“The Deepest Blue” by Sarah Beth Durst is a beautiful story filled with strong and compassionate characters, a rich setting, and a plot with nonstop action. The writing grabs the reader on the very first page and doesn’t let go until the very end.
In the mythical kingdom of Renthia, the main character, Mayara, has powers over the spirits of the islands where she and her family live. Mayara, like her older sister, has powers to control the water, air, fire, and ice spirits that live on the islands. She has kept them hidden because girls with powers do not have happy futures. The girls are either taken from their families to serve as The Silent Ones, island “police,” never to talk again, or are taken to a testing island to fight bloodthirsty nature spirits trying to kill them in order to prove their value so they can be “heirs” to the throne. Unfortunately, during the testing, the spirits kill more girls than make it through the month-long survival test. The heirs are necessary both to fight wild spirits that try to destroy the islands and kill the islanders, and to be ready to replace the queen when she dies. On the throne sits the queen of the island, whose job is to control the monsters who live in the deepest part of the ocean. Their spirits rest below the ocean, and it’s her job to keep them sleeping and dreaming deeply so they don’t destroy the island. The skeletons upon which much of the islands are built come from ancient spirits — creatures so large that entire villages are built on the rib cages of the leviathans.
When, on her wedding day, Mayara uses her powers to save villagers during a terrible spirit storm, her powers are recognized. The Silent Ones come, and Mayara must make a choice — become a Silent One, never to speak again and never to see her family again, or take a huge risk and agree to the 30-day test of her powers on the island, a test that few survive.
The main characters and the other characters that Durst creates are all wonderfully full of depth, and some are delightfully quirky. Like real life, there are characters who are noble, some who are selfless and generous, some who are ruthless, and at least one who is just bad through and through.
Mayara has noble ideals and true love for her husband and family. She grieves terribly for the sister who was killed on the island during testing years before. And while Mayara has taken dangerous risks diving and living, she wants to survive and be reunited with her husband. She also has compassion to spare for those she meets on her adventure, and those friendships serve her well.
The different paths that Mayara and Kelo, her new husband, take are carefully told in a manner that keeps the reader turning page after page wanting to know how the other is faring. While some books with many characters can confuse readers or become tedious when trying to remember all the names, this is certainly not the case with Durst. With her beautiful writing, each character becomes real.
The story is carefully plotted, and the book as a whole has enough twists and turns to keep the reader wondering about what will happen next.
“The Deepest Blue,” like all of Durst’s books, shows that when you write beautifully, have a lively imagination, and create real characters and situations (even though they are pure fantasy), readers will love them. This is an adult fantasy, but there is nothing in this book that would make it inappropriate for young adult readers, as well.
Disclaimer: This reviewer is a huge fan of Sarah Beth Durst’s books and has championed them since her days working part-time at Borders pushing books onto innocent children and hooking them on reading.
This review was first published on Bookreporter.com.
Please note: This review is based on the advance review copy provided by the author for review purposes.