Deeplight by Frances Hardinge

Fantasy, 415 pages, published in 2019

It has been thirty years since the gods of the Myriad have been dead, but remains of their enormous bodies are still washing up from the Undersea. When Hark discovers the heart of one of these dead gods with the power to heal, he saves his best friend Jelt, but the heart doesn’t leave him unchanged.

Spoiler Free Review:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I had tried reading this book back in January, but it just wasn’t working for me. The audiobook was finally released recently, so I was able to get through that. I have such mixed feelings about this book because it did some things so well, but other things fell flat.

I’m always up to read an ocean-y book, so I was super intrigued by the cover and synopsis of this book. The oceanic elements actually ended up being one of my favorite parts of this book! There were giant ocean creatures that they people of the Myriad called gods, and even though they are dead, the pieces of their bodies still contain magic. People who come into frequent contact with these pieces or visit the Undersea, where the gods used to dwell, are Marked, meaning that they grow scales, have newly pointed teeth, or any other number of other changes. I thought that this was so cool and really unique! I don’t think I’ve ever read something like that before. It was really interesting to see how different people were Marked, especially Hark’s friend Jelt.

Another really good aspect about this book was that many of the people who dive for pieces of the gods’ bodies end up with full or partial hearing loss because of the pressure, which earns them the title of sea-kissed. The sea-kissed are highly respected in this society. Many people know sign language and there are even spots reserved for them at the front of events so that they have an easier time lip reading. It is so great not just see representation for people who are hard of hearing, but to have it be so integrated into the world and the story.

My big issue of this book was the pacing. It felt like it took a long time to get to where the main plot of the story started, and then every time I thought it was going to be over, it just kept going. It’s not a particularly long book, but I definitely felt like it could have been shorter.

I was constantly frustrated because Hark and Jelt are best friends and work together to con people. The tension between them is clear at the beginning of the book is clear, because Jelt is always pushing Hark to do things he isn’t comfortable with. As the story progresses, it is clear that Jelt is absolutely a toxic influence on Hark’s life, but Hark sticks with him because they are friends and has been saved by Jelt in the past. It was so frustrating to read, because it was clear to me that Hark needed to get away from Jelt, but he had to deal with all of the complicated feelings he had.

Through this book, Hark developed friendships with Quest, a priest he was caring for, and Selphin, a sea-kissed daughter of a local gang. The contrast of these friendships against his friendship with Jelt just made it even more clear how bad Jelt was for Hark. I really appreciated Hark’s friendship with both Quest and Selphin. I think they both helped him grow and figure out who he is away from Jelt’s influence.

I was overall really happy with how the book ended. It ended in the way that I wanted to and everything wrapped up well. My positive feelings for this book were definitely lessened by the pacing and my frustration, but I still had an enjoyable time listening to it.

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2 thoughts on “Deeplight by Frances Hardinge

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