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The Deep & Dark Blue

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After a terrible political coup usurps their noble house, Hawke and Grayson flee to stay alive and assume new identities, Hanna and Grayce. Desperation and chance lead them to the Communion of Blue, an order of magical women who spin the threads of reality to their will.

As the twins learn more about the Communion, and themselves, they begin to hatch a plan to avenge their family and retake their royal home.While Hawke wants to return to his old life, Grayce struggles to keep the threads of her new life from unraveling, and realizes she wants to stay in the one place that will allow her to finally live as a girl.

256 pages, Paperback

First published January 7, 2020

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About the author

Niki Smith

40 books169 followers
Artist, writer, lover of fine comics (and some pretty trashy ones too). Niki Smith now calls Germany home and is dedicated to filling the world with queer and diverse stories.

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5 stars
979 (42%)
4 stars
932 (40%)
3 stars
369 (15%)
2 stars
41 (1%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 433 reviews
Profile Image for Charlie.
78 reviews276 followers
July 23, 2022
The Deep and Dark Blue took me completely by surprise. The book has been sitting on my shelves for over a year, and I’m regretting not picking it up sooner. This was one of the best graphic novels I’ve read, and my favourite middle grade I’ve ever picked up. This was the perfect mix of intricate fantasy and meaningful relationships and storytelling.

The art and colour palette were so unique. I’ve never seen a book that primarily utilises blue and pink/purple tones. The colour combination was gorgeous, and I’ll remember the beautiful drawings until I feel compelled to revisit. The weaving and the way the threads were drawn, was incredible. The characters were distinct, and I really appreciated how well emotion was conveyed through facial expressions. The lore and world-building were phenomenal, especially for a relatively short graphic novel. The sisters of communion reminded me so much of the Moirae from Greek mythology. I loved learning about their world and how different forms of weaving created elements like wind, fire, or water.

Grayce was my favourite character. It was delightful to see how she slowly embraced her identity. I thought that the trans rep was strong. I really enjoyed how, despite her fear, everyone reacted positively, and seamlessly adapted to her new name and pronouns. The world also felt very accepting, and I’m sure will be affirming for many trans readers. I loved how the threads, which essentially represent the will of the universe, were the first to accept Grayce, and always saw her as a girl. The tone and rep felt perfect for a middle grade graphic novel.

I cannot recommend this magnificent story enough. This book is why I love queer graphic novels so much! They are just too good.

I post about queer books on: Instagram Twitter TikTok
Profile Image for Kelsey (munnyreads).
76 reviews5,670 followers
January 3, 2022
Started off 2022 with a solid middle-grade graphic novel. Wholesome fantasy story with an empowering exploration of gender identity.
Profile Image for s.penkevich.
732 reviews5,000 followers
June 19, 2022
This is a gorgeous little graphic novel with a beautiful, trans affirming message. When a violent military coup kills twin brothers Hawke and Grayson's Grandfather and their cousin who was next in line for the throne. Knowing they too will be executed by their military-leader cousin in order for her to take the throne, they flee and disguise themselves as girls to hide out in the training school of a women-run religion as Hanna and Grayce. This group uses spinning to weave the fabric of the universe together--Smith does well through creating brief yet insightful depictions of how this magical group works without needing to get into many details or fully explain it. The brevity of the world building here really works, leaving much to the imagination while still feeling fully immersed in this world. An empowering trans narrative with a very diverse cast of characters and fun world-building, this book is a gem.

Lately my 10 year old and I have been sharing graphic novels with each other, often reading them aloud and getting quite animated in our depictions of characters. This one has quickly become a favorite very much from how well Smith has quickly constructed a well-rounded world and political climate while also only telling a singular story within it. There is strong implication of a much larger world going on with the spinners, the military, the history of Noble lines and the multiple plagues that are briefly mentioned, and it has been fun to explore in our own imagination when playing it out with LEGOS and such. This book is quick--perhaps the middle portion feels a bit rushed--yet still very effective as the many parts coalesce efficiently and form something greater than the sum of its parts.

This story is, ultimately, a trans affirming narrative and it is really beautiful. Grayce is on her path to figuring out who she truly is, and this is embraced quite well in the story. Something that really touched me was the acceptance of Grayce which is encouraging to young readers. There isn't an argument over gender so much as it is shown that the magic of the threads have full accepted Grayce and there can be no arguing with the fabric of the universe. It is a coming out tale full of acceptance and empathy, which is really lovely and would make a comforting and empowering story for a teen--or anyone--while they are working through their identity.

The artwork really pops as well, with a strong blue and pink color scheme that underlines many of the novels themes. There is sort of a hyper vibe to the book, quickly moving with lots of action and character motion effectively captured in the art. The fight scenes are exciting as well. I enjoyed how diverse the cast of characters was, which allows young readers from all over to find representation in the novel. This is perfect for fans of series like The Witch Boy, which deals with similar subjects. Overall this is fast, fun, effective and most importantly, full of empathy.

4/5
Profile Image for Tucker  (TuckerTheReader).
908 reviews1,572 followers
May 24, 2020

Many thanks to Little Brown Books for Young Readers for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review

Phew. When I picked this graphic novel up, I did not expect it to be so hard hitting. Especially for a middle grade novel.

This fantasy graphic novel follows Hawke and Grayson after they evade being killed by their evil cousin. To evade capture, they disguise themselves as girls and join the Communion of Blue.

As they come up with their next steps, Hawke and Grayson—Now using the aliases ‘Hanna’ and ‘Grayce’—stay in the Communion of Blue. While Hawke is itching to leave, Grayce doesn’t. She wants to stay in the one place that will allow her to live as a girl.

I really did love the graphic novel. It was gorgeous and fascinating. It also weaved in the Grayce’s exploration of her gender into the novel perfectly. There were some great moments, some that even made me cry.

My only problem with this was the world building. As beautiful as the art was and as amazing as the story was, the world building was that much worse. I really like the idea of the Communion of Blue and the idea of the magical thread but it wasn’t explored at all.

If there is a sequel (and I really hope there will be), I’d love to see this explained in greater detail.

Overall, this graphic novel was beautiful and (mostly) well written!

Bottom Line:
➵ 4.5 Stars
➵ Age Rating - [ PG ]
➵ Content Screening (Mild Spoilers)
➵ Positive Messages (4/5) - [Familial love, Self love, Gender acceptance]
➵ Violence (4/5) - [Characters are shot, stabbed, etc.]
➵ Sex (0/0)
➵ Language (0/0)
➵ Drinking/Drugs (0/0)
Trigger and Content Warnings - Gender dysphoria, Violence, Loss of a loved one
Publication Date: January 7th, 2020
Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Genre: Middle Grade/Fantasy


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4.5 stars! That one was a tear jerker! Review to come!

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Profile Image for Maia.
Author 27 books1,935 followers
February 13, 2020
I've been a fan of Niki Smith for years and have been eagerly following the updates on this book ever since it was announced. It does not disappoint! Grayson and Hawke are twins, grandchildren of the Lord of House Sunderlay. They are forced to flee a bloody political coup and go into hiding in plain sight. They disguise themselves as twin sisters and enter as initiates into the Communion of Blue, a holy sisterhood of dyers, weavers, magic spinners, healers and guardians who live and train in a monastery in the city center. Hawke chaffs under the disguise of Hanna, wanting to return to their home and fight for his place as Sunderlay's Heir. But Grayson thrives as Grayce, finally able to live the studious, peaceful, female life she's always wanted. When it is announced that Lord Sunderlay's murderer is going to take his place on the council, the twins must bring the truth to light and choose the paths their lives will take.
Profile Image for Andy.
2,354 reviews176 followers
February 1, 2022
Oof this one got me good. So many feels at the end.

The Deep & Dark Blue is a story about twins Hawke and Grayce. When their cousin comes and murders their grandfather to start a coup, the twins must run and find sanctuary. The are taken in by the Communion of the Blue as initiates. Hawke must pretend to be a girl while Grayce finally gets to experience life as the girl she knows she is. But while they're safe in the Blue, they also don't know what happened to their cousin, and Hawke is desperate to avenge his grandfather.

This was such a great story. I loved it so much. I would love another that focused more on Grayce and her trials in the Communion of the Blue. Grayce shows innate talent at spinning and I want to see her living her truest and happiest life. I love what we got to see in this one, but I also want more.

Hawke is much more impulsive, but he's also great comedic relief. He loves his sibling and he'd do anything in his power for her. I loved seeing these two work together and take back what was rightfully theirs. This was such a fun adventure!

Rep: Twin MCs: white male and white trans female, multiple BIPOC female side characters, BIPOC male side character.

CWs: Death, deaf of grandparent, deadnaming, blood, grief, misgendering, murder, violence. Moderate: transphobia/transmisia.
Profile Image for Dahlia.
Author 18 books2,291 followers
Read
December 1, 2019
Really charming trans graphic novel. This is only the second graphic novel I've ever read so I'm still getting used to processing story lines in that format and can't really comment on any of that (especially because I read an ARC with no color, and I think color would've helped me differentiate between characters better), but I loved the trans storyline and lbr that's what I was there for.
Profile Image for CaseyTheCanadianLesbrarian.
1,102 reviews1,321 followers
March 22, 2020
This was a fun middle grade fantasy graphic novel about two siblings caught up in a political coup. Both are assigned male, and escape and hide themselves as new initiates in The Communion of Blue, a women-only communal society with sacred duties. When they are given the opportunity to avenge the wrongs done to their house, one is eager to get back to his old life and the other wants to stay in the life she knows is for her. Nice trans storyline, good but not great art, could have used some more details about the world-building. I see in the acknowledgements there was consultation on including a trans girl character, so I'm happy to see that and for trans representation for this age group in comic form.
Profile Image for Rod Brown.
4,948 reviews162 followers
April 4, 2020
A nice fantasy with a LGBTQ+ twist. After a violent coup in their noble house, heirs and identical twins Hawke and Grayson go into hiding, dressing as girls to join a magical religious order. While going about their daily lives as initiates, one is wholly focused on righting the injustice while the other is also coming to terms with inner truths and the direction they want their life to take.

Telling the twins apart can be difficult unless you pay close attention to their earrings.

The mandatory action is a bit rushed and unlikely at times and the magic not well defined, but the rest of the story has all the feels.
Profile Image for Melanie.
940 reviews18 followers
May 27, 2021
This is such a great middle grade graphic novel! It's got great world-building, beautiful illustrations, amazing characters, and such a thrilling storyline! I honestly love everything about it and have no complaints. The magic system is so interesting, and there is political intrigue, a trans main character, and a found family aspect! I love it so much!

Content Warnings
Graphic: Deadnaming
Moderate: Death, Violence, and Blood
Profile Image for Samm | Sassenach the Book Wizard.
1,143 reviews243 followers
March 23, 2020
3.5/5

I loved the message to this but it felt like there was a disconnect between a lot of the panels and what the panels were supposed to be showing me. I felt a bit lost in a few places. The illustrations were beautiful but they didn't totally line up quite right.

Rep: transgender
Profile Image for ambyr.
856 reviews78 followers
November 3, 2022
This is a sweet story of trans acceptance that will probably be deeply meaningful for some kids. Unfortunately, I am enough of an anti-monarchist that I spent half the book with "strange magically updating family tree tapestries is no basis for a system of government!" running through my head. The worldbuilding in general is slight here: what does it mean to rule a noble house, what is the relationship between the nobility and the military, just how big is this city that it can support the vast number of noble lineages shown in the library? And how does the magic work, anyway? But I don't know that any of these questions will bother the target audience.
Profile Image for Jeremy.
713 reviews43 followers
August 9, 2022
Really nice middle grade/borderline teen fantasy story with trans rep. The Deep and Dark Blue is like if Molly Knox Ostertag's Witch Boy Series, had a baby with Jen Wang's "The Prince and the Dressmaker".

It's a journey where a character discovering their gifts (magical or otherwise) goes hand in hand with discovering and accepting who they really are.
Profile Image for Collin.
947 reviews30 followers
February 18, 2020
I LOVE THIS SO MUCH

Quick question, though: why do all the stories about men-only institutions and girls disguising themselves as boys condemn the men-only rule and advocate for accessibility to all genders, but anything with women-only institutions portrays them as just super duper all around? Why shouldn’t guys get to weave and spin and dye and study if they want to? What if it was Hawke who wanted to stay with the Communion, who felt like it was his real home, and they were like, “😬 Sorry, girls only”? The happy ending is INCREDIBLY conditional on this not being the case, but imagine it. Or, what if they BOTH wanted to stay but had to be split up against their wishes? How is that fair? What if Grayce was nonbinary but AMAB? WHERE’S THE JUSTICE???

Anyway. This GN still ruled, I’m just always a little bitter about women-centric institutions going unexamined and getting free rein to discriminate by gender.
Profile Image for Emma.
1,196 reviews95 followers
August 3, 2020
I loved the art and the affirming message of The Deep & Dark Blue. The plot had a lot of action in it, which made for a fun and fast read. My biggest complaint was that I didn't feel much of a connection with either Hawke or Grayce. More time is spent on the story than on character development and I would've loved a bit more about both of our main characters. I still enjoyed The Deep & Dark Blue and will definitely be recommending it to my friends who teach middle schoolers.

C/W:
Profile Image for Jenna.
3,429 reviews38 followers
March 8, 2020
Enjoyed the message of acceptance and being true to yourself, as well as the character arcs of the twins, but the world building and magic system seemed a bit mythological and vague rather than fully explained.

I liked the drawing style and color scheme, but with all the initiates having the same hairstyle and uniform, half the time I wasn’t sure which twin (until you see their hair) or which character (until their name is stated)....

A bit brief for a standalone, so hopefully there’s a sequel with more details. Otherwise, it might’ve been improved with more breathing room as a two-parter. But enjoyable overall!
Profile Image for Loz.
1,276 reviews15 followers
May 29, 2020
I loved this. The colors and world were great, the drama and conflict perfect for its intent and audience. The handling of queer intricacies, delightfully positive and uplifting without ever being the defining characteristic.
Profile Image for Yuna.
439 reviews1 follower
February 11, 2020
It's cute and and has some very sweet heartfelt moments. Action is swift. There is violence but it's not overly graphic. The motivation of the antagonist is a bit handwavey and I would've liked a bit more time there. As a spinner I enjoyed seeing all of the spindle spinning in the book. Not the best print quality I've seen--colors were a bit muted or washed out. I wonder if I'd gotten an e-version if they would've been more vibrant.
Profile Image for Anna Reta Maria.
413 reviews36 followers
March 9, 2020
This was really sweet! I clearly love warm-hearted stories made for middle-graders. Good old Disney-vibes with LGBT characters, what's more to ask?
Profile Image for Gina Carra.
Author 2 books49 followers
January 26, 2020
This graphic novel captured my heart in an instant. The focus on blue and pink was a beautiful, subtle detail in a story about gender. Hawke and Grayce protect each other while learning about themselves and the result is a heartwarming tale that will stay with me for years to come.
Profile Image for Phoebe.
2 reviews
January 21, 2020
A wonderful story dabbling in, sword, sorcery, and self-discovery. The fast paced plot of avenging family is well timed and punctuated with a beautifully handled transgender narrative that had me getting teary and feeling deeply for Hawke and especially Grayce. Great art and great characters! The reviews of it hitting both notes of Korra and Witchboy are very accurate!
Profile Image for Jacqie.
1,574 reviews70 followers
April 13, 2021
Popsugar 2021: A book with a family tree

And the family tree has quite a bit to do with the story! In this middle-grade book, the Communion of Blue, an order of women, "spins blue" to create magic. On the run from their murderous, usurping cousin Mirelle, young twins Hawke and Grayson disguise themselves as girls to be taken in as initiates and hide while planning their next move after Mirelle kills their grandfather and their uncle. Spinning and weaving is magic, and Hanna and Grayce (as they name themselves) once had a family tapestry that magically showed the true ruler of their noble house. Mirelle destroyed this tapestry to remove evidence of her crimes as she maneuvered to get control of the house. This magic tapestry comes into play again as Hawke and Grayce look for a way to bring Mirelle to justice.

You may have noticed that I've changed the names of these characters several times. While Hawke wants nothing more than to reclaim his birthright, Grayce has found a way to express her true self- while hiding among girls she accepts that she is also a girl instead of the boy she's been raised to be.

The book moves fast. I would have liked more time with the magic of the Communion, a chance to get to know Grayce and Hawke better, more time on the grounds of the sisterhood. The book is bright with contrasting colors. There was lots of onomatopoeia written out in the panels and I could never picture what the sounds actually were or where they were coming from. The magic system is very vague. The story's essentially the wronged heir recovering the throne and it never gets more complicated than that. How powerful was Hawke and Grayce's family exactly? Who knows? What's the political structure like in this world? Impossible to say. I'd have liked some of these details, but the book was focused on action. I suppose that's to be expected with a middle grade book.

Grayce's acceptance of herself was also elided, and I really would have liked more of that topic. There are some blushes and hesitant words, but we see Grayce from the outside and can't really see what's going on in her head. I knew about Grayce going in but if I hadn't I probably would have missed quite a few clues. However, anything that shows young people someone like them, going through the fear of rejection and misunderstanding that goes along with this sort of realization, is going to be valuable. Maybe I wish the book had been more complicated than middle grade and that's why I'm not rating it higher, that's all.
2,252 reviews
January 30, 2020
Twin boys Hawke and Grayson hide in the Communion of Blue, disguised as girls, after the murder of their relative who was next in line for their noble house.

4.5 stars and the last hundred pages or so were definitely five! You frequently see 'girls disguised as boys' to make their way in the world but 'boys disguised as girls' is less often done. And this is done very well. Grayson, who goes by Grayce in the Communion, discovers that he really is she (Grayce is transgender). Seeing Grayce realize this, and be welcomed by the fellow women of the Communion, and watching her twin brother Hawke's eyes open - that was absolutely heart-warming. I would definitely read more books if this becomes a series.
Profile Image for Melanie Gillman.
Author 32 books215 followers
May 8, 2019
An engaging fantasy book with magic, political intrigue, and gorgeous artwork! Recommended.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 433 reviews

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