Deep Blue (Waterfire Saga, #1) by Jennifer Donnelly
Published by Disney-Hyperion on May 6, 2014
Genres: Young Adult
Format: Hard Cover
Buy on Amazon
Serafina, daughter of Isabella, Queen of Miromara, has been raised with the expectation - and burden - that she will someday become ruler of the oldest civilization of the merfolk. On the eve of the Dokimí ceremony, which will determine if she is worthy of the crown, Sera is haunted by a strange dream that foretells the return of an ancient evil. But her nightmare is forgotten the next day as she diligently practices her songspell; eagerly anticipates a reunion with her best friend, Neela; and anxiously worries about Mahdi, the crown prince of Matali, and whether his feelings toward her and their future betrothal have changed. Most of all, she worries about not living up to her mother's hopes.
The Dokimí proceeds, a dazzling display of majesty and might, until a shocking turn of events interrupts it: an assassin's arrow wounds Isabella. The realm falls into chaos, and Serafina's darkest premonitions are confirmed. Now she and Neela must embark on a quest to find the assassin's master and prevent a war between the mer nations. Their search will lead them to other mermaid heriones scattered across the six seas. Together they will form an unbreakable bond of sisterhood as they uncover a conspiracy that threatens their world's very existence.
I couldn’t remember the last time I’d read a mermaid book, so when I was browsing for new Young Adult books to read, I decided to pick up Jennifer Donnelly’s Deep Blue. I quickly noticed it was published by Disney Hyperion, which made me wonder if it was somehow linked to one of their current worlds. Spoiler – it’s not. Still, that probably should have been an indication of what to expect from this book.
Deep Blue is focused on Princess Serafina, a teenage mermaid about to complete the first big ceremony that will lead her to being crowned as the leader of the underwater matriarchy. Part of that ceremony is the announcement of her betrothal to Prince Mahdi, who she is enamored with. They’ve been separated for a few years and early on in the book she learns that he’s gained a reputation conflicting with the boy she once knew. This troubles her greatly, and she worries about what the future may hold for her as this is an arranged marriage. As Serafina deals with meeting everyone’s expectations for the ceremony, and the arrival of Prince Mahdi and his court, including her best friend Neela, the reader learns a little bit about the history of the mer people and the threats of war against her kingdom.
When the ceremony arrives, everything seems to be going well, but then out of nowhere the kingdom is attacked. Serafina must flee in order to survive. When she does, she learns that her destiny is much greater than she expected. The strange dreams she’s been having appear to be omens directing her to unite with 5 other mermaids in order to save the seas from destruction. Everything the mer nations were built on is a disguise for the truth and now they must right the wrongs.
Filled with Atlantean references and cute sea terms, Donnelly clearly has an image of what she wants her mermaid world to resemble. However, the story reads like a bunch of ideas duct taped together. The story starts strong, but some of the ideas put forth in the beginning are sort of forgotten about later on. For example, Serafina’s interest in Prince Mahdi. He’s mentioned a lot in the beginning, which makes the reader assume he’s really important to her and the development of the story, but later on she kind of brushes off that she was really into him and his role as a motivator is greatly downplayed.
I also had a hard time forming an image of the last 3 mermaids in my mind. They weren’t fleshed out well and the dialogue in the last 5 chapters, when they’re all working together, started to blend together. The whole second half of the book seemed rushed and some of the actions felt forced. Too many of the world features were explained away as magic and at times it seemed like Donnelly was trying too hard to make it like the human world (but underwater) with the way clothes worked and houses were constructed.
Overall, the story seemed very generic and PG-rated. However, I think part of this is because I was expecting a Young Adult book. After all, that’s the section I found it in. Looking online, it does indeed look like it was meant for the Middle Grade section. So, if you have someone in the 4-8 grades who likes mermaids, this may be a good one for them.