Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Review: A Letter to the Luminous Deep by Sylvie Cathrall

A Letter to the Luminous Deep (The Sunken Archive #1) by Sylvie Cathrall
Publication Date: April 25th, 2024
Paperback. 400 pages.

About A Letter to the Luminous Deep:

"A beautiful discovery outside the window of her underwater home prompts the reclusive E. to begin a correspondence with renowned scholar Henerey Clel. The letters they share are filled with passion, at first for their mutual interests, and then, inevitably, for each other.

Together, they uncover a mystery from the unknown depths, destined to transform the underwater world they both equally fear and love. But by no mere coincidence, a seaquake destroys E.'s home, and she and Henerey vanish.

A year later, E.'s sister Sophy, and Henerey's brother Vyerin, are left to solve the mystery, piecing together the letters, sketches and field notes left behind—and learn what their siblings’ disappearance might mean for life as they know it.

Inspired, immersive, and full of heart, this charming epistolary tale is an adventure into the depths of a magical sea and the limits of the imagination from a marvelous debut voice."

A Letter to the Luminous Deep is a charming epistolary tale featuring an enchanting cast of characters and hints of mystery and intrigue.

I absolutely adored this book and would consider it a favorite because of how much it stood out to me and how much I enjoyed every second of it. The curious E. Cidnosin and her recent scholar penpal Henerey  Clel have both gone missing, leaving their respective siblings, scholar Sophy Cidnosin and Vyerin Clel, behind to attempt to figure out what happened to them. Sophy and Vyerin begin a correspondence with one another (along with the help of their partners) to share what information each one has , and do this by beginning to sort and look through E. and Henerey's letters and correspondence in order to hopefully help them move closer to determining if E. and Henerey are indeed missing–or dead, as feared. 

A Letter to the Luminous Deep is gorgeously written and I was in love with each person's letter writing style. Sylvie Cathrall has such eloquence in her writing and it made this a perfect story for me to sink into and become fully immersed in this understand world her characters inhabit and explore. I loved the world-building that we got hints of here and there, and I am genuinely eager to learn even more about this world. E. and her family live(d) in the Deep House, a magnificent underwater home that is an architectural feat and I would truly love to take a tour of (though knowing how uncomfortable that might make E., perhaps I'd settle for some photos!). I am so curious about the rest of this world and what else can be found in the depths of the waters, There are a lot of really cool ideas at play that we begin to discover at the end of the book and I'm eager to explore those more in the sequel.

I think I fell in love with each one of these characters and would love to share some correspondence with each and every one of them–though I might feel a bit embarrassed that my letter writing is not quite up to snuff! E. was probably the most relatable for me in her hesitance and general uncertainty and anxieties around so many things, and I really loved following her along as she seemed to sort of let her curiosity embolden her into reaching out and trying some new things. Henerey was also an incredibly encouraging voice and he worked excellently as a companion to both bolster E.'s curiosity and also further his own growth. Sophy and Vyerin were also charming people who seemed just as sharp and intelligent as their siblings (truly, this book is full of incredibly smart people!) and both have incredibly keen eyes for detail and uncovering the truth. 

I also really appreciated some of the focus on mental health in this book, particularly that relating to E.'s mental health. E. appears to struggle with what appears to be some agoraphobia, anxiety (including social), and forms of OCD, and I thought Cathrall incorporated these elements in a way that felt both natural and respectful. I really felt myself relating to E. on a number of things (I, too, would struggle immensely and feel overwhelmed if a sibling simply reappeared in the house I was living in and even threw and large event without my input). There is a lot of consideration given to how mental health is treated and viewed in this book, and I thought it was lovely to see it portrayed as being a normal part of a person's life that others are aware of and take into account. 

A Letter to the Luminous Deep is extremely slow-paced and unfortunately because of that and how it is written, I don't think it's going to be for everyone, but it will definitely click with some. It's fairly effusive, flowery, extremely long-winded, and there is very little urgency in the writing–you, like me, may often find yourself tapping your foot waiting for a particular letter author to please get to the point (although I personally enjoyed the journey to get to the point, I'm sure not everyone will appreciate it). I loved taking my time with Cathrall's careful storytelling, and this along with the interesting premise  really worked for me.

What I liked and appreciated most were the constant hints and minuscule breadcrumbs of ideas littered within the letters throughout the book, as they are what really left me dying to know more. Everyone is so thoughtful and kind in their letters, which is certainly charming, but I had this slightly off kilter sense of something more foreboding in the background or just something altogether grander and more intense brewing in the background. Cathrall knows how to craft a tale with gentle foreshadowing that really guides the reader along in a really impressive and deft manner that makes it impossible to put this book down. 

Overall, I've given A Letter to the Luminous Deep five stars! This won't be for everyone, but if you click with it, then it's going to be an amazing journey for you. I truly cannot wait for the sequel!

*I received a copy of A Letter to the Luminous Deep in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating.*

Buy the book: Amazon | Bookshop.org

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful review! I loved this too, and my review will be up tomorrow. I can't wait for the next book😁