Monday, December 23, 2019

Review: Deeplight by Frances Hardinge

Deeplight by Frances Hardinge
MacMillan Children's
Publication Date: October 31st, 2020
Hardcover. 416 pages

About Deeplight:

"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."

Frances Hardinge is known for her stunning worldbuilding and magical storytelling, and fortunately Deeplight fits right in with the rest of her catalog of work as something incredibly imaginative and breathtaking.

The world of Deeplight is vivid and teeming with life. In Myriad, where the main setting of this story takes place, the common belief is that a variety of gigantic sea gods once roamed the sea around the island in a part of the water known as the Undersea until there was a cataclysmic clash among them and they all eventually destroyed one another. The islands now live in the memory of their reign and knowledge of the once-powerful gods, and, since the gods were destroyed in the sea, people now regularly go sea-diving and scavenging for 'godware,' or parts of the gods, to sell and makes things out of. I swear Hardinge explains it better and it's truly a fascinating concept. One of the most impressive feats within this story is how much effort and detail Hardinge puts into the lore of this world, including stories from the past and legends of different gods and life in Myriad and so much more. All of this together really brought this world to life and made everything feel real and utterly captivating.

Hark is a delightfully endearing character who experiences a lot of mishaps both within his life and throughout the events of this story. This really plays into his development as he learns how to take control of his own life and decisions and learn to stand up for himself. I don't really want to mention too much about Hark's adventures specifically because it was fun to watch them all unfold without knowing, but he has a very charming sort of naivete about him that I enjoyed. Perhaps naivete is the wrong word, since Hark has grown up in a harsh environment and spends his life essentially pull off scams so he's very world-savvy, but there's still something very honest and innocent about his outlook on life and his morals that stood out a lot to me.

Hark's best friend is Jelt, a rather pushy and stubborn person who, if we're being honestly, I couldn't really stand. I wanted to like him, but the way he used Hark and pushed him around was just too annoying for me to like him in anyway. I understand how that dynamic really played into Jelt's role in the book and with Hark's own development, which all works together well overall, but it still made it frustrating for me to read any scene that involved him. There are some additional character in that have prominent roles that I liked as well, such as an old priest named Quest and a young woman called Selphin. Quest was a particular favorite of mine and I have no doubt that he'll be a favorite for most readers.

A prominent component of this world that I'd like to also note is the inclusion of deaf culture. In this world that revolves around water, diving and scavenging underwater are huge parts of life, and because of all the deep-sea diving many people end up losing their hearing, leaving them "sea-kissed," meaning without hearing. There are varying degrees of hearing loss for some as they become sea-kissed, but what's important is that in this culture being sea-kissed is a sign of huge respect because those who are as seen as highly respected divers that are akin to warriors. There is great usage of signing in this book and a sort of normalized approach to signing and living in a culture of people with varying levels of hearing loss. I love this component and thought it was such a wonderfully incorporated representation of deafness (though please note that I do not suffer from hearing loss so my opinion is not from a personal experience), and what I loved most was that Hardinge notes in the back of the book that this book was inspired by a ten year old girl writing her a letter and asking her if she would ever consider including a deaf character in one of her books. It means a lot to me to see authors taking so much care in their work and really interacting with and taking inspiration from readers.

Overall, I really enjoyed exploring this world and the lore, legends, and characters that inhabit it. I've given Deeplight four stars!


  1. I didn't know that there were deaf characters in this story, I love that! And what a sweet story that the author wrote a story for a fan😁

  2. I love good world-building in a story!