Deeplight is another deliciously dark treat from Frances Hardinge.
Among the islands of the Myriad, Hark and Jelt live a hardscrabble life, relying on their wits and the telling of a good tale. The Myriad used to be ruled by a multitude of terrifying deep sea gods, but the gods have died, ripped apart in a terrible war, and the islands are recovering in the aftermath. Pieces of the gods still appear as salvage and can fetch a tidy sum, an appealing target for the boys. But godware is dangerous, as well as valuable, and one particular piece that Hark finds has the potential to change life as they know it…. for everyone.
Frances Hardinge has built a world which draws you in from the very first page. The steampunk technology is brilliantly described, and fascinating to imagine. From the jumbled, bustling streets of Lady’s Crave, to the silence of the Undersea, the reader is absorbed in Hark’s experience. His reactions and responses are as realistically drawn as the streets and boats. The reader roots for him throughout, and his emotional journey is touching and believable.
One of the most intriguing strands of the novel is the treatment of those who are deaf. Deafness is common in the Myriad, due to so many people working underwater in submersibles. The ‘sea-kissed’ are totally integrated into the community on the islands, where everyone signs as well as speaks, and it is the height of bad manners for a hearing person to block the sightline of one sea-kissed, and so interfere with their lip-reading.
This profound novel deals with complex themes in a gripping way. Are gods good or bad, or something else? What fills the space they leave when they die? Is change, both personal and on a wider level, to be embraced or resisted? And how do you recognise when a friend has changed so much, they are no longer the person you cared about?
I recommend Deeplight highly for readers 11+. A confident year six reader would adore this, but they would need a strong stomach as those gods can be very violent!
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