In an exciting leap that is just as thrilling as any twist Percy Jackson might encounter, Rick Riordan brings us a slightly different kind of adventure with “Daughter of the Deep,” his book about a group of students in a maritime academy who end up on the run for their lives and dive straight into an adventure that is based on Jules Verne’s “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.” We first meet Ana Dakkar when she and her brother go for a swim in the ocean on which their special private school sits. We quickly learn that their parents died in an accident two years previously, and Ana and Dev are close. Dev is several years older than Ana, and at the end of their swim he gives her an early birthday present as she is leaving with the freshman class for a final weekend of trials.
But as the students are on their way to the dock where the school’s huge boat is moored, the whole part of the coast that the school sits on is destroyed. Ana and the others must decide what to do. Riordan has created a school, Harding-Pencroft Academy, or HP, that organizes students into different “houses.” The houses are named Dolphin, Shark, Cephalopod, and Orca. The students are placed in the houses according to their particular aptitudes, whether they excel in communication and cryptography or combat and logistics or engineering and innovation or medicine and psychology. On this trip, there are five freshman students in each house, and each house has a prefect in charge of that group. Also with them is a professor.
After the devastation of their school, Professor Hewett explains that the school they thought was their friendly rival, Land Institute, is really not a friendly rival at all but rather a deadly opponent that was probably behind the mayhem and death that was visited on HP. With one adult and 20 students, it doesn’t look good for the last of the HP kids. But they proceed to the ship that was their original destination because if they stay to talk to the authorities and blame Land Institute, no one will believe them.
By the time all this has happened, we are glued to the pages of the book. We are knee-deep in the story, and like all Riordan creations, we can’t bear not to know what happens next. I felt much angst as I approached the two-thirds mark in the story. I was not sure if the situation in which Ana and her classmates found themselves could be resolved by the end of the book; but I also was desperate for this book to become a series so that I could continue to read about these characters and this fabulous setting and plot. So I wanted there to be an ending, but I didn’t want it to end. Such a wonderful dilemma to result from reading a book, right?
This is the first book that Riordan has written in first person from the perspective of a girl, and he nails it! Ana is a fabulous character, and her narrative is brilliantly self-deprecating and funny. For example, “Given the choice between destruction or lasagna, I will choose lasagna every time.” And “Jupiter picks up my napkin and puts it in my lap. Because, like most higher primates, he knows more about dining etiquette than I do.” Food figures in the story a lot, so be prepared to start craving baked goods and Italian food.
A fabulous plot that is filled with action; wonderful and wonderfully diverse characters; a brilliantly executed narrative; and creations that only a genius like Jules Verne (or Rick Riordan) could contemplate — it all makes for a fantastic story that kids will love and adults will enjoy as well.
Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by Disney Hyperion Books, the publisher, for review purposes.