Review: The Deepest Blue by Sarah Beth Durst
Also by this author: Fire and Heist
Published by Harper Voyager on March 19, 2019
The natural magic of the classic The Island of the Blue Dolphins meets the danger and courage of The Hunger Games in this dazzling, intricate stand-alone fantasy novel set in award-winning author Sarah Beth Durst’s beloved world of Renthia.
Life is precious and precarious on the islands of Belene. Besieged by a capricious ocean full of malicious spirits, the people of the islands seek joy where they can. Mayara, one of the island’s fearless oyster divers, has found happiness in love. But on the day of her wedding to the artist Kelo, a spirit-driven storm hits the island with deadly force.
To save her loved ones, Mayara reveals a dangerous secret: she has the power to control the spirits. When the storm ends, she is taken into custody by the queen’s soldiers and imprisoned with other women like her.
They vary in age and social status, but to many they are heroes who will aide the country or witches that will sacrifice themselves trying. No matter who they are, the women are sent to a terrifying place—an island filled with bloodthirsty nature spirits, and left without food, water, shelter, or any tools except their own instincts and magic. Whoever survives the Island of Testing will be declared heirs to the queen. But no matter if she wins or loses, Mayara knows that the life she dreamed of is gone.
While this is the first book from Tales of Renthia that I’ve read, it’s not my first book by Durst. I read Fire and Heist last year, and while I really enjoyed many parts of the book, I ultimately felt like it was aimed at a younger audience, parts of it feeling almost middle grade. I was happy to find The Deepest Blue did not feel this way at all.
The Deepest Blue is a standalone book that quickly drew me into the world and story. This book read extremely well for being new to the world. I never felt like I was missing backstory or information that might have been relayed in other books. As a reader new to her Renthia works, I found this to be an excellent start. I suppose its possible there are references in here that might be potential spoilers for her existing series, but someone who has read it would have to speak to that. I find I enjoyed this one enough that I’m honestly not too worried about it.
The Deepest Blue is a wonderful story that starts by introducing us to Mayara, a strong and independent young woman whose fierceness and determination in her deep dives is met only by her equally fierce love for her fiance. I could not help but immediately love her and want to see her happy in all things, especially her relationship. I will say it is rare to open with such a strong love story component and have it work well for me, but this one really did. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a book where romance overshadows the plot, it is just that her relationship with Kelo is so obviously part of who she is, and the happiness they find in each other is just something I didn’t want to end.
But of course, what fun would a book that is all happy happy be? A wild spirit storm makes Mayara’s life take a turn that she is not sure she can recover from. When a disaster hits their small village, Mayara is forced to put her entire life, the life she has always known and wanted, at tremendous risk in order to protect those she knows and loves. Her heroic actions that prevented further disaster from the spirit storm do not bring her praise or thanks, but instead rip her away and place her in a battle for her life that reminds me a bit of the Hunger Games. It’s not really the same, but it is a live or die scenario where every person is supposed to be out for themselves as malicious spirits try to destroy them.
The book has a great balance of action, characters and even a twist or two to keep the reader engaged. And of course there is the romance that I couldn’t help but root for the entire time as well as well as some very good friendships that are developed. Reading this book has definitely placed her other Renthia books higher on my priority list as I found it to be a wonderful read.