School Library Journal
Gr 5–8—Donnelly, perhaps best-known for her lush and emotionally resonant historical fiction, tries her hand at middle-grade fantasy. Not one to dip a toe into a genre, she dives right in with a four-volume underwater saga of the mer, complete with four thousand years of Atlantean history and magic. In Deep Blue, readers meet Serafina, a 16-year-old mermaid and heir apparent to the realm, on the day of her betrothal as part of her Dokimí ceremony. All goes swimmingly, despite her nervousness and qualms about her intended, until her mother, the ruler of Miromara, is felled by a sniper's arrow. Serafina's worries take a more serious, geopolitical turn as she and her best friend, Neela, are on the run and seeking to avoid an all-out war among the mer nations. The "merlfriends" have been summoned by the same magical dream and are drawn to search for four other mermaids who will join together and save the world from a dark, evil force. There's a lot going on, yet despite the convoluted backstory and the dreaded "terragogg" (human) degradation of the oceans, everything gets a light, surface treatment. There's little character development, beyond the protagonist, or sense of real danger, and even the spells that abound seem to exist for expediency and nick-of-time escapes. All that said, the story is appropriately cinematic, and perhaps with a few songs added to the mix, could be adapted into an animated Disney hit.—Luann Toth, School Library Journal
From the Publisher
"Best-selling Donnelly (Revolution, 2010) builds an alluring mermaid civilization and history, filled with painterly descriptions of Sera's underwater palace and its unearthly architecture, her sumptuous wardrobe, and the menagerie of half-human, half-marine animal denizens. There's also plenty of romantic tension with handsome mermen, strife between merls (that's girl mermaids) from rival regions, and some powerful female friendships amid the fast-paced plot, filled with wondrous magic."Booklist
"A richly imagined novel. Themes of conquering fear and believing in oneself are woven throughout, along with an acknowledgment of humans' environmental impact on the sea and its inhabitants. Despite the high stakes and a few frightening moments, the story is never overserious; it's just right for readers who have grown up with, but aged out of, The Little Mermaid and the Disney Fairies franchise."
"A fantastic addition to the genre of mermaids, this book will also appeal to readers of action and those who appreciate usurped leaders taking back their kingdom. It starts with a common enough concept: a royal girl who is worried about her betrothal and about love. Donnelly then adds layers of complexity to the tale and weaves her story into that of Atlantis. Friendship, trust, and responsibility are major themes as Sera struggles to grasp that she is really her kingdom's only hope. Quick-witted, loveable characters and a well-planned fantasy world make this an all-encompassing book. Readers will eagerly await future volumes and the answers they will provide."VOYA
Children's Literature - Judy Crowder
Jennifer Donnelley, a New York Times bestselling author, manages to weave an intricate and compelling plot in this young adult novel. She also creates a complex, believable ocean world, filled with mer people who are good, bad, flawed, heroic, multi-faceted. After a remarkable, evocative poem by Walt Whitman and a prologue that the draws reader in better than a whirlpool, the story begins with young merl (mermish equivalent of girl), Serafina, who awakens on a special day, her “Dokimi.” There is to be a ceremony during which Serafina must prove she is of noble blood and rightful heir to the throne of the ocean realm Miromara, a matriarchy in the Mediterranean Sea. The young merl must also shed a few drops of blood for Aletheia, the sea spider god of her people. Finally, Serafina must sing or “songcast” her betrothal vows to a handsome young male mer prince picked by her parents and her intent to eventually produce a female heir. The day for which she has prepared does not exactly go as planned. Miromara is attacked; Serafina’s queen mother is killed; and the young mer and her friend Neela must flee for their lives. Against all odds, they must follow the directions of a vivid, shared dream, make their way through dangers and adventures, and join other particularly gifted mers and river witches to defeat Abbadon, a terrible monster created for the destruction of all she knows. Serefina and Neela team up with merls who have amazing pedigrees. Can they fulfill an ancient prophecy and save their world? The ending sets the groundwork for Rogue Waves, book two in what will be the four-volume “Waterfire Saga.” The book has all that is needed for a promising saga. Reviewer: Judy Crowder; Ages 12 up.
VOYA, June 2014 (Vol. 37, No. 2) - Kristi Sadowski
As the first in a planned series, there will be lots of buzz about this book, and that buzz will not be unfounded. Serafina is about to be crowned heir to her mother’s throne. She knows what is expected of her, but is she really ready to rule? That is the question Sera must answer when tragedy strikes and her kingdom and parents are taken captive. Barely escaping with her life and her freedom, she is left with no choice but to seek out the ancient forceno more than a legend, reallythat has haunted her dreams but may, at least, provide answers. A fantastic addition to the genre of mermaids, this book will also appeal to readers of action and those who appreciate usurped leaders taking back their kingdom. It starts with a common enough concept: a royal girl who is worried about her betrothal and about love. Donnelly then adds layers of complexity to the tale and weaves her story into that of Atlantis. Friendship, trust, and responsibility are major themes as Sera struggles to grasp that she is really her kingdom’s only hope. Quick-witted, loveable characters and a well-planned fantasy world make this an all-encompassing book. Readers will eagerly await future volumes and the answers they will provide. Reviewer: Kristi Sadowski; Ages 12 to 18.
The award-winning author teams up with Disney to deliver a book seemingly tailor-made for commercial success. Imagine an undersea world populated by mers of every type: Blond, blue-tailed seafolk exist, but the variety described goes far behind that stereotype; some are crab-legged or stranger. It's a complex world, created magically as Atlantis fell. Now, the evil behind the fall threatens again, and this time it's teamed up with a terragogg (human) bent on destroying ecosystems. Six mermaids have been summoned in dreams to save a world suddenly under attack. Exposition-heavy descriptions of a sometimes-nonsensical society (dresses and other human accoutrements that can't possibly enhance undersea life are described in downright cinematic detail, and mer-derived slang—for example, "merlfriend"—comes across as forced) dominate the beginning. They eventually give way to a plot-driven tale of prophesied saviors getting to know each other and preparing for an epic battle (and several more volumes). The merls have little to no personality (protagonist Serafina somewhat excepted), but then, this book is aimed at upper-preteen/early-teen readers who might enjoy finding themselves in the text. The diversity of the cast (white, black, Asian and Indian are all represented among the chosen) deserves some props. Readers who put aside the sense that they are being primed for products and just imagine the movie it ought to be may find it palatable enough. (Fantasy. 11-14)