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The Myriad

Deeplight

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They say that there is a dark realm of nightmares that lies beneath the true sea. When the Undersea arches its back, the upper sea is stirred to frenzy.

They say that the Undersea was the dwelling place of the gods.

They say many things of the Myriad, and all of them are true.


The gods are dead. Fifty years ago, they turned on one another and tore each other apart. Nobody knows why.

Now, even coin-sized scraps of dead god are worth a fortune because of the strange powers they're said to possess. But few are brave enough to dive and search for them.

When fifteen-year-old Hark finds the still-beating heart of one of these deities, he'll risk everything to keep it out of the hands of the smugglers, scientists, and cults who would kill for its power. Because Hark needs the heart if he wants to save the life of his best friend, Jelt. But the power of a god was not meant for human hands.

With the heart, Jelt begins to eerily transform, and Hark will have to decide if he can stay loyal to his friend—or what he's willing to sacrifice to save him.

419 pages, Hardcover

First published October 29, 2019

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About the author

Frances Hardinge

30 books2,398 followers
Frances Hardinge spent her childhood in a huge, isolated old house in a small, strange village, and the two things inspired her to write strange, magical stories from an early age. She studied English at Oxford University and now lives in Oxford, England.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,139 reviews
Profile Image for Kai Spellmeier.
Author 5 books13.5k followers
January 7, 2021
This is a story about friendship (the toxic kind), sea monsters (the dead kind), secrets (the very secret kind) and deep sea adventures (the kind that will get you killed almost definitely).

The feeling of reeling devastation when you realise that a newly discovered author has published countless books in the past decade and you didn't even know of their existence? Followed by a rush of utter delight when you realise that you're free to devour all of their books now without having to wait years for a new release? Priceless.

Deeplight was without a doubt one of my favourite books of 2019. This is the kind of book that made me fall in love with fantasy in the first place: magical, unforeseeable, one of a kind, entirely addictive.
Deeplight is beautiful inside and out. I first saw the cover and KNEW my life dependent on me having it. I bought a special edition from an indie bookstore and it features a colourful map in the front and fascinating illustrations in the back of the book. (There was a Waterstones special edition of it too and usually I'm weak when it comes to colourfully sprayed edges but the sight of that neon orange made me recoil. Map & illustrations are in the same colour and it's a real shame.)

The world building is one of a kind. It's one of those places that you would love to explore but would not want to live there at the same time. It's a place filled to the brim with stories. The characters are drawn just as well. What I really appreciate is that the author included deaf representation. She was approached by a reader one day who asked her whether she would consider writing about deaf characters. Not only did Frances Hardinge proceed to do so, she also worked closely with the said fan and her community to ensure an accurate deaf representation and she ended up dedicating the book to the girl. And that, my friends, is how to be a decent ally.

I have so much love for this book that I cannot express it properly and I urge you to read it. It's beautiful inside and out.

Find more of my books on Instagram
Profile Image for Nataliya.
710 reviews11.3k followers
February 18, 2021
When Frances Hardinge writes fantasy, it is a true fantasy indeed, in the most sincere meaning of the word - a crazy flight of imagination, an inventiveness of the strangest kind.

The worlds she creates are so unique, so truly different, so vibrant, so well fleshed-out that most other writers would have set as many stories as possible in such a place - but Hardinge instead with every story tirelessly creates a completely new and completely *alive* universe, with its own rules and settings and fabric, and none of those are repetitive, and all are a bit strange and beautiful at the same time.


“All human fear runs down into the Undersea, just as streams and rivers run into the sea. Human fear has a terrible power. It changes everything, distorts everything, maddens everything. Fear is the dark womb where monsters are born and thrive.”
This story is set on the archipelago of the Myriad - a large group of islands surrounded by the unfriendly ocean under which lies the Undersea - a surreal place from which multitudes of monstrous Gods used to rule the islands and terrorize the inhabitants.
“The Undersea was where all the fears of the Myriad ran, like rainwater into the sea. Every scintillating drop of it was aglow with human terror.”
Until a few decades prior a Cataclysm wiped the Gods out, and now the remains of those grotesque and majestic creatures are being scavenged from the depth to provide the valuable ‘godware’ that is the backbone of the local economy.

But not everyone is glad to be free from the brutal rule, or rather terror, of the Gods.
“He had always lived in a godless world, and yet… everyone he knew had grown up with a lurking pride in their island’s ‘patron’ god. Their remembered might was yours, somehow. Even their horrific nature had a majesty that you could borrow. You got into drunken arguments with folks from other islands about whose god could have beaten the other in a straight fight.”
After all, people tend to look for their identity, their pride, the entire meaning of life in the strangest places. The stories have tremendous power over us, shaping our desires and wants and directing our lives down paths that may be strange and dangerous.
“I had hoped that younger generations would grow up without our craven god-fever, but I still see traces of it everywhere – even in you. There is an eagerness, a poisonous nostalgia. No, throughout the Myriad, people would fall on to their faces and give in to their ancient superstitious terror.”

“That is our fault – the fault of the priests. It is a fantasy we sold to the people of the Myriad so that everyone’s oppression would be more bearable. We let everyone tell themselves that they were watched over by gods rather than terrorized by monsters.”
But this is not only the story about the Gods. It is also a story of much more mundane evils. People can create monstrosities most evil with the everyday actions, evils so repulsive precisely because of their ordinariness.

Hark is an ordinary orphaned kid who is never on the winning side. His best friend Jelt supposedly looks out for him - but in reality it is a very toxic friendship, with Jelt’s selfishness and manipulation sickening in how real and everyday ordinary they are.
“All his life, there had been a current dragging Hark back to Jelt, over and over. He had never been able to fight it. When Jelt needed him, Hark had always, always come running.”
Hark is loyal, fiercely loyal. Always having played a role of faithful sidekick to his best friend Jelt - because of all the shared history, the life debt that was owed - he bends and bends under Jelt’s unrelenting pressure, justifying quite disturbing things and those cautious inner voice naggings for the sake of the power of friendship, loyalty and love. But even Hark cannot unsee the harsh reality.
“It wasn’t easy,’ said Hark sharply, ‘and I can’t do it again.’ Even as he said the words, Hark knew that he would be asked to do it again. And again. And again. He had said that he couldn’t get the time free, and he’d been wrong, hadn’t he? Jelt would point that out. Not for the first time, Hark had made the mistake of achieving the impossible on demand.”
But sometimes even the strongest patience comes to an end and those thought of as spineless find the backbone they never thought they had.
“Eels always have spines,’ he answered. ‘They just bend a lot.”

“Jelt had saved Hark’s life, but that didn’t mean Hark owed Jelt his life. Maybe you couldn’t ever owe somebody your life, not really. You couldn’t let anyone else decide what you did with it. You had to live it yourself, as truly as you could.”



That said, this book is a slow burn, and does take quite a while to get going. The story takes its time to develop, the characters are slowly drawn until they feel lifelike, the world is vividly painted in all its weirdness until it feels real and lived-in, the stakes are established and the chessboard is set for the payoff. And the entire second half provides a great payoff to all the careful and elaborate set up. But what else would you expect from a Hardinge story?

The characters are realistically imperfect. The resolution lacks the shiny storybook neatness. The world still has teeth and is ready to bite, but by end it may be just a tad better, in a way that feels earned. It may be presented as a book for the younger people, but this 35-year-old thinks it’s very much for adults. And I love it.
4.5 stars.
“No stories were complete anyway. They were all really just parts of a bigger tale that could only be told by many different voices, and seen through many different eyes. There was always more of the story to learn.”

“Hark could see the stories they yearned to tell, glimmering in their eyes. They could be coaxed out, with a little effort.
‘In a while,’ Hark answered. ‘I’m listening for now.”
————-
My other reviews of Frances Hardinge’s books are below:
The Lie Tree
A Face Like Glass
Gullstruck Island
Verdigris Deep

———————

My Hugo and Nebula Awards Reading Project 2020: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...
Profile Image for Paromjit.
2,500 reviews24.5k followers
October 9, 2019
Frances Hardinge gives us vividly vibrant world building in this spellbinding and magical fantasy adventure of gods, sea creatures, pirates and so much more. Myriad is an archipelago where the gods once reigned supreme through terror, fear, and the sheer force of their power until the cataclysm that resulted in their deaths. Since then, an industry has built up where 'godware' is keenly sought and scavenged for, these remnants and fragments of the gods command an obscene level of financial rewards, although there is more than a suggestion that perhaps the gods have not lost all their powers. Hardinge provides a large cast of characters and other creatures, and a location that is a feast for the senses, with the classic elements that underpin the excitement, obstacles and challenges of the adventure yarn.

The narrative revolves around Hark, an orphan from a tough and challenging background, his dangerously troubling best friend, Jelt, so close as to be a brother to him. Their relationship may seem strangely bizarre, for Jelt is the most unpleasant of characters, cruel, manipulative and offhand about the dangers he leads Hark into, so intensely manipulative that you wonder why Hark does not boot him out of his life. However, their relationship provides an authentic exploration of the nature of toxic relationships, an important theme in the book. Hark is working as an indentured servant for Dr Vyne at the Sanctuary for ex-priests from the heydays of the gods. This puts him in a position where he becomes aware about the gods and the cataclysm. In a narrative that takes in the magical undersea pulsating beneath the waves, the fantastically brave and deaf Selphin, with her fear of the sea, a consequence of an incident in her past, the adventure culminates in a thrilling finale.

Hardinge is a remarkable storyteller, the prose is captivating, and her world building is done with care and imagination, a world inhabited with a wide array of the strange, curious and wonderful. This is an fabulously immersive an entertaining read, full of verve, and with plenty of suspense and tension. I think many of Hardinge's fans will adore this, as will readers with a love of adventure. Many thanks to Pan Macmillan for an ARC.
Profile Image for Allison Hurd.
Author 3 books675 followers
July 6, 2020
Holy sh*t this book was good. The plot was solid, the characters were lovely, and the storycraft was impeccable. Everything connected, everything bled into every other part of the story and it all felt so organic.

The only thing that pisses me off is that this is not YA IMO. This is a heavy, heavy story about abuse, loyalty, freedom vs. free choice, and ableism. Yeah, the main characters are teens, but it's about as "YA" as Lawrence's Book of the Ancestor series. I'm trying not to read too hard into why that series and others like it are considered adult and this is considered YA (surely no presumption on the basis of gender, right??) but it's pretty hard to overlook.

If you want a very smart, moving, action-packed story filled with people who are hearing impaired, brooding and/or dealing with complex feelings of surviving trauma, this is it.

CONTENT WARNING:
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books3,846 followers
April 28, 2020
I've got to hand it to Hardinge. When she decides to do some worldbuilding, she dives deep. And in this case, I mean that literally.

The world is recovering after sea gods destroyed it several decades past and the remnants eke out a hard survival among the waters and the islands. I was fascinated to discover this world and get embroiled in some rather dangerous situations that turn out badly (as stories always do), but I was even more interested in the cool twists that came about soon after a certain heart showed up.

I love echoes of Cthulhu and deep-sea gods and deals with a devil. But more than that, I LOVE stories. Especially stories within stories--or in this case, a storyteller who survives by telling tales--and how he does it by NOT going about the traditional bard route. :)

I admit I didn't absolutely LOVE this book until we were getting to the big action near the end, but between that and the final resolution, I was VERY satisfied. It pushed all my buttons.

I'd call this one a solid 4.5 stars. :)
Profile Image for Krystal.
1,294 reviews338 followers
July 11, 2020
Ok this is not my normal kettle of fish (haha see what I did there) but actually enjoyed it a lot!

It's weird!

There are monster-gods!

Lots of fish and fishy things!

OH! FISHY THINGS HA HA GET IT COZ EVERYONE IS UP TO SUSS.

Wow, look how well my brain works after all this science and sea. Sorry. I need some time to dry out.

Also, Jelt is a JERK.

***
A day later ...

Okay, here I am to write a proper review for this highly unusual book!

Shall I give you the plot?
Hark is a troubled young orphan being constantly led astray by his best buddy, Jelt. They're living in a world where the gods are dead and pieces of them can still be found in the ocean. These pieces can be used for technological advancement - or sold to the highest bidder. Naturally, one particular piece might just be lurking, waiting to get Hark into an ocean of trouble ...

Ah, Hark. He's a good kid at heart but he's terrible at saying no and is completely blind to how toxic his friendship with Jelt is. It really frustrated me because I respected his loyalty but man was it misplaced. He does manage to make some other 'friends' though so at least there are other characters for us to like. PHEW.

The gods are freaking COOL. I mean, forget everything that you know about gods. These guys are basically all tyrannical monsters that once lived in the ocean devouring seafarers and ships and submarines and basically the floor was lava only the floor was an ocean full of these guys. They're gone now but their legacy is ingrained in the inhabitants of the Myriad and there are still some priests with memories of the time they terrorised humanity with their godliness. I loved the stories and was right by Hark's side when he was pestering people for more information. It was really fascinating to learn about these dark deities. It got dark enough to actually give me nightmares. That was unexpected. This is not a cheery story, my friends.

The world building in this story is incredible. It's limited to the Myriad, and while there is talk of 'the continents', they don't feature in this book. This is all about Hark's tiny world and it is full of the most amazing details. It's an interesting blend of science and mythology - I want to say magic but it doesn't feel like the right word here. It's more like ... the science in this world is just really different to the science of our world. These gods were real things and their makeup has provided advanced technology to those who have scavenged parts and experimented with them. It provides a lot to ponder.

The ocean features heavily (obviously) but the sea-creatures are limited in favour of all the weird and wonderful things that also reside in this strange double ocean. Maybe you should just read the book to figure out what I mean about that - I am not equipped to explain it other than to tell you it is equal parts strange and awesome.

Honestly, normally this much ocean and this much length and this much frustration with a main character would have turned me right off but I just found the whole thing so intriguing, so even though I would get frustrated with Hark there was still so much more I needed to know. Hark may not be particularly likeable but he's an honest sort of character, and he needs the length of this book for his growth to be realistic.

There are a lot of moral questions here if you want to think deep, but on the surface this is just a really unique story about a world far different from ours. I loved the complexity and the details, though there was never so much it weighed down the story and kept it from travelling at a nice steady pace.

It does get quite dark in places and there's not really any humour in it, but it raises some really interesting ideas and provides some wonderful characters for us to judge with all of our perfect righteousness (note sarcasm). I feel quite justified in calling Jelt a jerk, though. It's been a while since I hated a character this much.

Highly recommend for those looking for a unique coming-of-age tale set in a wet, tumultuous world of dead god-monsters and strange science.

With thanks to Macmillan for a copy to read and review
Profile Image for Matthew.
90 reviews68 followers
August 6, 2019
This is one of the best YA novels I’ve read in a long time, and will most likely secure a place in my top ten books of the year, and here’s why:

Hardinge is at her prime with this kind of world and writing; its fantasy in the best way. There is a fleshed out world which is dark and intriguing, the premise of the recent history of this world has set up a perfect culture to explore whilst reading - an archipelago called Myriad once terrorised by these gods from the depths of the waters around them who mysteriously perished after the cataclysm. Since then, an entire economy has been built (in an almost steam punk fashion) around the procuring and utilising of their remains also knows as godware.

This is the world in which we find our characters, a collection of deeply thought out, messed up, and bloody brilliant people who are flung into a rich and luxurious plot which is both fast paced and action packed but demanding to be read with slowness and pleasure.

The story weaves and unfolds in ways that you both expect but are surprised by, and the language used to deliver this is delicious, a feast for the senses. It evokes the setting perfectly, it casts the story in a darkness that suits the world, and it delivers prose that is flavourful but not too drenched in empty metaphor.

I think this book could be big, it could be loved by many, so keep your eyes peeled for it on October 31st!

Perfect story for fans of:
Disney’s Atlantis (for setting and visuals)
Laini Taylor’s Strange the Dreamer (for style and concepts)
Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials (for themes and adventure)
Leigh Bardugo’s Six Of Crows (for gangs and tension)
Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Boys (for mood and darkness)
Profile Image for Jennifer.
410 reviews163 followers
September 5, 2022
Ironically, for a book in which the characters are constantly at risk of drowning, Deeplight is the first Hardinge book I've read that doesn't feel like I am drowning in it. The elaborate similes and stylized language are considerably toned down; the growing sense of paranoia and destabilization present in all Hardinge books is tempered by an odd note of nostalgia and trustworthy friends. Instead of immediately plunging into a world in which Things Are Wrong And Getting Worse, this book starts in a more mundane place and takes a while to really get going.

Our protagonist is Hark, a rough-and-tumble orphan who brought himself up on the beaches of Myriad. He's caught during a heist, talks his way out of a brutal sentence, and ends up as an indentured servant of the priesthood. Myriad was once a land of terrifyingly present sea gods and the priests who sacrified to and appeased them, but now the gods are dead and the priests are old and dying.

But even bits of the dead gods have power and value, and when Hark comes across a strange, pulsing, perforated object on the ocean floor, he doesn't realize what consequences it will have for him and his friends, for Myriad and its dead gods.

Deeplight is part adventure story with deep sea diving and sneaking around, plus a mad scientist and the very weirdest submersible I've ever come across (operated by producing notes at the precise resonant frequency of godglass) :
"My own invention," explained Dr. Vyne with surprising warmth, turning a large wheel to lower the sub into the water. I call her the Screaming Butterfly. She's a prototype."

"What does that mean?" asked Hark.

"It means that every voyage is a safety test, and it'll be scientifically fascinating if we die in her," Vyne answered cheerfully.


But it's also about the power of storytelling: the stories we tell to and about ourselves, our friends, and even our gods - and how we respond when the stories are challenged. And boy, is every story Hark has ever told or believed about to go down.

As usual, Hardinge's characters are morally ambiguous and their relationships are dysfunctional but relatable. At the start, Hark's only friend is an older boy named Jelt who has saved his life several times...but also endangered it on many others, as much as Hark tries to tell himself differently. The changing dynamics of that relationship and Hark's new, more mature friendships with others are part of a strange coming of age for a street smart boy who has neither been trusting nor trustworthy up to now.
Kly's patience and discretion had been eked out one more time, but Hark guessed that they were probably at their limits. "This is your last warning" was something people might say several times, but there was always a last last warning, and Hark thought he might have reached it. It had a different sound, something you could feel in your bones.


And also as usual, while not embracing grimdark or lingering over violence, Hardinge refuses to sugarcoat messy, morally ambivalent reality and the way that growing up helps you to see just how messy things are.
The governor probably wasn't a good man. It would probably be better to have a ruler who didn't sell people or bend his own laws. For the moment, however, this man was perhaps just the best of the wrong answers available.


A quick note on representation: one of the main characters and many of the minor ones are deaf ('seakissed' from diving too deep and too often), and I appreciate Hardinge's skilful and compassionate representation that never feels didactic. A welcome contrast to Seanan McGuire's Into the Drowning Deep.

With its almost elegiac tone and pervasive sense of loss, even amidst grand adventure, Deeplight is one weird middle grade book. I'm not sure I would have enjoyed it as a preteen, but it resonates with middle-aged me, facing a changing world and grieving things I didn't know I valued until I started losing them.
Profile Image for Dawn F.
493 reviews64 followers
May 19, 2021
I’m impressed with this story, and surprised to see it in the YA category, it’s definitely not YA! It felt adult, though it had the natural curiosity and wonder of a child as well, so I can understand better why it’s shelved as children’s lit. It’s thankfully and refreshingly completely devoid of romance between the characters and any of the usual, trite teenage angst tropes. Instead it deals with the very serious matter of the toxic relationship between best friends Hark and Jelt. What makes you stay with someone who is manipulative and abusive to you? Why didn’t you notice before? This is described very realistically and was often painful to read, and I think this heavy topic was one of the strengths of the novel. Coupled with an original scavenger adventure story and an interesting mythology of old, destructive gods made this a fresh and compelling new book that I’d recommend to everyone.
Profile Image for Anthony.
Author 4 books1,816 followers
April 28, 2021
I came upon this book because it was voted in as a book-of-the-month selection in the SF & Fantasy book club to which I belong. I went into it with fairly high hopes, because several of my bookworm friends in the club enjoyed it tremendously. I wound up feeling quite in the middle about it. It’s inventive, and for the most part Hardinge crafts strong sentences and convincing characters. But somehow I felt left at arms’ length, with the feelings of wonder and mystery never quite lifting me up to the heights I was hoping for.

Hardinge is owed a huge acknowledgment for centering deaf characters so prominently, and for creating an unusual and fascinating world. But ultimately, I want to feel more for the people in the novels I read than I did for these characters.
Profile Image for Betsy.
Author 8 books2,681 followers
January 10, 2020
The other day I was hanging out with some friends when one of them, a young adult author, accused me of harboring an unholy dislike, nay, hatred of the young adult novel as a form. I pointed out that I have no problem with teen literature, I simply don’t truck with it myself. As far as I’m concerned, when it comes to books for youth, all titles stop at 6th grade. Of course, there is an exception to every rule. I may eschew the world of young adult books out of principal, but there is one author out there for whom I would break every rule you could name. If you have not already read the works of Frances Hardinge, you are in for a treat. If you have read Frances Hardinge and weren’t quite sure what to make of her, then you simply need to try her again. Though she lingers primarily in the world of fantasy (with the occasional alternative history thrown in there for spice) each book conjures up wholly different rules and worlds. Somehow, Hardinge is able to change her internal logic from book to book. As a result, concepts that would strike you as ludicrous in any other context are, beneath her hand, self-explanatory. So basically, if you don’t like one Hardinge, simply try another. You’ll find the groove that fits your style. Now her latest Deeplight is not a book that I would normally gravitate towards, but this being Hardinge I had to give it a shot. And so, while I don’t give time or space to young adult reviews normally, for a book like this even I have to pay it homage, however I can.

The gods are dead. A Neitzschean concept indeed, but nonetheless true. Thirty years ago they ruled the seas, enormous and terrifying, part human, part sea creature, and all monster. Then, for whatever reason, they devoured and killed one another, leaving nothing but body parts scattered to the waves. Not that 15-year-old Hark knows any more about it than anyone else. He’s lived his whole orphaned life on the island, Lady’s Crave. Mostly he spends his time sweet talking and bilking the tourists, though once in a while his oldest friend, Jelt, will ask for help on a job. That’s how, despite his best intentions, Hark ends up arrested and working for a doctor on an island full of monks. It’s how he gets stuck diving deep with Jelt into unexplored waters, where he finds a strange pockmarked object. When it pulses it heals, a seemingly innocuous effect. Yet as Jelt seeks to exploit the object, Hark learns not just of what it can do, but about the true story behind the gods themselves. The gods are dead and they want to come back, so this little pulsing heart is seeking the perfect flesh to mold itself to.

There’s a moment in the movie Barcelona where two friends are talking and one asks, “What do you call what’s above the subtext?” “The text.” “OK, that’s right, but they never talk about that.” With a Hardinge novel, the subtext is always present but usually it’s a lot more fun to talk about the text. In each book, that subtext crops up to varying degrees of subtlety. In the case of Deeplight, I thought Hardinge played her hand with great care. So much so, that I fear too many people will miss what it is she’s doing here. Within this story is a pretty clear-cut examination of the relationship between fear and xenophobia. The gods, we learn, literally lived on fear. Fear, you see, always works its way into the sea, and it was there that it grew the gods and made them strong. When the gods died, a lot of that fear died as well. That, in turn, means that the people who live on the continent are less afraid to travel to the islands and this makes a lot of the islanders (particularly one specific group) worried. To their mind, it would be better to deal with a monster that was local and homegrown (and likely to eat you) than someone strange with different religions and beliefs. Better to die at the hand of the familiar than live, and maybe come to accept, the unfamiliar. Not that Hardinge makes any of this sound as clunky and obvious as I’m putting it here. She’ll just pepper it lightly throughout the book where you might notice it or might not. In one scene Hark speaks dismissively of a continental’s religion and the person with whom he is speaking lays out just how ignorant he is about the differences between different continentals. If you care, it’s there.

But why do you read a Frances Hardinge book? You read it because her brain doesn’t seem to operate in the same fashion as yours or mine. Each book she writes could only have come from her. She sounds like no one else, writes like no one else. Even when she’s pulling herself back to toe the proverbial line (as she did in Well-Witched) she just can’t seem to keep her more creative instincts from leaking out. In this book, Hardinge returns to the sea. Islands have always played a large part in her narratives. Whether she’s dissecting the nature of colonialism in something like The Lost Conspiracy (called Gullstruck Island in the U.K.), or suffering coastal sea lines in The Lie Tree, islands hold a strange fascination for her. Honestly, I wouldn’t blink an eye if one of these days she set a book in deep space, such is her propensity for examining how people band together in the face of the loneliness of the unknown.

Though I mentioned some of the subtext at work in this book, what sustains the narrative and concludes it so beautifully is the fact that this tale is all about stories. Our hero, Hark, makes his living, and often saves his own life, by telling them. Stories are everything. They can assuage a god or calm a friend. Politicians can use them to spread lies and malarkey or unbelievable truths on a wide scale. Left untold they can eat away inside of you until you’ve curdled and changed. It’s a true mark of personal growth then when, near the end, Hark comes to understand that sometimes it’s even more important for him to listen to the stories of others than to tell them. The very last scene involves a storyteller making the choice to listen to others before they toss their own tales out there for others to hear. We make sense of our lives through storytelling. For this reason alone, people like Frances Hardinge (and, let us be truthful, there is no one out there like Frances Hardinge) are amongst our most valuable. Whenever I have a chance to get my hands on a new book of hers it’s only because I want one thing: to be told a story I’ve never heard before. Deeplight fulfills that wish and a lot more besides. My sole regret is that I only get to read it for the first time once.

For ages 12 and up.
Profile Image for Brenda Waworga.
571 reviews652 followers
August 31, 2020
Beautiful book inside and out, absolutely exceeded my expectation! I enjoyed my reading journey so much

This book is so full with adventures and magical relics and unique underwater gods and crazy priests!! we followed Hark a 15 years orphan boy who love to lie to survive and telling story, Hark one day caught up in trouble because of his bestfriend Jelt and need to be sold as a slave to a doctor.. and the story goes on :D

This is my first Hardinge’s book and definetly will not be the last one, the story is so unique and the the characters are fun and loveable, the worldbuilding is incredible.. it’s all around everything I love in fantasy book even tho there is no romance here (I think this one is categorized as children / middle grade genre book)

This book also have amazing representation, it’s not everyday you can read about a kickin’ ass deaf pirate girl and how sign language need to be learn as something important and universally use, I heard Hardinge once approached by a deaf girl and she asked her if she ever have plan to write a story with deaf character, and Hardinge not only wrote about it.. she even dedicate this book to the girl and Deaf Children’s Society

Highly recommending this book!
Profile Image for DivaDiane.
919 reviews81 followers
April 22, 2021
It took a few chapters for it to grab me, but in the end I really enjoyed this story. At first, I was a bit disturbed about the 2 main characters' relationship, but as the story unfolded, I knew it was going somewhere I could accept.

The world is fascinating. Sea creatures that the human inhabitants of an archipelago call gods disappeared in the "Cataclysm" 30 years ago. They were colossal and prone to attacking the humans and eating them. I wonder where the gods came from in the first place? This question was never resolved. We do get answers as to how they evolved and grew though and it is truly horrifying.

This is a story of a young man struggling with his best friend and trying to survive in a cutthroat world where he is not valued. A blessing in disguise occurs when he is arrested and sentenced to 3 years of indentured servitude on a different island from his own. There he learns more about the gods and manages to get entangled with his friend again. Shenanigans ensue.

This is a wonderful encapsulated stand-alone novel, which, even if it is marked YA, is still very enjoyable for at least this adult. I think there might be a story in the origins of the gods, but it really is not necessary.
Profile Image for Justine.
1,103 reviews294 followers
February 12, 2021
4.5 stars

You will find out who you are when your choices test you. In the end, we are what we do and what we allow to be done.

Deeplight is another fantastic work of fantasy with a helping of body horror by the talented Frances Hardinge. This time the setting is a nation made up of a scattering of islands in a sea that used to be home to gods; beautiful, terrible, and hypnotic, yet ultimately destructive. Now the old gods are gone, but not forgotten.

Hardinge fleshes out fully a cast of characters for whom the bonds of family and friendship are a source of both strength and devastation, laid bare and tested to their limit.

Woven throughout is a testament to the power of story to preserve memory, to preserve identity, and to keep alive that which would otherwise pass from existence.

These were boxes of memories he had not allowed himself to open for many years. Now at last he did, and found their colours still fresh. He was looking at them one last time as he gave them away.

Beautifully written, as always.
Profile Image for nastya .
400 reviews210 followers
February 10, 2021
This book really resisted me for the first half of it. That’s where I gave up on the previous attempt at reading it. So this time I tackled it with an audiobook and that helped immensely. But mythology of this world is fresh and original as it always is with Frances. She has a crazy inventive imagination. I loved how she tackled here interesting topics such as toxic friendships, people craving order and authority even if it oppresses them. I will always try her books but this one lost me too often.
Profile Image for Trish.
1,845 reviews3,363 followers
April 28, 2020
This is the newest fantasy adventure by this author and the 4th of hers that I've read. It's also instantly one of my favorites.

Yes, the story needs a few chapters to get going. We open to an island-world. Not long ago, gods roamed the world and people lived in fear. There were human sacrifices to the gods even. But the gods are gone now. Not killed by the humans but by something called the Cataclysm. Now, no longer united by fear and the wish to survive, the people living on the continent might just decide to attack the people on the different islands of the Myriad - you know, because we're human.
In this world, two orphans try to navigate their way through stealing and selling fake relics on the black market: Hark and Jelt.
Relics from the gods are valuable. The typical collectors' items, coveted by the rich (and thus traders). But one day the two boys meet the real deal and it's much more than they bargained for, changing Jelt in a way nobody really understands. Except for an old priest, maybe, whom Hark had befriended earlier.
The truth about the gods, about what Jelt is turning into, how the world really worked and works ... hard to accept for Hark and yet necessary if he wants to save his best friend.

As I had expected, I loved the worldbuilding most of all. The boys, the doctor, the pirates and priest weren't bad at all - but they paled in comparison to the islands, the harbors and lighthouses, the caves and markets - and the fascinating relics like god-glass, aurora lights or god-ware. To say nothing of the impressive world beneath the waves. I also marveled at the technology used by these people - the submersibles and how they worked for example. A wonderful world, half submerged and half above sea-level, both equally colorful, mysterious and slightly alien.

The writing was as pretty as I'm used to by this author as well. On one hand, you have the action of running / hiding from "the law", of trying to find a cure for Jelt and of trying to . On the other, you have Hark's lies and the almost magical way he tells them. Because this is also a story about the power of stories. Not lies, necessarily, but the worlds a good storyteller can spin around his or her words. As such, Hark might be a (partial) representation of Hardinge herself even.

I'm glad I went to the trouble of getting the signed Waterstones Exclusive edition as it is nothing less than what this tale deserves.




A refreshing tale of dedication, friendship, the power of a good yarn and the truth about belief systems.
Profile Image for Jemppu.
499 reviews89 followers
September 11, 2022
Still thinking myself something of a magical fantasy skeptic, I'm pleasantly surprised how swell this was. Excellently atmospheric Saturday listen; the plot, the character handling, the naturalness of the world... all elements played together with the ease of undetectable effort. Nothing stood out cumbersome or forced, and my brain didn't once pause to question tropes or hurry on.

The marine magic, lore and setting kept alternately reminding me of Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea, Rivers Solomon's The Deep, and strongest of all Robin Hobb's Liveships. All of which have in their part helped keep one encouraged to dwell into these fantastical realms for the occasional catch. This now included.

What I might've been left missing still was maybe some added 'edginess' somewhere - in the story, the dialogue, or with certain enhanced character dimensionalities? Not quite sure.

Distinctive appreciation for the inclusion of sign language. And also for the refreshing exclusion of any ham-fisted romantic plot line.

______
Reading updates.
Profile Image for Mogsy (MMOGC).
1,985 reviews2,584 followers
May 11, 2020
4.5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2020/05/10/...

I’ve always said Francis Hardinge’s imagination is unrivaled, and Deeplight was another dark delight. This time, we are transported to the Myriad archipelago, home to a people who worshiped a pantheon of terrifying, monster-like gods that would rise every so often from the Undersea and wreak havoc on the islands. But just three decades before, something strange happened. The gods turned on each other, and no one knows why.

Now, all the gods are dead…but are they truly gone? Hark, our adolescent protagonist isn’t exactly concerned about such matters. An orphan, he’s too busy trying to survive on the streets, swindling the endless supply of gullible suckers who come to these islands looking for godware, the fragments of the destroyed gods left behind after their mutual slaughter. Even a small chunk of the real deal can fetch a fortune, if it still retains some of its magical properties. The way Hark sees it though, there’s no harm in making up a tall tale here and there, selling some not-so-genuine pieces if it helps him get by and also gives his mark a good story to tell. Nobody is hurt and everyone goes home happy.

But pretty soon, Hark’s luck runs out, and he ends up on the prisoner’s auction block after a heist gone wrong. A godware researcher named Dr. Vyne buys his contract and immediately puts him to work, though she is also good to him, promising a better life and an education if he follows her rules. One, he must never lie to her, and two, he must cut all ties with everything and everyone from his shady past. Before long, though, Hark finds himself breaking both rules as his best friend Jelt manages to track him down, demanding help on yet another one of his hare-brained jobs. Unable to resist Jelt’s manipulative ways, Hark agrees, and the two of them embark on a treacherous dive into the unexplored deep. What they find there though, will change both their lives forever.

Frances Hardinge’s novels are known for their endless wonders and curiosities, and the world of Deeplight is even stranger and darker than her previous works I’ve read before. As a protagonist, Hark is sharp-witted and crafty, but also devastatingly flawed. His biggest weakness is undoubtedly his relationship with Jelt. Even though the two of them are like brothers, with Hark owing much of his upbringing to the older boy, Jelt is a bully—no kinder way to put it. There’s clearly a deliberate lesson here for readers who see the way Jelt treats Hark and the way the latter just caves to the verbal abuse and emotional blackmail. Still, Hark’s massive blind spot for this complicated friendship might be the only point that irked me about this book, and given the huge role it plays in the overall plotline as well as the development of the protagonist’s character arc, I’m not sure it even counts as a criticism.

On the whole, I really enjoyed Deeplight. The relationships are deep and well-drawn, as I alluded to before, with these extending beyond just Hark and Jelt. Dr. Vyne also brought an interesting dynamic to this tale, along with other memorable players such as the old priest named Quest and a young pirate girl named Selphin. The world-building was magnificent, which was no less than I expected from the author, who must have put a lot of thought and research into her detailed portrayal of the culture and history of Myriad and its islanders. An example of how everything is connected can be seen in the deep-diving traditions of the people and the way that maritime living has shaped their way of life. With near drownings being an unfortunate yet common occurrence among deep sea scavengers, they even have a name for the condition of hearing loss suffered by many survivors, along with a system of sign language used widely among certain groups as a result.

Then there are the gods and their mildly Lovecraftian depictions, whose underlying tones of supernatural horror and uncanniness I simply adored. Indeed, there’s an awful lot of background lore in Deeplight—and if there’s one little quibble I had with the writing, it’s that the pacing of the story was a bit uneven, namely with the intro sections being weighed down with layers of world-building detail, causing a slower start. That said, none of it feels like an info-dump, with every bit of it filling me with fascination. With a little patience, this book will pay you back in spades once the story really takes off.

Honestly, I haven’t been disappointed by a Frances Hardinge book yet. Deeplight was another winner for me, a deftly written fantastical adventure filled with imagination and heart. I was also lucky enough to score the audio edition for review, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Impressively narrated by Joshua Akehurst who brought the story to life, this audiobook drew me in and held me captivated in its beguiling, mysterious world from start to finish.
Profile Image for Hank.
765 reviews68 followers
May 10, 2021
Obviously I sort of liked it. Really a 3.5 stars rounded up because I like Epilogues. A fairly simple story with a few interesting concepts. The Hark/Jelt relationship was good but a bit one way. I wish Jelt would have not been so transparently bad for Hark. I wish the undersea, where you can breathe and talk, had a bit more "logical" explanation in the world.

With those few negatives, I loved the semi-bad Vyne, the conflicted Priest, and the appreciated sun-kissed.

Definitely worth reading although I think it hit me at a good time.
Profile Image for Puck.
624 reviews294 followers
December 2, 2019
"It is easy to love power, because power tells you it is majesty and beauty and greatness.”

Deeplight was one of my most anticipated fantasy-releases of 2019, and I'm so happy it didn't let me down. Frances Hardinge has written an exciting and dangerous sea-adventure, in which a young boy has to handle (deaf) smugglers, ancient Gods, and a toxic friendship in order to survive.

"Stories were ruthless creatures, and sometimes fattened themselves on bloody happenings."


The absolute highlight of this novel is the world-building: a wonderful Myriad of islands, with people loving and fearing the seas, and mysterious sea creatures hiding in the depths. With vivid detail Hardinge describes their sharp teeth and tentacles – you only have to google “Black Dragonfish” or “Bigfin Squid” to find Hardinge’s inspiration.

However, 14-year-old Hark has more to fear from people than from the sea. Hark and Jelt have been friends, close as brothers, working together to survive on the islands. Jelt however keeps demanding more and more from Hark, and to see Hark slowly become more certain of himself and his unhealthy bond with Jelt is very admirable and brave.

“Maybe sometimes there isn’t a right thing to do. Maybe there’s just lots of wrong answers, and you have to pick one you can bear – something that doesn’t break who you are.”


A lot less terrifying is how Hardinge made deaf-culture an essential part of this fantasy world. In the Myriad, losing one's hearing because of diving expeditions is quite common, and people who are "sea-kissed" are even highly respected for braving the sea. Therefore, everyone here speaks sign language and is very inclusive; this is the kind of representation I want to see more off!

So although the plot takes a long time to get going, the story isn’t afraid to ask the hard questions. It teaches you that being true to yourself is more important than being true to something (powerful) which only brings you fear in return.

With Deeplight, Hardinge has written a beautiful, haunting, compelling fantasy novel. Highly recommended, although you might want to swear off diving for a while.
Profile Image for CC.
407 reviews
December 29, 2020
“What’s the point of a god you can pickle?”

Apparently, I need to read more “children’s” books, because this book was atmospheric delight.

I would put this in the category with books like The Book Thief, When a Monster Calls and yes, even HP. I don’t care what age you are, you’ll probably find something in this relatable/enjoyable.

4.25/5 (but rounding up so it gets on your TBR radar)
Profile Image for Ashley.
756 reviews402 followers
July 29, 2022
I will read anything by Hardinge! She is known for her amazing world building and character development & I am 100% here for this amazing sounding YA novel!
Profile Image for Di Maitland.
258 reviews73 followers
February 26, 2021
Whilst I've rated Deeplight 4* reads, I'd probably recommend it as highly as I do many of my 5* reads. It's got some beautiful, aquatic world-building and Hark's developmental journey, as he discovers the bounds of friendship, is masterfully handled.
‘You will find out who you are when your choices test you. In the end, we are what we do and what we allow to be done.’

Fifteen-year-old Hark lives on Lady's Grave, an island in the middle of the Myriad. He makes his way conning wealthy merchants and can't seem to say no to his friend, Jelt, whenever he asks for help on one of this riskier endeavours. On one such endeavour, Hark is caught and shipped off as an indentured servant to the neighbouring island of Nest. But Jelt isn't done asking favours from him yet, and the stakes become rather steeper when Hark finds the beating heart of a god, thought long dead but still able to twist and transform life around it. With the Myriad now in danger, Hark must decide how much is friend's life is worth.

description
'The gods of the Myriad were as real as the coastlines and currents, and as merciless as the winds and whirlpools. Then one day they rose up and tore each other apart, killing many hundreds of islanders and changing the Myriad forever.'

Whilst initially the archipelagic setting reminded me of that in A Wizard of Earthsea, it soon emerged that they were very different. For one, Hardinge's story is set almost as much above the waves as below, with vast sea creatures with the power of gods and a breathable deep-sea layer fashioned from fear made manifest.

A vast economy exists dredging these depths for godware (remnants of the lost gods) and those that can't afford a submarine dive. The result is a sub-culture of sea-kissed - individuals who have either partially or fully lost their hearing due to accidents underwater or long-exposure to high pressures. Their presence was a treat and I hope that other authors include deaf characters in future.
'Hark and Jelt had been orphaned by the same bitter winter, and this had somehow grafted them together. Sometimes Hark felt they were more than friends – or less than friends – their destinies conjoined against their wills.'

The absolute highlight for me, however, was the journey that Hark takes, over just a few months, from child to adult. He learns some hard lessons about what friendship really means and just how far it should and should not take you. In some ways, the explicit way in which Hardinge presents these lessons, not to mention the age of the main characters, had me (like many it seems) assuming that this was a middle-grade book that was also suitable for adults. On further thought and discussion with others, I've changed my mind. Hark's relationship with Jelt is far from simple: they grew up together and were forced to rely on each other to survive, and yet, now that circumstances have changed, this dependence has become dysfunctional. The nuances of this situation, and the true difficulty of escaping it, would fly high over an 11-year-olds head, and probably a 16-year-olds too.

I thought Hardinge handled the the situation and its pacing extremely well. Hark makes slow but steady progress in his journey towards self-discovery and self-respect. At first, I shouted at him to abandon the bully, but, as with all these things it's easier said than done, particularly for the individual required to do the doing.

Hardinge doesn't employ cheap tricks or easy drama to create tension, but tells a good story and let's it rest of the quality of her own writing and the creativity of the world she's built. I didn't rush through this book and I wasn't always desperate to turn the page which is why I've rated the book four stars. That said, I was very interested to know how Hark would fare - what he would decide - and I delighted in the plot twists as the history of the the God's war is revealed to us.

Highly recommend to younger audiences who want to spend time with some sea monsters, and to older audiences ready for a more nuanced discussion about self-identity and the realities of friendship. I'll certainly be reading more Hardinge in future.
Profile Image for Fiona.
1,184 reviews215 followers
October 11, 2020
They say that there is a dark realm of nightmares that lies beneath the true sea. When the Undersea arches its back, the upper sea is stirred into frenzy.
They say that the Undersea was the dwelling place of the gods.
They say many things of the Myriad, and all of them are true.


The Myriad, island chain once home to oceanic gods, is now home to a people left bereft by the Catalclysm - a week of terror where the gods rose from the depths and tore each other apart. These weren't abstract gods, either, these were nightmares of the deep and all too real and present in the lives of those living on the islands. That kind of thing leaves a hole in the lives of the people who once lived in feat of them.

It's through Hark, born since the thirty-year-ago Cataclysm, that we're introduced to the world of the Myriad, and it's such a phenomenal setting. Salvagers regularly brave the deeps to bring back pieces of their dead gods, and some return sea-kissed or bearing Marks; the gods may be gone but the Undersea remains, and it's full of capital-W Weird; just my cup of tea (figuratively speaking, you probably don't want to risk taking that literally). Hark's the kind of character who means well but never did have the easiest time making his own decisions; and when a friend pulls him into a caper it all spirals completely out of hand and leads to the most interesting of places.

So, setting and story are fantastic - characters too, as through Hark we meet a range of people. There's an exceptional portrayal of a truly toxic friendship - they're hard to do right and I thought Frances Hardinge handled it beautifully. There's some parts of the book that revolve around deafness and a deaf character that were really well-done too; then I found the author's note at the end and learned this book was actually inspired by a young woman who wrote to the author asking if she'd ever include a deaf character in a book; Ms Hardinge pondered and found herself with a storyline; and then invited the reader to serve as a consultant on writing that aspect of the book. So it makes sense on why it was right, but I also thought that was just a really cool inspiration for the book.

This hit all the right notes, in fact, not just the way it handled deafness; the friendship, the manipulations, the creepy gods of the sea and the world on the islands that used to be so at their mercy; the whole thing was just a glorious read. As far as I know it's a standalone, but I'm absolutely ready to try more from this author.
Profile Image for Alex Bright.
Author 2 books39 followers
April 24, 2021
*throws all the stars at this book*

NO SPOILERS

Jelt is a dick.
Vyne is a dumbass.
Selphin is wonderful.
Hark and Quest's relationship is amazing.
Rich themes and storyline.

Oh... AND ACCURATE DEAF REPRESENTATION.

*notices an errant star*

*picks it up and throws it in the pile*

It's been a week, okay?

*burrows into star pile and falls asleep*
Profile Image for Noelia Alonso.
739 reviews118 followers
December 11, 2019
(4/10)

The premise was amazing but I didn't like the execution. I struggled throughout to keep my mind focused on the story and more often than not, I had to reread many parts because I hadn't paid attention the first time I read them - my mind kept wandering off. I also didn't connect with any of the characters which was a massive problem for me, and probably the reason preventing me from fully engaging with the story.
The writing was good though and there were parts I liked but overall, this story didn't work for me. Maybe this novel wasn't the right place to start with Frances Hardinge so if you have read any of her other novels and can recommend any, please do because I genuinely liked the writing and I'm willing to give her a second chance.
Profile Image for Cori.
789 reviews132 followers
May 3, 2022
My first Frances Hardinge book is a smashing success. I admit it, the cover is what initially grabbed my eye, but the synopsis held it, and the story clinched it.

The story follows Hark, an orphan, who lives on an island which is just one of a large cluster of islands making up a nation of sorts. The background is a cataclysmic event in which sea gods killed one another, causing death and mayhem to the islands. Now, several decades later, a lucrative business has emerged where relics of old sea gods (pincers, tentacles, etc.) are harvested from the sea and sold. Mostly trinkets, they don't tend to have any power... until Hark finds a god's heart. *dun-dun-DUUUUUUN*

The setting is ah-may-zing. I applaud the author for coming up with such a unique story setting and not milking it for a trilogy. That's. 👏 How. 👏 It's. 👏 Done. 👏

Also, the story seems to be geared more towards middle school as the main character is fourteen, which means the story veers away from love and angst and more towards friendship, mentorship, and coming of age. The pace stayed brisk throughout. And did I mention that worldbuilding? Mm-hm.

I can't say I'll likely remember much about this book in a couple years other than, perhaps, basic plot. For that reason, I gave it three glorious entertainment stars.

We are what we do and what we allow to be done.

I'd rate this book a PG-13 for action/adventure, mild cursing (mostly made up for the invented setting), and some scary creatures.
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