Deeplight by Frances Hardinge
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I WOULD HAVE READ IT FASTER IF I WAS NOT TRAVELLING.
...which is a strange way to start a review, but it's truth. Deeplight is one of those books that demands you devour it in one, or at the most two, sitting and I feel that I have done it a disservice by reading it so slowly. lol.
In premise, at least, Deeplight pings a little bit of Pratchett's Nation--the gods are dead, what do humans do now? Well, the humans in Hardinge's island chain of Myriad are making profits out of it by diving into the seas and collecting godware for sale. What Hark does best is tell stories, a skill that often helps get him out of trouble--and scam continental tourists for easy money. When a job goes wrong, Hark's life changes in many ways, and not always for the better.
Deeplight feels in many ways like an exploration of the various friendships that a troubled young person may have in their life and how it impacts them. There's Quest, the ex-priest, who trades stories for stories in a bid to understand Hark and offer advice. There's Kly, the Sanctuary supervisor, who has a soft spot for Hark and offers him leeway and understanding even when he messes up. There's also Dr Vyne, the one who bought his indenture, who offers him a second chance and a brand of tough love that keeps Hark on the safe and narrow--for now.
And then there's Jelt. The childhood friend and protector who has saved him many times--from the exact same trouble he caused. Hark's friendship with Jelt is a clear case of abuse and gaslighting. It sat uncomfortably with me in the beginning, seeing the way Hark question his own decisions and push aside his worries just because he feels like he owes Jelt something, that Jelt--being bigger, stronger, better--may be right about his cowardice and disloyalty. I wanted him to break away from Jelt, to stay clear of that obviously toxic relationship, but in a novel, things have to happen so again and again, Hark gets sucked into Jelt's downward spiral, drowning in deeper and deeper waters even as he tries to stay clear of the heavy hand of the law.
But Hark has resilience and Hark also has good, wise friends in Quest and Kly and Selphin who together try to save the world from ending.
Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Pan Macmillan via Netgalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
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