Frances Hardinge is a seemingly inexhaustible source of bizarre, creepy and utterly original books for young adults. In Deeplight, she gives a nod to Lovecraftian horror in her own brilliant and eccentric way.
The gods ruled the Myriad, a 1,000-mile-long chain of islands, for centuries: "Now and then, one would rise from the Undersea" and devour schooners, smash ports or destroy entire islands. The Glass Cardinal, with his "translucent tendrils"; the Red Forlorn, like a "cloud of blood in the water"; Dolor, who kicked "with dozens of human legs"--all unknowable and terrifying. "Then, without warning, the gods turned on each other." It has been 30 years since the Cataclysm, and 14-year-old orphan Hark ekes out a living through vaguely criminal means. A born storyteller, Hark grifts the occasional mainland tourist and sells counterfeit godware (magical pieces of the dead gods); when coerced, he helps best friend Jelt complete the more expressly criminal jobs Jelt prefers. When a smuggler enlists their services, Hark is caught and auctioned off as cheap labor. Surprisingly, a doctor of "practical theophysics" buys him and brings him to live among the old priests "whose minds broke when the gods died." But the doctor has a secret, Jelt is furious Hark left him, and the priests are hiding something that could destroy all of the Myriad.
Hardinge (The Lie Tree; A Face Like Glass) is matchless, and the enchanting, chilling and wholly uncommon novels she writes are truly remarkable. While Deeplight takes a moment to ramp up, once Hark's adventure begins, it doesn't slow. Hardinge's characters are sympathetic and genuine, and her terrors massive and unknowable, creating exactly the kind of reading experience her fans expect: extraordinary. --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness