Rick Riordan writing a book outside of the Percy Jackson universe?! I needed to read this.
Okay, I know he has adult books as well, so it’s not like he’s only ever written PJO books. But still! Am here for a new aquatic themed adventure 😍🙌🏻 Daughter of the Deep sits nicely in that lower-YA space, with a 14-year-old protagonist named Ana Dakkar who just found out she’s descended from Captain Nemo, yup, the fictional character from Jules’ Vernes books. This story is both a retelling and a continuation of A Thousand Leagues Under The Sea — what if the story was REAL and all of the wild sci-fi advanced technology from the books actually existed?
I have to admit, I don’t actually know the original tale very well, but I still liked how the book approached it. But I do ask how many middle-graders would know the original either? So part of me was like “who is this book for again” but IDK what they teach the kids in school.
When the story takes off Ana is attending a prestigious and exclusive sea-based school called Harding-Pencroft Academy. Basically it trains kids up in marine sciences and to join the navy, etc. But they have this secret rivalry with a land-based school — only Ana thinks it’s just schools disliking each other. But oh no. Ha. No…they try to kill the HP school. When Ana leaves for a training mission/exams out at sea, the whole school is destroyed. Now it’s war. Ana then also discovers her DNA makes her extremely important to unlocking secrets about the infamous Captain Nemo’s submarine. So it becomes a race to get to the sub before they’re caught/controlled by the enemy school.
There’s a lot of weapon tech here, and just good ol’ sci-fi impossible inventions. Iit had the “ancient technology” vibes that are really visually appealing to read about too. Like it boggles the mind that a submarine could exist in the 1800s and move at impossible speeds. Fiction comes ALIVE. Of course 😂 some of the tech was pretty far-fetched, but fun to read about.
A moment to talk about the characters!! Ana Dakker is a fearless heroine, loyal and loving and wise. I also liked the crew dynamics, especially Gemini, Ester and Nelinha! Ester is autistic and was very pleasantly surprised at the fair rep. Gemini was like a body-guard/gun-slinger boy, very forthright and protective. Also tons of diverse rep: with Muslim and Black and Brazilian characters. Ana is Indian-American.
A few things though: (1) I’m not sure if this is a standalone or not, I think it is?? but the characters all felt very one-dimensional. Ana was so perfect she felt flat. (2) I never really understood the schools’ extreme rivalry, but like suddenly all these 14-year-olds are combat ready. (3) Right up front the school is destroyed, so all the kids are suffering extreme grief from that…and it made the jokes and fun moments throughout the book feel off. I just didn’t feel the pizzaz and fast-paced excitement I’d hoped for.
Overall an imaginative ode to Jules Verne, with underwater explorations and plenty of action scenes and the character-group dynamics you know and love from a Riordan story!
Thanks to Penguin Australia for the review-copy!
Title: Daughter of the Deep
Author: Rick Riordan
Date Published: October 5th 2021
Publisher: Penguin Australia
Genre: YA/MG sci-fi fantasy
Purchase: Book Depository, Blackwells
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Ana Dakkar is a freshman at Harding-Pencroft Academy, a five-year high school that graduates the best marine scientists, naval warriors, navigators, and underwater explorers in the world. Ana’s parents died while on a scientific expedition two years ago, and the only family’s she’s got left is her older brother, Dev, also a student at HP. Ana’s freshman year culminates with the class’s weekend trial at sea, the details of which have been kept secret. She only hopes she has what it’ll take to succeed. All her worries are blown out of the water when, on the bus ride to the ship, Ana and her schoolmates witness a terrible tragedy that will change the trajectory of their lives.
But wait, there’s more. The professor accompanying them informs Ana that their rival school, Land Institute, and Harding-Pencroft have been fighting a cold war for a hundred and fifty years. But now the heat is on and the freshman are in danger of becoming fish food. In a race against deadly enemies, Ana will make amazing friends and astounding discoveries about her heritage as she puts her leadership skills to the test for the first time.