I loved Frances Hardinge's historical fantasy, The Lie Tree, and couldn't wait to read her new book, Deeplight. It combines fantasy with a terrific adventure story, reminiscent of Greek and Roman myths. Only in this story, the gods are monstrous beasts.
For centuries these gods terrorised the Myriad until one day, without warning, they turned on each other. Within a week all the gods were dead and an industry had sprung up salvaging scraps of the corpses. Hark and Jelt make a dishonest living scavenging this 'god ware'. Jelt is the unprincipled leader but Hark is the one who ends up in trouble. Hark's skill is that he usually talks his way out of it - until the day he's caught and finds himself indentured to a scientist obsessed with harvesting the magical powers of this god ware.
Frances Hardinge has the most amazing imagination - I am in awe! - and the incredibly detailed world she has created is a masterclass in world-building. The characters are flawed but thoroughly engaging. It was wonderful seeing them grow and change, especially Hark's heart-breaking realisation that Jelt only cares about himself. Or, as Selphin says, "You're not allowed to choose your friends any more." My favourite character was the pragmatic Selphin and her love/hate relationship with the sea. I became so immersed in the Deeplight world, that even several days after I'd finished the book, the story still stayed in my head.
Deeplight is a clever cross between Mary Shelley and Jules Verne. I have no hesitation in recommending Deeplight to fans of YA fantasy and anyone who loves a thrilling adventure story. One of my favourite reads this year.
Thank you to Frances Hardinge and Macmillan Children's Books for my copy of this book, which I requested via NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.