Review: Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly

May 16, 2014 3.5 stars, Book Review, Young Adult 29 ★★★½

Review: Deep Blue by Jennifer DonnellyDeep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly
Series: Waterfire Saga #1
Published by Disney-Hyperion on May 6, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher

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 the first book in the Waterfire Saga, it comes on fast setting up an undersea world. Mermaids rule the oceans and dislike the dreaded human “Terragogs” who pollute their waters and over-fish. Something awful is starting to stir in the depths. Evil is attempting to unleash an ancient foe from an icy prison. Six teenage Mermaids will need to come together, overcoming their differences in upbringing and abilities, to fulfill a prophecy and turn back the tides of evil before it can destroy the world. Magic, evil, and adventure abound in this story.

Sounds amazing doesn’t it?
The story itself is amazing, however, to get to the story you are going to have to wade through the murky waters of tons of new terms, a staggering amount of family names, and political ties to sort through. Then there is the use of Latin, which the author throws in as the Mermaids language. It definitely makes for a difficult start to get through. I am sure the Author has lost more than one reader to the mess that is the first three chapters.

A few hints on how to overcome the chaos.
1) I have encountered a lot of Latin between my legal studies and my science classes, it didn’t bother me at all, the author also always translates the Latin in the next sentence and it’s always italicized. So, just skip over the Latin and read the translation of the words. This is if you don’t like the Latin and find them impossible to pronounce, or if they just start to turn you off.
2) Skip names and family connections that aren’t used often, you will get friendly reminders when they show up again, don’t stress it.
3) The terms, they get easier as you go and really don’t make much difference in the story so don’t worry… Just keep reading.

Doing it Disney style
The world building itself is terrific, you can really see the world come to life. The characters have the feel of Disney to me and the overall book has that same Disney magic to me. Even through the darkest parts there is a lighthearted playfulness between the characters that definitely makes the book suitable for the target audience of young adults. Actually more on the young side I’d say, and that is of course assuming they can get through the rough reading in the early chapters. I will say that it’s nice to see something coming from this publisher that I won’t mind reading to my little girl when she’s ready. The females are strong, capable, and well rounded characters. There is no sit and wait for Prince Charming to show up and save my tail nonsense. And love at first sight? Not a wink of it. Refreshing from Disney. My twins wanted to hear about the story and by the end of my recap they were asking if they could read the book next. The other nice thing to see was a certain amount of girl power. The realm is essentially ruled by queens, making it a matriarchal society. The main characters show growth in character, and wisdom and maturity as the book progresses. I am imagining the characters will only continue getting deeper as the story continues in the next book.

All around Depp Blue is a fun read, lighthearted with an epic feel. I would recommend this book with the above disclaimers about getting through the beginning and getting used to the flow of the book. I think a 9 year old would either just not stress over all of the language as much as us avid readers, or would need help not to drown and give up. I think I will end up reading it to my boys, who are 8.


Gamer girl extraordinaire, law student, mother of twin boys and one lil girl. I can often be found taking care of my family, working on home renovation projects, reading, gaming, and all the while text warring with Tabitha.

29 Responses to “Review: Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly”

    • Tina

      No, actually they never explained why really. Without giving too much away I would say that it has to do with the history of the mermaids themselves. They start to get into the history towards the end of the book and I get the feeling there will be more to come in the following novel. Good question thank you!
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  1. Melliane

    Despite some little things I really liked this one and the ideas. The myths are always a good plus for me and we have many here! I’m glad you liked it too.

  2. Mary @ BookSwarm

    Enjoyable and fun are good things! I’m still not sold on mermaids, though. Or merpeople, as the case may be. I always have too many questions about their lives down in the sea that never get answered. But yay for no sitting and waiting for Prince Charming. Get out there and go after what you want!
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    • Tina

      I completely feel ya on the mermaid life issues. I feel the same, I kept thinking to myself, why the hell do they live in houses with windows? etc. I also told myself this was a YA book and I should suck it up and enjoy it. Once I let go of the silliness I did quite well and it was an enjoyable escape, with surprising amounts of depth in the characters.
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    • Tina

      Thank you for the welcome, I should say that my 8 year old boys are a bit advanced in their tastes. I am currently reading them Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings. I am reading it to them because they were fighting over which one got to read it first. They devoured the Percy Jackson books over the school year. This story seems like it is worth keeping an eye on, the first book was definitely young but I have a feeling much like the Harry Potter series that this one will grow in complexity.
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  3. Kirsty-Marie

    It did have the younger audience feel to it, which I don’t usually like, but really did enjoy because of the easiness of it. The girl power, them saving themselves and no love triangle and hardly any romance aspect to it at all, which is refreshing. The first few chapters confused me (mainly the names) and the info dumps, I had to go over a few pages again to remember people but then I just gave up, haha. So much easier that way. (I said it yesterday, but welcome Tina!) 🙂
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    • Tina

      Thank you! Yes, once you get over trying to sort out who’s who and realize that the author is going to give you that info again if it’s important then you get to sit back and enjoy the story a bit more.
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  4. Mogsy

    I was disappointed to see the not-so-great reviews for this book around, since of all the mermaid themed books out there (and there aren’t too many of them to begin with) this one was the one that captured my attention to most. When I heard one reviewer talk about the silly puns in this book, that was when I just knew I couldn’t do it. “Merlfriends” just about made me spit my soda all over my computer screen.

    BTW, always great to meet another gamer girl 🙂
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    • Tina

      Gamer girls are always a pleasure to meet, at least the ones that actually play! This book is definitely “punny” so if that’ s not your style avoid the book! I personally love the silliness especially in young adult, but I am known to enjoy Piers Anthony and David Eddings, both which I consider pretty silly writers.
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    • Tabitha (Pabkins)

      I totally couldn’t cope with the corny/campy words and seriously no joke when this chick first wakes up in the morning she is sleeping in a freaking huge clam shell. It was kind of cool hearing the description but that right there set the tone for the type of stuff we were going to be seeing.

      I enjoyed the Syrena Legacy books so far and I have another mermaid book TIDES by Betsy Cornwell that we’ll be reviewing soon. I plan to read that one but Maggie called dibs on the next mermaid book review LOL
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    • Tina

      The Disney was more in the lighthearted banter between characters, the magic of keeping it light when darkness is encroaching. I have a daughter that isn’t quite 1 yet, and I won’t be letting her watch any Disney princess stories until she’s old enough to make fun of them at least! I am persuing my law degree and have had to struggle quite a bit to make it through school, this all teaches my children the lesson of perseverance but more than anything I go back to my motto: Fortune shines upon the girl that has her own. I was thrilled that there was barely any romance in this book and that it was six female lead characters attempting to take on the world! Loved that portion of it.
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  5. Sarah

    I’ve seen a lot of people talking about this one, and I desperately want it to be good. I love a good quest and I’ve never picked up a mermaid book, always a little worried they would be over the top.
    However this sounds promising, and a great review! I know a lot of people don’t love puns, but I wear the Bad Joke Crown at work so I gotta say I love them.
    I’ve seen some disappointing reviews but I think I’ll give this one a shot!
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  6. Jessica @ Rabid Reads

    This is a book that I’m seriously considering passing on to my youngest sister. There aren’t a lot of mermaid books out there, and I’ve always been fascinated with the ocean and the creatures in it, but the reviews are consistently making this book sound like something teenagers would enjoy more than adults who sometimes read YA. Great review, Tina!

    • Tina

      That would be great, warn her about the issues in the beginning of the book and let her go! At least you can rest assured that there is a decent story having to do with girls being awesome, and not the typical whinny princesses.
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  7. Kel

    This sounds like a fun, light read (minus the first few chapters), and thank goodness there’s no insta-love. Considering how well Disney films do, I imagine this series will find a good-sized audience; and it’s always great to enjoy a book and feel comfortable sharing it with everyone regardless of age. (As opposed to “This book was awesome! But you better wait five years before reading it.”) Maybe you could try drawing these characters a la The Little Mermaid for next week’s Fan Art Up. 😀

    But twin boys? Really? I’m surprised you find any time to read. 😉
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    • Tina

      Oh man, you don’t want to see me draw stick figure mermaids do you? 🙂 I leave the drawing to better hands than my own.

      It’s amazing the strength you find when you must, I used to sit in the playpen with my boys and study anatomy for school. Now that they are 8 it’s actually much easier. Plus, I get the added pleasure of reading to them some of my all time favorites. We are reading Pawn Of Prophecy right now by David Eddings and they are loving it.

      On a side note I will say that I am a HUGE fan of the E-reader applications on my phone. I use the kindle app a LOT. It’s easy to hold in my hand while I am nursing my daughter or stirring dinner, so hard to do that with a paperback let alone a hardcover.
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  8. Ana @ Read Me Away

    I am inclined to read this book, but I will probably end up more frustrated at the Latin bits. This is something I sometimes don’t get in fantasy books. I mean, I understand that the characters are supposed to be all mystical and have a different language, but why put the reader through dialogue in another language and THEN translate it. It would be hard for me to get into it!

    But still, strong female characters always win out for me. So, I’ll keep my eyes out for this one. 😀 Great review!
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  9. Bube

    I would love to read this book! 🙂
    The cover is really amazing!
    Thank you for the wonderful review 🙂