Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly, a Review

Written by George Taylor. Posted in Disney, Features, The Disney Review

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Published on May 24, 2014 at 2:00 am with No Comments

Deep Blue is not a novel about IBM or the chess-playing computer. Or about the travels of a lost little clown fish. From my point-of-view, I’m not sure if I’d enjoy those any more than the major young adult release from Jennifer Donnelly that’s supposed to ignite the teen world on fire. I accepted a review copy of the first book in the Waterfire Saga since it sounded like it might have a Harry Potter-like feel and due to the fact that Disney was throwing a lot of muscle behind the book. As I found out later, the Waterfire Saga is going to be a huge, multi-faceted publishing venture that will have four books, several graphic novels and a few other surprises.

Deep Blue High Res

The premise behind Deep Blue is not your normal dystopian fiction (like Divergent or the Hunger Games) and seems to skew towards a younger teen audience. After finishing, I would feel comfortable recommending this title to tweens making their first foray into the world of young adult fiction. The central themes fall around deep friendships, family and first love. Obviously, not my regular type of reading, but I was willing to give it a try.

First up, there is a 12-page dictionary of terms (that includes characters and words) that really, really, really should have been in the front of the book and not in the last few pages. I had no idea it was there and found myself struggling with a lot of the character names and phrases that didn’t have a clear definition. From a publishing standpoint, it makes sense to have it at the end of the book to get readers hooked, but Disney has created a new universe and it’s not always simple.

We’re introduced to Serafina, a young merl, who is about to go through the trials to see if she is really next in line to rule the merfolk kingdom. It’s a fairly convoluted story that is introduced quickly with little room to breath. There are a few tenets that are set up, that include the ability to cast spells by singing and that there are several different ruling families that try to exist in some form of harmony. Serafina is betrothed to a young merman that she hasn’t seen in years and she’s beleaguered by dreams of merl-witches that are calling out to her and five others merls.

During her trials, which includes an audience of her family (the current ruling merls), her best friend and thousands of merlfok, tragedy strikes that leads her on a chase throughout the known seas to find answers and any hope she can.

The story is quite compelling and is full of minor cliffhangers. There are points that are quite suspenseful and will keep you up a little bit late to see what happened. It’s definitely in the James Patterson style of short chapters that leave you hanging. Not bad, but definitely not great literature. The story does dip into feelings of teen angst and confusion. Throw in a few love interests and you have a gateway book to the Twilight series (of which I’m not a fan). I can see that it’s leaning towards a Harry Potter-like universe, but it just doesn’t carry the same charm of Rowling’s works.

The bottom line is that I enjoyed reading the book, especially when the characters started learning about the history of their culture and the quest for which they’ve been chosen. The smatterings of teen love (and obvious development for a film) aside, I found the characters slightly more dimensional than most books in those genres, especially once I got past the odd language and the rules of the world. I think that many teens will enjoy the series, especially if they need to stay away from the Twilight books or aren’t ready for them.

Are you going to pick up this new series?


By George Taylor

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About George Taylor

George has been obsessed with Disney theme parks since the first time he saw a photo of the Haunted Mansion in the early 70s. He started writing about Disney in 2007 and has amassed one of the world's largest Disney-related libraries.

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