20,000 Leagues Meets Frankstein

Deeplight by Frances Hardinge

Publication Date: April 14, 2020

Summary from NetGalley:

The gods are dead. Decades ago, they turned on one another and tore each other apart. Nobody knows why. But are they really gone forever? When 15-year-old Hark finds the still-beating heart of a terrifying deity, he risks everything to keep it out of the hands of smugglers, military scientists, and a secret fanatical cult so that he can use it to save the life of his best friend, Jelt. But with the heart, Jelt gradually and eerily transforms. How long should Hark stay loyal to his friend when he’s becoming a monster—and what is Hark willing to sacrifice to save him?

ARC received from Amulet Books via NetGalley for an honest review.

This book was utterly fantastic and I loved being immersed in this fascinating world. The world building was amazing, the characters well developed and the plot was riveting. It was hard to put this book down.

The book is mostly told from Hark’s point of view, although there are times when it switches to someone else. Hark is a wonderful character. I loved him almost from the start. His growth throughout the book is amazing. He is just beginning to see that his relationship with Jelt is maybe not the best thing, and he struggles through out with managing his feelings around that. I disliked Jelt almost immediately, but could understand why Hark felt that he owed his friendship to him. It was such a toxic relationship, but was handled well. I also loved how even though Hark could not read he was drawn to stories, especially the ones about the gods.

Selphin was another character that I also really liked, although not at first. She is sea-kissed, which in this world means she is deaf. Sea-kissed are honored in this world because they often become deaf during an adventure/accident while diving. Most, but not all people, know sign language in order to communicate with the sea-kissed, but many of them also lip read. Selphin does a nice job of conveying how difficult it is for her to lip read when there are multiple people talking or if people are exaggerating or talking too fast or slow. Selphin is a bit acerbic at first, but she eventually wins you over, just like she does Hark.

There are many wonderful characters in the story and most are well fleshed out. I especially liked many of the priest that Hark eventually ends up helping to care for, especially Quest who became a very important part to the story. Jelt was the least likable, he was so manipulative and bullied Hark into doing things he knew he shouldn’t be involved in.

The world building is what really makes this a great book. The back story on all of the gods and goddess and how each island worshipped them was so well done. I loved the combination of the sort of steampunk world (nothing steam powered) with a more 18th century feel. There were some magical contraptions as well, which just made for some interesting descriptions. I also loved that there were secret societies, pirates, smugglers, salvagers and then just plain folk populating this world. The writing was amazing and the pacing was great as well.

This was a compelling book that was very hard to put down. I have only read a couple of books by this author, but I will definitely be looking to pick up more after this.

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