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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Thoughts on Pages #07: Deep Blue

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I love mermaid stories. Maybe it's because I've spent a whole lot of my childhood near the beach, but I love the fantasy and magic that surrounds mermaid lore.

While browsing through Target's book section one day, I happened upon Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly. The cover was gorgeous, yes, but what drew me in was the premise. When I did pick it up, part of it was hard to plow through detail-wise, but once the story picked up, it was a fun ride.

Storyline

Deep in the ocean, in a world not so different from our own, live the merpeople. Their communities are spread throughout the oceans, seas, and freshwaters all over the globe.

When Serafina, a mermaid of the Mediterranean Sea, awakens on the morning of her betrothal, her biggest worry should be winning the love of handsome Prince Mahdi. And yet Sera finds herself haunted by strange dreams that foretell the return of an ancient evil. Her dark premonitions are confirmed when an assassin's arrow poisons Sera's mother. Now, Serafina must embark on a quest to find the assassin's master and prevent a war between the Mer nations. Led only by her shadowy dreams, Sera searches for five other mermaid heroines who are scattered across the six seas. Together, they will form an unbreakable bond of sisterhood and uncover a conspiracy that threatens their world's very existence.


This is marketed as Young Adult, but based on reviews I saw, I was expecting this to be a middle-grade fantasy. I didn't mean to pick up something that young, but resolved to read it anyway.

I was actually surprised by the fact that this story is very, very involved. There are many characters to get to know, there's a setting that's rich with lore, and there's a whole lot that goes on event-wise. After the main protagonists escaped one sticky situation, there always seemed to be some new antagonist for them to face. This kept the pacing pretty fast, which I liked.

Characters

There are SO many characters in this book. So much so that I either forgot about them or never heard from them again.

However, all you need to really know is that there are six mermaid heroines who are destined to fight against this dark force that threatens the seas: Serafina, Neela, Ling, Ava, Becca, and Astrid. The story focuses the most on Serafina and Neela, who are best friends. You don't meet Ling until halfway through the novel, and you don't meet the rest until three-quarters of the way through, possibly closer to the end of the book.

Where it got confusing for me were all of the side characters. Some were important - as they were mentioned at least a second or third time - but others had only one scene in the novel. Once I was able to figure out which characters were important, I was able to pay the most attention to their character development.

Speaking of character development...for the protagonists, especially Sera, it's BRILLIANT. The most important thing about this story is actually the friendship that these girls have, not the romance that's only briefly mentioned in the first half.
There's a makeover scene - in which the protagonists have to disguise themselves, and Sera actually goes from having long hair to having a sleek pixie haircut - and that scene was the turning point at which I became invested in the story as a whole. The characters became a little edgier in appearance, but they were bracing themselves for their adventures ahead, as dark as they were. It sounds silly to become interested in a story because of a haircut, but it was a physical manifestation of Sera's growth as a person...or, mermaid.

Setting

Now, this is where it gets even more involved.
I'm glad I picked up a physical copy of this book, because there are two important things that I would have had a harder time referencing in an e-book: a map and a glossary.

The first third or so of the story takes place near Italy, in an underwater kingdom called Miromara. In fact, the characters from that region have distinct Italian names, and Sera even understands a little Italian herself. A scene also takes place in Venice, which I was super happy to see.

Then, the story ventures North towards Romania. Characters are from various oceans/rivers from real-life locations, including the Mississippi river, the Amazon river, and the Arctic ocean. The map helped me visualize where everything was and where certain characters were from.

Then, there was the terminology. I loved the backstories and lore of this story, but there was a time or two when I thought the names and titles felt very random, and they weren't fully explained. That's where the glossary came in. If they explained that an obârsie was a leader and that an ochi was a spying spell a lot more thoroughly, I would have been able to remember what those things were. Now, I will say that some things were explained better than others, but due to the fast pacing of the novel, and due to how involved the plot was, it was more difficult than it should have been to keep things straight. But, hey, it brought back memories of reading Eragon by Chrisopher Paolini.

My Thoughts

I'll be honest, I had a hard time getting through the first half because of the sheer amount of characters, terminology, and the vast lore. But then, after the second half, several things happened:

  • A scene that reminded me of Alice in Wonderland
  • A crazy cat lady mermaid
  • Zombies
  • Magic by singing that got pretty Harry Potter-esque at times (one mermaid is able to fling balls of light by summoning it to her hands via song)
Those were just a few of the things that were in the novel that really, really made this a fun read. I was able to get a good grasp of the story in the second half, too. (Also, zombies in a mermaid story? What?) These original elements made this story unique in comparison to other mermaid stories I'd read before.

Because of the way the story is going, and especially how it ended, I am actually really excited to read this series. The second novel, Rogue Wave, will come out next year.

Before I close, I want to show y'all this video I found while scouring the internet for goodies related to this book. This is actually a song that was written and performed for the book trailer, and it includes lyrics of the song prophecy that drives the plot. There's a full version, too, complete with a music video that serves as an extended trailer for the book. I'm impressed that they went to such lengths just to promote an upcoming YA novel, but I'm not surprised; the book is published by Disney Hyperion, and the song was released through Hollywood Records.

I liked the extended music video best (as the trailer doesn't even feature the main protagonist Sera), so I thought I'd show it to y'all here:



Overall, I give Deep Blue four fishes out of five. I think the series is only going to improve, now that the characters and setting in this story are established. I'm curious to see where this series is going to go over three more books.

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