ARC Book Review: Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly

Posted April 28, 2014 by Debby in Book Reviews

I received this book for free from Publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!! This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

ARC Book Review: Deep Blue by Jennifer DonnellyDeep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly
Published by Hachette Children's Books on May 1st, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Mermaids, Young Adult
Pages: 368
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

Waterfire Saga is an epic new series set in the depths of the ocean where six mermaids seek to save their world.

Written by Carnegie Medal winning author of A Gathering Light, Jennifer Donnelly.

When Serafina, a mermaid of the Mediterranean Sea, awakens on the morning of her betrothal, her biggest worry should be about reuniting with handsome Prince Mahdi, her childhood crush. Instead she finds herself haunted by strange dreams foretelling the return of an ancient evil, and dealing with the deaths of her parents as assassins storm the betrothal ceremony, plunging the city into chaos.

Led only by her shadowy dreams and pursued by the invading army, Serafina and her best friend Neela embark on a quest to avenge her parents' death and prevent a war between the mer nations. In the process they discover a plot that threatens their - and our - world's very existence.

2.5 Stars

*sigh* I so badly want to find a great mermaid book, but the hunt must continue. That’s not to say that Deep Blue is bad – but it’s very middle of the road for me, and I hoped for more.

Deep Blue tells the story of Serafina, a mermaid princess on the cusp of being named the next Regina and being betrothed to Prince Mahdi, her childhood crush. Before any of this ceremony can take place, her kingdom is attacked, her mother is, likely, fatally wounded, and she and her friend Neela flee. It becomes apparent there’s a prophecy involving her and five other mermaids, and so they embark on a quest.

Right off the bat, I’ll just put my biggest complaint out there: very little happened in this book. It’s not a slow read, because the plot continuously moves forward and I did find the world interesting enough to read about. But basically, Serafina and Neela are swimming from place to place, finding the simplest clues to keep going, and now and then being chased by their enemies. It takes an incredibly long time until some reveals are actually made about this prophecy – what it involves and what it means – in quite an info-dumpy way, and then the book’s over already and they’re swimming off to the next part of their quest. The synopsis made it sound like they needed to find these other mermaids of the prophecy – but at the end they all just end up together, without any “finding” really happening. So basically, the plot was just too easy and yet messy at the same time.

It generally really bothers me when the first book in a series is set up this way. It barely begins the story, just gives you the bare bones, trying to get you hooked, but failing to provide a standalone story arc. Honestly, you could read the synopsis of the book and the last couple chapters and start the sequel without missing anything. That’s just a waste of pages and reading time – and if you didn’t get a review copy, money.

The characters also didn’t really impress me. The story is written in third person and mostly works from Serafina’s point of view, but at times (read: when necessary) randomly changes to one of the other characters. But the story is very much plot-driven and not character-driven. So if you were hoping to fall in love with characters, you will probably be out of luck. I couldn’t describe their personalities to you if I tried. Well maybe a little bit. There’s the mean girl mermaid over there. … Yeah. That’s about it.

I will praise the fact that the 6 mermaids of the prophecy are a diverse cast of characters from all regions of the world, in spite of their lacking personalities. It was nice to see that – more diversity in YA is always a plus. Also, females are empowered in this society – like in Serafina’s kingdom, the power passes to female royals – male royals will only ever be a prince or consort. Definite plus – to turn the tables like that.

However, I don’t understand what the idea is with this “childhood romance” with Mahdi. He used to be really charming to Serafina but in the last couple years, he’s become a playboy party merman and he acts like a right douchebag to Serafina when he arrives for their betrothal ceremony. Of course, after that, they’re on the run and Mahdi is MIA, so it’s all rather pointless, and yet Serafina still thinks of him so often. The appearance of another merman, Blu, who helps Serafina, also made my love triangle radar go off, but the quest again took precedence, so soon he was gone – though still in Serafina’s thoughts. I just don’t really get it. Romance is not the centerpoint of this novel, but it kept being interjected in it anyway though really subtley. I guess my issue is that neither romance was (yet) built up in a way that caught my interest. I just doooooooon’t care.

The world building itself, I rather liked. Yes, it was very reminiscent of Disney’s The Little Mermaid, but what else could you really expect? I enjoyed the whimsical nature of it, and it was rather cute. There’s magic! Who doesn’t love magic? Of course, some things I raised my eyebrows at as well (i.e. wanted posters being spread around underwater? Made of what? Sheetrock and kelp?) so a certain suspension of disbelief may be necessary, and perhaps it’s a world that would appeal more to the lower-end of YA, or even a middle grade audience.

What kind of baffles me is the random interjection of punny humor. Usually, I’m all about the puns – they’re puntastic, but it felt really out of place in this book. The subject matter is just too dark for it. The kingdom has been ruined, Serafina is unsure if her mother is still alive, her uncle is missing, she has no idea where Mahdi is, and generally all things suck. Witches are telling her she has a duty to save the world from a dark monster. So I guess the puns are there to try to lighten the mood and keep it from being too dark, but the puns aren’t said by the characters. The puns are part of the worldbuilding – and thus meant SERIOUSLY. Now, what are these puns, you might ask? Currensea. Merlfriend. Or just, merl. A cat lady – who has a unhealthy number of catfish. The list goes on and on and on. I may have snickered at one or two, but they really drew me out of the novel, so I don’t feel like it worked for me. They made me feel like I was laughing AT the book, instead of being entertained by it.

Summing Up:

It’s a mixed bag for me. It’s a fast-paced adventure in a whimsical and cute world, but it was too underdeveloped for me. The characters left me feeling nothing, the plot was cut short, and the humor I still just don’t get. I think this would work better aimed at a middle grade audience, because it can still be entertaining. But as for me, I just kind of expect MORE.

GIF it to me straight!

Sadly, this book left me feeling…
giphy (3)

Recommended To:

Middle grade fantasy/adventure readers.

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4 responses to “ARC Book Review: Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly

  1. I could not have agreed with you more Debby, you near enough literally just took all the words from my upcoming review out of my mouth. None of the characters interested me, the plot was dry, the puns were shocking and the synopsis lied to me. I couldn’t tell you the names of some of those characters or their personalities either, if they had any, and yes, the nod to women having a higher authority was nice, but not enough. You’ve hit the nail Debby, the search for a good mermaid book continues..

  2. Oh wow. Do you know how incredibly disappointed I was when I didn’t get this eARC? Like really disappointed.

    But after reading your review, I’m kind of glad I didn’t waste my time on this book. And just like you, I’m also searching for the perfect mermaid book, but with no luck (though I do like Ingo, but I also read that 5 years ago). It kind of suck that the plot drags along.

  3. That cover screams “CHEESE” as well. Meh. I’ll avoid this one. It seems like it is trying to be so many things at once. If you try to please everyone, you can’t many anyone happy.