This is immersive (excuse the pun) world-building at its most detailed. Jennifer Donnelly invents almost an entirely new vocabulary to describe the undersea world, much of it reliant on puns and word play — currensea is mer money, there are merlfriends instead of girlfriends, and a rave is an all-night wave — but with a fair amount of Italian, Greek and Arabic among other languages thrown in too. Readers will either love this (I studied languages and thoroughly enjoyed it) or find it intensely annoying.
Beyond this, however, is an intricately plotted book that is a solid introduction to the four-part Waterfire Saga. As one would expect in a saga, Serafina's betrothal does not go according to plan. Assassins infiltrate the ceremony and Serafina must flee for her life. Accompanied only by her best friend Neela, she soon realises she is part of an ancient prophecy. Together with four other mermaids, she must do battle against an ancient evil and win, or else the very existence of her world is threatened.
Serafina, Neela, Ling, Ava, Becca and Astrid are strong, distinctive characters, and there's a definite current of girl power (or should that be 'merl power'?) running through Deep Blue. I confess that I found some of it a little juvenile while at other times the storyline was quite violent and dark. However, as Jennifer Donnelly is a Carnegie Medal-winning author, I'm hopeful that this imbalance will be corrected in future books — I'm sufficiently intrigued to want to know how the story develops.
Recommended for lovers of mythology and mermaids!
Title: Deep Blue (Waterfire Saga #1)
Author: Jennifer Donnelly
Publisher: Hodder Children's Books, $24.99 RRP
Publication Date: May 2014
For ages: 13+
Type: Young Adult Fiction