Review: Deeplight by Frances Hardinge

“I’m glad we’re free, even if we do stupid things with the freedom sometimes. Maybe sometimes there isn’t a right thing to do. Maybe there are just lots of wrong answers, and you have to pick one you can bear – something that doesn’t break who you are.”

Deeplight is the first book I have read by the author Frances Hardinge. She is celebrated by many readers to be brilliant. While I choose not to argue about her brilliance, for me the book was quite slow. But at the same time many things brought up in the book stand true especially today. The narrative starts with introducing the Myriads and the protagonist Hark. Hark’s best friend Jelt has always been there for him since they were children. But this is a story where toxic friendship has been shown with utmost clarity. It will remind you of times when you have done things you didn’t want to but your friend “needed” you to. Jelt may have always been there for Hark and may have even saved his life but quoting the book:

“There are things you can’t owe anybody. Maybe you couldn’t ever owe somebody your life, not really. You couldn’t let anyone else decide what you did with it. You had to live it yourself, as truly as you could.”

Deeplight is a subtle reminder to all of us that “we are what we do, what we allow to be done.” There will always be moments in life when choosing the right thing will be the hardest thing you’ll need to do. But the most important question that the book had put in my head was, “What aspects of yourself would you fight to protect as if you were fighting for your life?” It made me question the friends I have, who I am, who I want to be, what matters to me the most and about things I never thought I could lose, BUT if I did how would that change me at the very core of who I am?

My favourite character in the book was Quest – an old priest who lived at the sanctuary. Not only was he a clever man but he had so many stories to tell and as they said in the Myriads, stories were currencies. His role in the book is of an underdog but somehow underdogs tend to steal our hearts in most stories.

Frances Hardinge brings to us a story about sea gods, about Gods who feed on fear, about outgrowing toxic friendships, making hard choices and sticking by them. But I feel a bit disappointed by how slow the story was; at times it felt like the author was dragging the story unnecessarily. It would pick up at places but most of the time I found myself waiting for something more to happen, despite the fascinating sea creatures which were described as Gods. Also, a lack of romantic predictability left me longing for some and disappointed. I rate Deeplight by the Costa Award winning author 3 out 5 bookmarks, but I do suggest you give it a read. I in fact look forward to reading more of Frances Hardinge, maybe the one for which she won the Costa Awards. Who knows?

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