It’s a little surprising, when I think back on it, but with as much fantasy as I have read over the years, I can’t recall a single book that has dealt with mermaids. With our planet being nearly three-quarters water surface, and our oceans being largely unexplored, it would seem to me that fantasy stories of mermaids, mermen, and underwater cities should almost be a glut on our market. But since it’s not, the setting for Deep Blue was a welcome breath of … salt water?
Deep Blue is the first book in a four-part series, which will be fairly obvious once you start reading it. There is no clear conclusion and the book can really be seen as the introduction and set-up for the series.
The story: Princess Serafina is coming of age and preparing for her coming out and wedding to Prince Mahdi. During a public ceremony (her performing of a ‘songspell’) she and the people of Miromara are attacked. Serafina and her friend, Neela, get away in the chaos of the invasion. Here Serafina experiences quite an adventure as she tries to stay one step ahead of the marauders. She learns who is behind the attack and that she, and her neighboring princesses (all about her age) must form a bond to fight off the attacks. Something bad happens … end of the book.
Yes…if you know me, you know how much I do not like this serializing of books in such a way that you can NOT get a full story with one book. To me, this is nothing more than a publisher’s marketing ploy and it’s a no-no. A book has a beginning a middle and an end. I rate this book … check back tomorrow, I’ll tell you then what I rate the book. … No, I won’t do that just to try to get more blog hits. That would seem unethical. Wouldn’t it? And if not unethical, it’s at least a cheap, sleazy way of trying to get more attention.
Aside from my feelings about the lack of ending, while there was much to enjoy, the book did have some other troubles.
The world-building (under the seas) was fun, but author Jennifer Donnelly went a little overboard (pun unintended) with trying to be cute and having fun with sea/underwater items. Things like:
“Oh, super yum. Candied flatworm with eelgrass honey. My favorite!”
and the “map, etched in squid ink on kelp parchment” and the crazy woman with too many catfish (which I admit got me to chuckle).
I remember listening to author Bruce Coville once talking about a fantasy book’s CTPP quotient (that is: Cool Things Per Page), and how books like the Harry Potter series were so high with CTPP, which is a big part of the fascination. Here, Donnelly tries too hard, in my mind, to make that CTPP high. These little snippets (ala ‘candied flatworm and eelgrass’) don’t lend an air of ‘realness’ to the story (as I expect they are intended) but become a distraction.
Eye-roll moment…. I don’t typically groan out loud or roll my eyes while reading, but I did here. Through one of Serafina’s magic powers, she goes in through a mirror to another underwater dimension (CTPP moment … all mirrors connect from the back side!) and meets a dangerous foe. His name is Rirrom Drol. Rirrom. Drol. He rules the land behind the mirrors. Eye rolls all together now….
One of my biggest issues with the story is that Serfina goes from mini-dangerous-adventure to mini-dangerous-adventure, such as a few seemingly helpless moments with Rirrom Drol, which don’t actively advance the over-all arc of the story. When a mini-adventure starts, of course i don’t know that it’s a mini-adventure, and I’m caught up and interested, but once it’s done and Serafina moves on, I still wonder how it will all tie together, but at the conclusion of the book, the ties are very frayed and I feel we’ve been led on a romp purely for the sake of the adventure.
However…! While the first third of the book is all set up and introductions and CTPP gimmicks, and the second third is filled with mini-adventures, the final portion of the book is actually quite interesting and exciting. I admit I was hooked (again, pun unintended) when a sea witch tells Serafina and the other princesses:
Never before have six direct descendants been of the same age at the same time — just as the original six were. … your powers — and those of your friends’ — strengthen when you’re in proximity to each other.
Now that’s cool! This is exciting and I really want to know more. Unfortunately, we’re almost done with the book when this comes up. Yes, it paves the way for what, hopefully, will be three more, very exciting books. But this book, being a preface, simply sinks as a book.
Looking for a good book? Deep Blue promises an exciting undersea adventure as part of the Waterfire Saga, but this first book is filled with unnecessary actions and language trying to build the world and plot. If you’re okay with a book only as a preface and not a complete story, this might be just right for you.
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author: Jennifer Donnelly
series: Waterfire Saga #1
publisher: Disney Press
hardcover, 320 pages