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Deep Blue - Waterfire Saga Book 1

Review

Deep Blue - Waterfire Saga Book 1

I'll be the first to admit that I've been a little skeptical about the recent trend toward mermaid novels written for young adults. But when I heard that Jennifer Donnelly --- whose A NORTHERN LIGHT won the Carnegie Medal and was short-listed for the Printz Award, and whose REVOLUTION is one of my favorite books of the last five years --- was launching a mermaid series, I figured I should give it a shot. And good thing I did, too --- this award-winning author's first foray into mermaid literature may have made a convert out of me yet. 
 
DEEP BLUE is set in Miromara, one of six realms of the Mer, or sea. Miromara is an underwater world in what we would call the Mediterranean Sea. Its princess is named Serafina, and she's been having some pretty troubling dreams lately. She chalks them up to the rapidly approaching date of her Dokimi ceremony, which will determine, through a series of tests, whether she is worthy and ready to become the leader of her people.
 
Donnelly's effective characterizations, action-packed plotting, and willingness not to take herself too seriously may have won me over to mermaid books after all.
 
The Dokimi ceremony tests Serafina's blood to ensure she is actually a rightful heir, it asks her to cast a ridiculously difficult song spell, and it cements the betrothal between Serafina and Mahdi, the crown prince of Matali (the Indian Ocean). Serafina's been preparing for this day her whole life, but there are ripples of unease in Miromara. There are rumors of hostilities that might eventually lead to war for Serafina's realm. And, just as importantly for Serafina's state of mind, Mahdi, whom she thought she knew and loved, has changed lately. He's been distant toward her, and there are rumors he's found himself another merlfriend just as his betrothal to Serafina is about to be finalized.
 
Despite Serafina's nerves about her song spell, that portion of the Dokimi ceremony goes off without a hitch --- but that's about the last thing that goes right in Serafina's world for a very long time. The ceremony --- not to mention the entire realm --- is soon beset by violence and loss, if not sheer chaos, and Serafina and her best friend (and Mahdi's sister) Neela barely escape with their lives.
 
The two mermaids set out to discover who attacked the Dokimi and why. What they discover surprises the two girls, who also discover that they've actually been sharing the same troubling dreams. Serafina and Neela are no longer sure who to trust, as everything they thought they knew about their world ---including its storied history --- is thrown into question.
 
There's plenty of action in DEEP BLUE, as Neela and Serafina continually learn new information and have to change their expectations and understandings of the world. Some readers may enjoy Donnelly's attempts to insert humor in this intense atmosphere, particularly through puns (the merpeople spend currensea; they cast transparensea spells; you get the picture), while others may find themselves groaning aloud. The good news for those who are caught up in Serafina's story is that DEEP BLUE is just the beginning. It's the first installment in a projected four-book WaterFire Saga that will bring together mermaids from all corners of the Mer, and it's also part of an intriguing multi-platform publishing project that includes an enhanced ebook with audio (including the music that plays such an important role in Miromara's rituals). Donnelly's effective characterizations, action-packed plotting, and willingness not to take herself too seriously may have won me over to mermaid books after all.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on May 13, 2014

Deep Blue - Waterfire Saga Book 1
by Jennifer Donnelly