Deeplight: Deeply enthralling YA Fantasy

I don’t read young adult books, well not since I was a teenager and I won’t say how long ago that was. So imagine my surprise when having picked Deeplight by Frances Harding on Netgalley I saw that it was a YA novel. 

I toyed with not reading it, thinking that I don’t really like young adult books (a sweeping statement I’m aware), but this experience of blogging and being on bookstagram has taught me that my assumptions about what books I think I like and those that I actually enjoy don’t always line up. 

A few years ago I would have told you that I don’t really read fantasy and a quick glance at my page will show you that that is most definitely not the case any more. 

So on to an actual review. 

Deeplight is set in the archipelago of Myriad which for centuries was protected by undersea gods. These gods were both worshipped and feared, killing sailors and wrecking ships, until the Cataclysm which wiped out the gods and allowed the islanders to return to the seas. 

Now the remains of the gods can be sold by islanders like Hark and his friend Jelt. But the actions of these boys threaten the peace which has reigned since the gods disappeared. 

I’ve called this book enthralling but the opening pages, which set up the relationship between Hark and Jelt, and create the world of Myriad, seemed a little sluggish. The action really kicked in once Hark finds himself indentured on the island of Nest working at the Sanctuary, a home for the now aged priests who once communicated with the gods. Then the action and adventure begins, as does a sense of dread and inevitably which permeates the rest of the story. 

This is a great story full of magic, myth and action. The gods and the details of the world are described vividly; it is everything you want from a good fantasy novel. However Deeplight is much more than that. Harding has her hero Hark exploring some very familiar young adult themes in an unfamiliar setting.  

The friendship between Hark and Jelt is the core of the story, as important as the action. There is an imbalance of power between the two, with Jelt clearly emotionally abusing and manipulating Hark. It is frustrating as a reader at how long it takes Hark to see this, but perhaps for a younger reader it might spark some recognition. 

The third person narrator allows us an insight into Hark’s thinking and we see him developing more of a sense of self, an understanding of the motivations of others. As the novel progresses Harding fleshes out his character and he has changed by the dramatic, climactic finish. 

Deeplight is, at its very heart, a fable. A story of good and evil, and a message about being true to yourself, trying to be a good person. It is a perfect fairytale which had me so captivated I finished it in two days. 

From what I have read this one comes out in April in the US and is already out in the UK. 

Goodreads recommended that I read The Deathless Girls next, what do you think? Is it in a similar style? Am I starting to enjoy YA reads now? 

3 thoughts on “Deeplight: Deeply enthralling YA Fantasy

      1. Hm, I don’t really know your reading tastes but I loved:
        – Radio Silence by Alice Oseman — it explores mental health 7 education, friendship, escapism into fiction as a coping mechanism
        – Crier’s War by Nina Varela — sff with human/robot f/f romance. great pinning & political plot
        – you may like Pulp by Robin Talley — it has a dual timeline between now and McCartney era & focuses on writing stories and queer liberation
        – The Brilliant Death by Amy Rise Capetta — two qenderqueer stregas with unical magical abilities to shapeshift on a revenge mission. lots of sexual tension & political games

        If I knew what you liked better I would probably find some more but I hope you’ll like some of those 🙂


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