they turned on one another and tore each other apart. Nobody knows why. But are they really gone forever? When 15-year-old Hark finds the still-beating heart of a terrifying deity, he risks everything to keep it out of the hands of smugglers, military scientists, and a secret fanatical cult so that he can use it to save the life of his best friend, Jelt. But with the heart, Jelt gradually and eerily transforms. How long should Hark stay loyal to his friend when he's becoming a monster--and what is Hark willing to sacrifice to save him?
★ “Equal parts dazzling fantasy, swashbuckling adventure, and tender coming-of-age tale.”
— Publishers Weekly, starred review
★ “Monsters and mortals collide in this fantasy adventure that explores the hypnotic allure of fear, the adamant grip of the past, and the redeeming power of stories.”
— Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“Everyone should read Frances Hardinge. Everyone. Right now.”
– Patrick Ness, author of A Monster Calls
Well, that blurb certainly caught my eye, and as a huge fan of Patrick Ness, I said the fastest “yes” ever to an offer to read a book. This was my first introduction to Francis Hardinge, and after devouring Deeplight, I’m in 100% agreement with Mr. Ness.
15-year-old Hark is an orphan who has grown up scrambling and hustling just to get by. A lot of that hustle happens with his “friend” Jelt – it’s a toxic relationship. Jelt coerces Hark into helping him with a scheme; Hark, of course, is caught and sold into indentured service.
However, Hark’s ability to spin a tale saves him from a worse fate. Stories play a big role in this novel. Hark tells stories to earn the trust of one of the elderly priests he cares for; the priest tells stories, and through these stories, we learn of this world’s undersea gods that have long since died.
Hardinge’s world-building in Deeplight is simply incredible. Vivid, sometimes terrifying, harsh, and detailed. She has wonderfully drawn depictions of the islands, their people, their creations from the god-ware, and their boats and submersibles. The descriptions of the ancient gods
The characters were well fleshed out, particularly Hark; and the relationships were complicated, particularly as Hark’s character grew. Jelt is emotionally manipulative, and Hark is too loyal. Even when helping Jelt would put Hark’s situation at risk, Jelt goads and mocks him until he relents – and it’s their relationship that drives the story.
“All his life, there had been a current dragging Hark back to Jelt, over and over. He had never been able to fight it. When Jelt needed him, Hark had always, always come running.”
The icing on the cake, though, is the writing. Hardinge’s writing is simply beautiful. The story takes a while to build, but the language is so lovely that I was happy to go along for the ride, and soon enough I couldn’t put it down.
One of the themes of the book is fear – how it controls people, how it drives people, how it feeds off itself, and maybe even how it feeds faith.
“Human fear has a terrible power. It changes everything, distorts everything, maddens everything. Fear is the dark womb where monsters are born and thrive.”
Deeplight is categorized as a YA book, but it is SO fantastic that I think it would appeal to any adult reader who loves fantasy.