I honestly thought I would hate this book. My roommate and I saw a commercial about it and then I picked it up because I believed the sheer ridiculousness of the premise would be an amusing diversion. But I was happily proven wrong!
The backstory apparently came from Disney, whose Imagineers or whatnot had spent ages building up the details of merkingdoms. They then hired Jennifer Donnelly to turn their notes into a book series, with supposedly graphic novels and video games and all that jazz following along as promotional material.
I had read Donnelly’s The Tea Rose awhile back, which I liked for the tea and the characters but hated for the soap opera-esque plot. The plot of Deep Blue also had it’s moments of melodrama. Seraphina, princess and heir apparent to the mermaid kingdom of Miromar in the Mediterranean Sea, is about to be engaged to a man she actually likes, a merprince from another kingdom in the Indian Ocean. Their engagement is meant to seal their kingdom’s alliance for the merkingdoms face threats from a number of sources, including the human “terragogs”. Unfortunately, during the ritual that’s supposed to confirm her as heir and seal her betrothal, assassins attack, presumably killing her whole family and forcing Seraphina and her friend Neela to flee.
While Donnelly utilizes numerous overused tropes and most of the supporting cast hasn’t quite been fully fleshed out yet, Seraphina and Neela are both strong leads with understandable fears of ruling, loss, and death, making them very relatable. The world-building was superb – a whole mythology of global mermaidom, including their origins from Atlantis and their own language, culture, and magical system (with Latin!). Overall most of the political and historical background was well-explained and I loved that Donnelly touched on current environmental issues that our world is facing. Additionally, it was refreshing not to have a love triangle like most YA fiction – the romantic angle launched the book then actually took a backseat to the adventuring and sisterly bonding after the attack.
I’m definitely intrigued to see where Donnelly goes with this, though I have a few predictions of future plotlines so the series could easily become anti-climactic and characters insipid. But I would definitely recommend this to someone who’s looking for something fresh in the fantasy genre