The review I mentioned in that last post, this is it. I had a lot of fun writing this one just because of how positive it was. That was really nice, it’s been pretty stressful over in my corner of the world, so saying something positive was exactly what I needed.
Merryn and her father live in a cabin by the sea. Each day he braves the ocean to bring home fish to support them. Fish, and bits and pieces from the deep that he swears are treasures. But when a massive storm strikes and her father doesn’t come home, Merryn has a vision of his boat being dragged beneath the waves by a sea monster. Determined to save her father Merryn builds a submarine out of the treasures and sets out using his stories to guide her.
Song of the Deep by Brian Hastings is the book of the game for the Metroidvania game of the same title; it’s also the author’s first book. I would not have realized that this was a first book if it hadn’t been talked about in the intro. The writing is tight. The characterization is consistent and on point. Also, my biggest thing, it’s a kids’ book that doesn’t talk down to its readers.
The protagonist and narrator, Merryn, is a legitimately charming character. She’s smart and brave and kind and this is all stuff the reader sees rather than being told. Never mind that she built a submarine and went to the bottom of the ocean all on her own, she pauses her quest multiple times to help beings in trouble. It just makes me really happy, kind of like seeing the kind of protagonist I wanted as a kid finally showing up.
As to the not writing down to the readers, that’s a problem I’ve noticed in a lot of kids’ books. Either the language is over simplified, which makes it stilted, or it feels like the author doesn’t know when kids learn to read and skews way down. Song of the Deep doesn’t do that. While the language is pretty simple, it feels like the author trusts his readers to be able to follow along. I really appreciate that, not just because it made it more fun for me to read, but also because I feel like when media knows kids can keep up and understand things it provides for better entertainment.
I don’t actually have problems with the book. There are a couple of things I wish had gotten more details, but it really wouldn’t have fit to just suddenly insert exposition. There was a section near the end that didn’t feel as dangerous as it was presented as but, again, that would have slowed down the story and it wouldn’t have felt right.
It’s probably pretty obvious by now, but the book earns its five stars. I not only enjoyed this book but really want to see what Brian Hastings will do if he writes another book, whether a sequel to this or something different. More than that, I want to see more books like this full stop.