Guide/Reviews Database
Hardinge, Frances


(2) YA "Human fear has a terrible power," a wise old man tells protagonist Hark. "It changes everything, distorts everything, maddens everything. It is the dark womb where monsters are born and thrive." This explicit (and politically edged) lesson drives the plot of Hardinge's fantasy/horror/action novel, but as one might expect from the author's bounteous imagination (The Lie Tree, rev. 5/16; A Skinful of Shadows, rev. 1/18), it's embedded in a tale of a strange realm. In Hark's island world, the Undersea gods had destroyed one another decades ago. But while diving into the water to rescue his drowning friend, Jelt, Hark discovers the still-beating heart of one of the old deities. The heart keeps Jelt alive--but it also changes him, transforming his already domineering nature into something monstrous and murderous. Caught between Jelt's demands and what he's learned of the gods, Hark must find a way to leave his old allegiances behind, even as he dodges multiple contests for power--rapacious smugglers, a religious sect aiming to resurrect the old gods, and a monastery of cast-aside monks. Rather cumbersome in plot, the story nevertheless provides a great many features of interest: the Undersea's breathable water; sign language as a common parlance (since so many of the island's aquanauts are deaf).


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