Review: Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly

Deep Blue
Jennifer Donnelly
Series: Waterfire Saga, #1
Released: May 6th, 2014
Publisher: Disney Press
Rating: 4 stars
Word Rating: CURRENSEA
Reviewed by: Blythe

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The first in a series of four epic tales set in the depths of the ocean, where six mermaids seek to protect and save their hidden world.

Deep in the ocean, in a world not so different from our own, live the merpeople. Their communities are spread throughout the oceans, seas, and freshwaters all over the globe.

When Serafina, a mermaid of the Mediterranean Sea, awakens on the morning of her betrothal, her biggest worry should be winning the love of handsome Prince Mahdi. And yet Sera finds herself haunted by strange dreams that foretell the return of an ancient evil. Her dark premonitions are confirmed when an assassin's arrow poisons Sera's mother. Now, Serafina must embark on a quest to find the assassin's master and prevent a war between the Mer nations. Led only by her shadowy dreams, Sera searches for five other mermaid heroines who are scattered across the six seas. Together, they will form an unbreakable bond of sisterhood and uncover a conspiracy that threatens their world's very existence.

Deep Blue is as pure as entertainment gets for people like me. And by people like me, I mean people who love puns, journeys that are in scope harrowing but manage to be somewhat lighthearted in the moment, and also just a little bit of awesome feminism and girl power. If you go into Deep Blue expecting the most out of a serious and epic fantasy novel involving intricate mermaid lore and whatnot, you may be a bit disappointed; Deep Blue has scattered remnants of that throughout, but for the most part it's a fun and extremely entertaining fantasy read. For this review, I'm going to break the novel down into what worked for me, and what didn't, since I haven't done a review like that in a while. 

What worked for me:

Right from the beginning, the puns and clever little nods in this novel are absolutely glorious. I think from the next few sentences in this review, you'll be able to tell whether or not you'll find this book entertaining. For starters, the money in the mermaid civilization is called currensea, which is almost painfully brilliant to me. Instead of "badass," there's "badwrasse." Which, again, I find brilliant and clever, and I love that Jennifer Donnelly decided to include puns like these in her novel, despite the fact that other readers will inevitably consider it to be on the younger side of the YA spectrum, and maybe even middle grade. I personally can see how other readers would consider Deep Blue to be more MG than YA, but I think it's a damn good and entertaining read regardless of which demographic it's placed in. Also, one of my favorite pieces of clever goodness in Deep Blue: there's a cat lady, but with dozens of catfish. I can't express how much I love this. I really can't. My only complaint is that there was not a sturgeon that made a living as a surgeon, but I digress. 

Donnelly's writing is strong, and her descriptions are lovely and wonderful. Not only that, but there are portions of the novel that are surprisingly feminist, and the main character Serafina finds herself questioning the patriarchy of the world she lives in often. This was not something I had expected of Deep Blue, but it was an awesome surprise, and extremely refreshing. 

Lastly, the characters are all diverse and well-formed, and the plot is engaging and fast once it gets going after the slow start. There's not much romance in Deep Blue (or any at all, actually), but that didn't bother me at all; instead of romance, the focus in the novel is on friendship and sisterhood, and I thought that too was really refreshing and well done. Of course, if you're a romance-oriented reader, Deep Blue may not be ideal for you. But I don't mind because we see the characters and their relationships grow as the novel and journey progresses. Although many of the newer characters are introduced later in the novel, the basis behind their characterization is still relatively strong. 

What didn't work for me:

The info-dumping is pretty heavy in Deep Blue, especially in the beginning. There are entire paragraphs dedicated to info-dumping mer history and wars, family ties and whatnot, and it was a bit overwhelming. The info-dumping is also established through dialogue often, which made a lot of the dialogue between the characters stilted and awkward. However, the info-dumping is in significantly lesser quantity in the second half when compared to the first, since the plot takes over by then. 

As well as the dialogue being stilted at times for the sake of info-dumping, the dialogue also tries a bit too hard to be current (pun absolutely intended) at times, but mostly in the beginning. "FOMO" ("fear of missing out," apparently) is used literally as an acronym in dialogue, which I find never works out well, and so is "- said no one ever," which I just can't find believable in a general discussion.

Final verdict:

Having read many disappointing mermaid novels, Deep Blue was an absolute surprise and delight. It wasn't exactly what I was expecting, considering the synopsis, but the puns and general entertainment I found within Deep Blue was a more than welcome surprise. It's not without its issues, but if you're looking for a quick read that's clever and refreshing, Deep Blue is your merl. (That's what they call girls in this book: merls.) 



  1. I have to say, I recently read this and didn't share your love, but I do think you've hit on the important things like the friendships in this novel and how they all connected to one another which I did enjoy, and I also enjoyed the lack of romance, it made a nice change I think. I'm glad you enjoyed this more than I did Blythe, and I hope that if you continue with the series, you enjoy that too. Nice review layout too, should mix things up more often hun :)

    1. Sorry to hear that, but I totally understand why; this is not a book for everyone, definitely. And thanks! I like the layout too, it makes things easier to lay out when writing. :)

  2. Honestly, you had me at PUNS ;) I've been looking forward to this book for while, but now I'm completely sold.

    Jessica @ Rabid Reads

    1. Yes, the puns are punderful! Hope you enjoy. :)

  3. Love the worse she uses, especially currensea! I will be adding this one and trying to find. Sounds like a fun read.

    Great review.

    1. Isn't currensea brilliant? Love it. But I may be a bit more partial to the cat lady with catfish. ;)

  4. I am so excited for this one, I love mermaid and I really love that it is a witty book!
    Missie @ A Flurry of Ponderings

  5. I haven't been able to decide if I wanted to try this one. Your review and currensea are leaning me towards trying it!

  6. I'm still a bit ruffled by the cover (A mermaid wearing a dress? Mm) However, I am ready for a decent homage to mermaid books.


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