Series: Waterfire Saga #1
Release Date: 6th May, 2014
Publisher: Disney Press
Add it: Goodreads
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.
Deep Blue is the first in a new series, entitled the Waterfire Saga, by Jennifer Donnolly. Now I have to explain why this novel was, in a lot of ways, a dream come true for me: I am slightly obsessed with mermaids due to reading The Little Mermaid at an impressionable age (ask me if I believe in mermaids, go on, I dare you) and have been wishing for a fully realized novel about mermaids for what feels like FOREVER. Add this to the fact that years ago I read Donnolly’s A Gathering Light (A Northern Light for people outside the UK) and looooooooooooooooved it, so o.bviously when I saw that she’d written a book about mermaids I knew that I had to read it as soon as humanly possible.
Donnolly creates a beautifully imagined world in this book, giving vividly detailed descriptions of the most extraordinary things and it made me very sad because I just really want to be a mermaid and live in this world, okay. From beautiful cities carved from rock and jewels to beds made from shells and pet octopuses, Donnolly really grasps what is needed to make a fantastical world seem real. Not only does she bring to life the world her mermaids live in but introduces us to her own mythology; an entire history behind the world in her pages. She weaves Greek mythology into her tale and it is just…everything to me. Her mermaids, just like the humans on the land above, are all different, some with unique abilities – Neela, one of the main characters, is bioluminescent. Like humans, Donnelly’s mermaids hail from different parts of the world and reflect that in the way they look, speak and behave. I think this is one of the rarer YA novels which has a full ensemble of main characters who are all female of different ethnicity.
I enjoyed the story; the combination of magic, political strife and ~evil lurking in the far reaches of the world~ gave me a strong Sailor Moon vibe, especially since our main characters all have their own unique abilities. The characters were also a lot of fun and I liked them all, from our main girls to the characters they meet on their journey. There is also a refreshing lack of dudes in this novel tbh, and little focus on ~romance~. Ain’t nobody got time for romance when there is a world to save, okay.
However despite my enjoyment of this novel as a whole, there is something that really stopped it from being a four star or higher read. The prose is extremely jarring – Donnolly is a fantastic writer who is capable of excellent descriptive passages but her dialogue in this book is… not great, to say the least. The characters speak with distinctly American voices, with slang that is just so weird to me since they’ve had no human contact. It just seems silly in an otherwise very well thought out novel. I mean even The Little Mermaid had its own colloquialisms (‘Oh Flounder, don’t be such a guppy!’). And if it had just been a few instances here and there it wouldn’t have bothered me but it happens so frequently and each time it broke my concentration. Also all the mermaids wear clothes underwater, what is that about?
Ultimately though this is a pretty great start to a series and I’m interested to see where Donnolly takes it. It’s just different enough to stand out from the current YA trends, so I’ll be continuing with the series while hoping that the dialogue issue is resolved.