Deeplight – Frances Hardinge

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*I received a free ARC of this book, with thanks to the author, NetGalley and Macmillan Children’s BooksThe decision to review and my opinions are my own.*


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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.

On the jumbled streets of the Island of Lady’s Crave live Hark and his best friend Jelt. They are scavengers: living off their wits, diving for relics of the gods, desperate for anything they can sell. But now there is something stirring beneath the waves, calling to someone brave enough to retrieve it. Something valuable. Something dangerous.

Nothing is quite as it seems, and when the waves try to claim Jelt, Hark will do anything to save him. Even if it means compromising not just who Jelt is, but what he is . . .



Deeplight is not just my book of the year – it’s right up there with my favourites of all time.

We start with Hark, whose whole life is a hustle to scrimp by and whose best friend and only ally – Jelt – takes advantage of his good nature time and time again.  Reading about Hark’s daily struggle had me immediately on edge, before the main plot even got fully underway!  I really empathised with him, as he made one poor decision after another; all rooted in his inability to say “No” and stick to it.

The worldbuilding here is spectacular too.  Hark lives on a kind of pirate-island, in an archipelago where it is each island for itself.  The seas used to be ruled by the gods of the Underneath, but those glory days are gone and all that remains are the pitiful-yet-powerful body parts that are scavenged to create steampunk-esque tech for those who can afford (or steal) it.

There are familiar political undercurrents beneath the surface story of survival, as xenophobia is slowly building and more islanders fall to the fear of invasion from outside influences, without their gods to protect them.

This story truly has everything I look for in a fantasy novel.  There is an unsettling, eerie beauty in the mythology described, that can only be labelled with Hark’s own descriptor: ‘frecht’.  I found myself haunted by the world beneath the waves, by Jelt’s emotionally abusive hold on Hark, by the broken priests and bitter pirates, and most especially, by the gods themselves – reduced to a jumble of undignified parts, yet still retaining the horrific majesty of the ‘other’.

I seriously cannot recommend this book enough, or do it adequate justice with my words.  I can only recommend that everyone reads it; as I head off to buy a beautiful hardcover copy for my personal favourites shelf – have you seen that cover?!


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.

– Frances Hardinge, Deeplight


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Find more from Frances Hardinge at her website here, or follow her on Twitter and Goodreads.

Deeplight is available on Amazon right now, and you can find my thoughts on The Lie Tree here.



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