Thursday, May 8, 2014

Review: Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly

Release date: May 6, 2014
Author info: Website | Twitter | Facebook
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Pages: 320
Format: Egalley
Source: Publisher provided through Netgalley
Buy the book: Barnes & Noble | Amazon | The Book Depository
The first in a series of four epic tales set in the depths of the ocean, where six mermaids seek to protect and save their hidden world.

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.
So... I've still yet to find a mermaid book I truly love. Don't get me wrong, Deep Blue is entertaining enough, has an interesting idea behind it, and the world is richly imagined, but it never captured my fancy. It never got me excited or emotional. I didn't ever really feel for the characters.

Deep Blue is a quick read, even for someone who wasn't especially engaged in the story or characters. I kept reading because I kept thinking something exciting and game-changing was going to happen in the next chapter, but it's largely a saga of Seraphina and Neela running away, getting captured, running away, and getting captured again. The underwater world Donnelly has imagined is clearly one of beauty and immensely detailed, but the plot never truly takes off. The beginning sets you into the action, but barring that and the last thirty or so pages, the book is rather dull.

This could perhaps be better if there were interesting revelations throughout the middle, but even what we learn isn't astounding, and most of the new information is just dumped out. Not to mention, things that should be a surprise really aren't. (I mean, Mr. Blue, I know exactly who you are. It's pretty darn obvious.) Plus, we only see true friendship between Seraphina and Neela, with very little time to get to know the others past very basic personality points. This is something I'm sure will be better established in the subsequent books, but disappointing to miss nonetheless.

I also understand that all of the puns are supposed to be funny, but they felt immature and trite to me. I might just be a grump, honestly, but their usage just rubbed me the wrong way most of the time--and I normally love puns. I think language should complement the world, and I think Deep Blue would have felt like a much less fluffy book had more of the terminology been based in Latin and Italian (as parts of it were).

And maybe all of this can be written off as my general preference. I think I need a mermaid book of substance, one that takes the darker side of the mermaid/siren myth and explores that (such as Monstrous Beauty does), one that creates a mythology that reflects what I wish to see. I can see Deep Blue appealing to people, I can, but the same reader who enjoyed Monstrous Beauty is likely not to enjoy Deep Blue so much. The premise is so promisingly filled with mentions of shadowy dreams, bonds of sisterhood, and conspiracy that it was so disappointing to find a book that only touched on those ideas and spun them into frivolity.

About the author:

Jennifer Donnelly is the author of five novels - Revolution, A Northern Light, The Tea Rose, The Winter Rose and The Wild Rose - and Humble Pie, a picture book for children. She grew up in New York State, in Lewis and Westchester counties, and attended the University of Rochester where she majored in English Literature and European History.

Jennifer lives in New York's Hudson Valley with her husband, daughter, and three rescue dogs. 

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