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Deeplight

£9.9£99Clearance
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I think this book could be big, it could be loved by many, so keep your eyes peeled for it on October 31st! The worlds she creates are so unique, so truly different, so vibrant, so well fleshed-out that most other writers would have set as many stories as possible in such a place - but Hardinge instead with every story tirelessly creates a completely new and completely *alive* universe, with its own rules and settings and fabric, and none of those are repetitive, and all are a bit strange and beautiful at the same time.

That said, this book is a slow burn, and does take quite a while to get going. The story takes its time to develop, the characters are slowly drawn until they feel lifelike, the world is vividly painted in all its weirdness until it feels real and lived-in, the stakes are established and the chessboard is set for the payoff. And the entire second half provides a great payoff to all the careful and elaborate set up. But what else would you expect from a Hardinge story? Distinctive appreciation for the inclusion of sign language. And also for the refreshing exclusion of any ham-fisted romantic plot line. I'm glad I went to the trouble of getting the signed Waterstones Exclusive edition as it is nothing less than what this tale deserves.What happens when the teachers and families of deaf children are given intensive support and training?

The world is recovering after sea gods destroyed it several decades past and the remnants eke out a hard survival among the waters and the islands. I was fascinated to discover this world and get embroiled in some rather dangerous situations that turn out badly (as stories always do), but I was even more interested in the cool twists that came about soon after a certain heart showed up. Deeplight was without a doubt one of my favourite books of 2019. This is the kind of book that made me fall in love with fantasy in the first place: magical, unforeseeable, one of a kind, entirely addictive.

So, setting and story are fantastic - characters too, as through Hark we meet a range of people. There's an exceptional portrayal of a truly toxic friendship - they're hard to do right and I thought Frances Hardinge handled it beautifully. There's some parts of the book that revolve around deafness and a deaf character that were really well-done too; then I found the author's note at the end and learned this book was actually inspired by a young woman who wrote to the author asking if she'd ever include a deaf character in a book; Ms Hardinge pondered and found herself with a storyline; and then invited the reader to serve as a consultant on writing that aspect of the book. So it makes sense on why it was right, but I also thought that was just a really cool inspiration for the book. Fifteen-year-old Hark lives on Lady's Grave, an island in the middle of the Myriad. He makes his way conning wealthy merchants and can't seem to say no to his friend, Jelt, whenever he asks for help on one of this riskier endeavours. On one such endeavour, Hark is caught and shipped off as an indentured servant to the neighbouring island of Nest. But Jelt isn't done asking favours from him yet, and the stakes become rather steeper when Hark finds the beating heart of a god, thought long dead but still able to twist and transform life around it. With the Myriad now in danger, Hark must decide how much is friend's life is worth. Our protagonist is Hark, a rough-and-tumble orphan who brought himself up on the beaches of Myriad. He's caught during a heist, talks his way out of a brutal sentence, and ends up as an indentured servant of the priesthood. Myriad was once a land of terrifyingly present sea gods and the priests who sacrified to and appeased them, but now the gods are dead and the priests are old and dying. Hark and Jelt had been orphaned by the same bitter winter, and this had somehow grafted them together. Sometimes Hark felt they were more than friends – or less than friends – their destinies conjoined against their wills.' On the whole, I really enjoyed Deeplight. The relationships are deep and well-drawn, as I alluded to before, with these extending beyond just Hark and Jelt. Dr. Vyne also brought an interesting dynamic to this tale, along with other memorable players such as the old priest named Quest and a young pirate girl named Selphin. The world-building was magnificent, which was no less than I expected from the author, who must have put a lot of thought and research into her detailed portrayal of the culture and history of Myriad and its islanders. An example of how everything is connected can be seen in the deep-diving traditions of the people and the way that maritime living has shaped their way of life. With near drownings being an unfortunate yet common occurrence among deep sea scavengers, they even have a name for the condition of hearing loss suffered by many survivors, along with a system of sign language used widely among certain groups as a result.

You will find out who you are when your choices test you. In the end, we are what we do and what we allow to be done. A vast economy exists dredging these depths for godware (remnants of the lost gods) and those that can't afford a submarine dive. The result is a sub-culture of sea-kissed - individuals who have either partially or fully lost their hearing due to accidents underwater or long-exposure to high pressures. Their presence was a treat and I hope that other authors include deaf characters in future. Hark is a troubled young orphan being constantly led astray by his best buddy, Jelt. They're living in a world where the gods are dead and pieces of them can still be found in the ocean. These pieces can be used for technological advancement - or sold to the highest bidder. Naturally, one particular piece might just be lurking, waiting to get Hark into an ocean of trouble ...But not everyone is glad to be free from the brutal rule, or rather terror, of the Gods. “He had always lived in a godless world, and yet… everyone he knew had grown up with a lurking pride in their island’s ‘patron’ god. Their remembered might was yours, somehow. Even their horrific nature had a majesty that you could borrow. You got into drunken arguments with folks from other islands about whose god could have beaten the other in a straight fight.” After all, people tend to look for their identity, their pride, the entire meaning of life in the strangest places. The stories have tremendous power over us, shaping our desires and wants and directing our lives down paths that may be strange and dangerous. “I had hoped that younger generations would grow up without our craven god-fever, but I still see traces of it everywhere – even in you. There is an eagerness, a poisonous nostalgia. No, throughout the Myriad, people would fall on to their faces and give in to their ancient superstitious terror.” The ocean features heavily (obviously) but the sea-creatures are limited in favour of all the weird and wonderful things that also reside in this strange double ocean. Maybe you should just read the book to figure out what I mean about that - I am not equipped to explain it other than to tell you it is equal parts strange and awesome.

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