Title: Deep Blue (The Waterfire Saga 1#)
Author: Jennifer Donnelly
Publisher: Hodder Children’s Books, 2014
We meet with the mermaid princess Serafina, heir to the throne of Miromara, as she prepares to accept her responsibilities and prove her royal worth. Not only must she prove that she is pure of bloodline, but she’s about to formalise her betrothal to a prince and offer everyone a display of her magical prowess. No pressure, eh? Only events transpire that see her and her long-time (and glow-in the dark) friend Neela drawn into a prophecy that involves them in saving the world from a great evil.
Essentially, this is Disney’s The Little Mermaid (in all its somewhat twee glory) for teen girls of around the ages of 12 and 14, though there really isn’t an age limit if you just want to escape into a watery fantasy world for a few hundred pages. That’s if you can put up with the teen chatter and the terrible puns that come quite close to rivalling even Pierce Anthony’s Xanth novels. I admit to a fair amount of eye-rolling at terms such as “currensea” (money) but the story’s playful aspects offset its grimmer side, because, yes, there is plenty of reference to violence and death. The teen mermaids have to overcome great odds to stay ahead of the ambitious Traho, aided and abetted by the sinister Abbadon, a Titan-like demonic entity. Little time remains for them to track down a bunch of talismans that will help keep their nemesis from escaping his prison and destroying their world.
The antagonists are straightforward Disney-esque villains, hell-bent on world domination. (After all, what else is there to strive for if you’re evil?) The narrative follows a typical “disparate underdogs must unite despite overwhelming challenges” approach so common in popular films and books. If you’re looking for twists to the theme, you won’t find it here. It’s a straight-up quest.
Though Deep Blue gets off to a slow start, the action does eventually trip into high speed, and at times I felt that Donnelly writes a little too fast. For instance, much is done to build the relationship between Serafina and Neela, but by the time other important secondary characters pitch up, such as Astrid, Ava, Ling and Becca (and according to the prophecy, they are pretty important), there isn’t nearly as much opportunity to develop their personalities, and hence it is difficult to relate to them.
Though there is a lot of exposition for readers to come to grips with, and that often feels as if it was wedged in purely for readers’ benefit, Deep Blue is still a fun, engaging read that will whisk invested readers away from the mundane for a while.