Review Blog

Jan 22 2020

Deeplight by Frances Hardinge

cover image

Macmillan, 2019. ISBN: 9781529014570.
(Age: 11+) It is 30 years since the underwater gods of the Myriad archipelago fought a cataclysmic battle and all died. Since then relics of the gods' bodies are sought after as they retain power. 14 year old orphan, Hark, and his friend Jelt, 16, search the beaches and dive for pieces of 'godware' to sell. Brave, clever, courageous Jelt pulls Hark along like a current but his increasingly reckless schemes eventually land Hark at the slave market where, after eloquently speaking up for himself, he is saved from the slave galleys and bought by Dr Vyne, a strange woman researching the old gods. He is taken to an island fortress which turns out to be a sanctuary for the old priests who no longer have gods to serve. There Hark settles in to a life serving the priests and passing on any of their knowledge to Dr. Vyne. When Jelt finds Hark and insists on him helping retrieve an old bathysphere, loyal Hark gets involved in something bigger than both of them.
This story is infused with language which conjures up images of the sea, it ebbs and flows capturing the reader in a net of the imagination. Through it all, issues of loyalty keep being tested: 'loyalty is not a virtue in its own right. Its' worth depends on where it's spent' p128. Should Hark give loyalty where it is not reciprocated? The more he learns through the stories of the old priests, the more he understands about the connection between fear and faith and the larger issues of Myriad's place in their world and he has to make some hard decisions for the greater good.
A dark and complex story set in a well imagined fantasy world suitable for middle school students and all lovers of fantasy.
Themes: Fantasy, magic, loyalty, friendship.
Sue Speck

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