What I’m just saying is that I need to fold myself into this book and stay there.
Deeplight was so good 😭 It’s the type of book I finish and whisper, “Oh that was a ME type of story,” and I just love stumbling into these treasures. The story is an absolute love letter to the ocean, but it’s also stuffed with monstrous sea gods and hardcore smugglers, and a valiant and heartfelt lying little thief boy who has absolutely one braincell and proceeds to not use it for most of the book — and I could not love him more. Hark is just the best. And his arc [chef’s kiss] just seeing him grow up was both heartbreaking and epically done.
In the end, we are what we do and what we allow to be done.
It’s about monsters and stories, it’s about the strangulating hold toxic friendship can have on your life, it’s about how in the end we are made up of stories. Stories define us and teach us and remember us.
(Also side note: it gave me such big Strange the Dreamer vibes. So if you like that style of fantasy, you’ll probably like this.)
WHAT IS IT ABOUT
Deeplight is set in a sea-based fantasy world of islands, where once everyone worshiped fearsome monstrous sea gods until they day the gods tore themselves apart. We are talking gods who swallow islands whole and eat fleets of ships and rule in terror. However they are also just big dumb hungry fish. But yet everyone worshiped them. Now it’s been 30+ years since they’ve gone extinct and their remnants get sold off as souvenirs but everyone still secretly reveres the gods.
Hark is a 14-year-old thief, an orphaned street kid, who is both con artist and opportunist and storyteller. His entire life revolves around his best friend, Jelt, and they run cons together and get in and out of scrapes. But even as you start reading you notice Hark doing his very very deepest best to convince us that Jelt is wonderful. While Jelt is there gaslighting and abusing Hark. Hark reads like a drowning boy, valiantly and loyally convincing himself that because Jelt saved him growing up, they are closer than brothers and should always be friends. Recognising toxic friendship and then dealign with it is hard — and this story shows just how hard. The way it’s written is a blow to the heart but so well captured.
Hark is a total cinnamon roll, soft and lovely, he talks fast and lies hard, but to his core he wants to know who he is and be proud of that person.
You could keep people alive forever through stories.
I also just love this kind of fantasy, because it’s both character-centric AND world-centric. The plot is driven by Hark’s actions (or inactions) and is basically a chain reaction of all the dumb things he does. (He’s so cute, I do not mind.) And the world building is gorgeous and vivid, and the underwater descriptions owned me. I felt so drawn in.
Also there is Deaf representation! Deaf culture is a huge part of the entire world, there’s no token-one-disabled-friend here — the sea-kissed are revered and respected in the islands, and sign language is well known. Plus the book takes care to talk about Deaf culture and incorporated it flawlessly. This is the disability rep in fantasy that I crave. While Hark is hearing, Selfin is a main character (sometimes narrates) and she is profoundly Deaf after an accident.
I have so SO much love for the characters. From the old priests (espeically Quest!!) to the slippery Doctor Vine to the stabby Briggs — and let’s not forget Selfin, utterly angry, stubborn and brilliantly brave. A DELIGHT. At one point Hark is just like “every time I see Selfin I am unsure if she’ll stab me” and like, we love her for it. There is also no romance! This book really went and said: let’s talk about FRIENDSHIP. And focused on that with its whole heart.
I could gush forever, let’s be real, but just the style of the writing, the gorgeous sea-aesthetics, the way the world building sprawled lush and vivid and full of detailed care, and the characters who were all interesting and dynamic and complex and just leapt off the page — everything is A+. Masterpiece. I enjoyed myself so, so much.
Note: I bought the audiobook (honestly the best narration too, 10/10 recommend) so most of the spellings here are probably phonetic.
Author: Frances Hardinge
Date Published: October, 2019
Genre: YA Epic Fantasy
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The gods of The Myriad were as real as the coastlines and currents, and as merciless as the winds and whirlpools. Now the gods are dead, but their remains are stirring beneath the waves . . .
On the streets of the Island of Lady’s Crave live 14-year-old street urchins Hark and his best friend Jelt. They are scavengers: diving for relics of the gods, desperate for anything they can sell. But there is something dangerous in the deep waters of the undersea, calling to someone brave enough to retrieve it.
When the waves try to claim Jelt, Hark will do anything to save him. Even if it means compromising not just who Jelt is, but what he is . . .