Review: Deeplight by Frances Hardinge

Alexis:

Hi, everyone. I’m finally done with my first year of grad school, and you know what that means– I get to read for fun again!

Deeplight starts out as a slow burn. At first, it turned me off a little bit, but I know Frances Hardinge; she’s one of my favorite authors! She is a masterful worldbuilder, and she spends the first 100 pages exploring the world of Deeplight and letting you dig into the mind of her characters in order to set up a powerful punch later.

Synopsis: Deeplight follows Hark, a fifteen-year-old boy who’s a little lost in the world. He just feels like a sidekick to his longtime friend, Jelt, until he’s put on trial for a crime and sold as an indentured servant. If you couldn’t tell from the front cover, the story is set on an island, called Lady’s Crave, where thirty years ago, the sea gods “turned on one another and tore each other apart.” If the islanders are lucky, they can find relics of the dead gods called “godware,” which are powerful and valuable. Hark just so happens to find a heart, which saves the life of Jelt. But when it starts to change Jelt, and not in a good way, Hark searches for answers with the help of a girl named Selphin and an old priest named Quest. 

I think this is the first book I’ve read by Hardinge that has a boy narrator instead of a girl. I will admit: I kind of wish the story was told from the perspective of Selphin, a girl he meets on his journey. I connected with her character a little more than Hark. 

The plot picks up a ton during the second half of the book, and I found myself really appreciating how she set up the world in the first half. Hardinge’s plot always goes in a direction I’m not expecting, and her books (including this one!) are always the epitome of fantasy, always delving deep into her dark, imaginative world and filling them with masterful descriptions. And this is why she’s one of my favorite authors!

I love the morally grey characters, and how Hardinge focuses on a toxic friendship, a topic not often explored in fantasy. I think the character arcs were great. Hardinge also created a world where deaf culture is normal and accepted, and the characters often use sign language to talk to each other. Overall, this book is a well-drawn, imaginative sea story that travels in unexpected, vivid directions. 

VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5 

 

Review: Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Alexis: Read 1/9/19

Children of Blood and Bone, despite being a thick book, is super fast-paced. The plot is always moving, which I appreciated as I read. Adeyemi does a good job of explaining how the magic system works, and I enjoyed learning about all the gods and the maji’s connections to them. Sometimes multiple perspectives can be hard to pull off, but I really enjoyed reading from all the different perspectives, and the shifts never pulled me out of the book.

As for the characters, I’ll be honest: I’m not a huge fan of Zélie. She sometimes felt like a Katniss Everdeen character. However, I connected more with her as the book went on. I enjoyed Inan’s character until about halfway through the book. As for Amari and Tzain, I always enjoyed reading from their points of view. At times, the plot was a bit predictable, but not enough that I didn’t continue to enjoy reading the story. There was a love-at-first-sight storyline, and though I normally hate this YA trope, I thought Adeyemi used it to her advantage.

About a quarter way through this book, I realized something: parts of this book mirror Avatar: The Last Airbender.

Zélie is very similar to Katara. When she is young, her mother is killed in a raid because she possessed magical powers. Zélie possesses these same powers and she grows up wanting revenge. She has an older, non-magical brother, Tzain, who just wants to protect her. Zélie meets an Aang-like character, Amari: a girl who was trained how to fight from an early age, but who needs to learn to get past her peaceful side.

Amari’s older brother, Inan, the prince, has a good heart but is misguided. He wants his father’s approval but he has to betray those he loves in order to achieve it, just like Zuko. The father is definitely a Fire Lord Ozai type of character.

There is a temple “made of air” which connects maji to their gods. This temple was mostly destroyed in a raid in which a genocide happened.   

Despite these similarities, Children of Blood and Bone is an original book. I I loved the diversity and the magic based on Nigerian mythology. I also admired Adeyemi’s creativity—the characters ride on giant, horned lions and leopards, called lionaires and snow leoponaires.

Overall, this book was wholly engrossing and I had a hard time putting it down. And for that reason I can’t rate it any less than 5 books. I’m excited for the sequel!

VERDICT: 5 books