Content notes for F.T. Lukens’ In Deeper Waters: kidnapping, captivity & torture, death & murder, panic attacks & trauma
- Tal gets kidnapped by pirates who mistreat him by not offering enough food or water and forcing him to do hard labour, they also withhold adequate treatment for his wounds
- His great-grandfather‘s murderous magic and magical genocides are mentioned throughout the book
- People get killed in several ways, by natural catastrophe, by swords, by (magical) fire and there are assassination plots and attempts
- Several characters suffer from their traumatic experiences and there are on page descriptions of panic attacks
Representation: a male bi/pan protagonist with a male love interest, some references to an apparently queer-norm world (non-binary people, poly-am, etc. relationships but only mentioned/off page), one of the side characters has depression
Why the hell did I think that this would be some kind of gay pirate book? Because it really isn’t. Yes, there are pirates and for all I know some of them might be gay (the world seems to be, while maybe not queer-norm, at least generally accepting?) but they are not the main characters or love interests in this novel. They are, in fact, the antagonists, so, yeah, no fun gay pirate novel …
What is this book about then? Well, it‘s about 16 year old Tal, second youngest royal child of Harth and outside the palace walls for the first time in basically ever. Because Tal has magic, something which is very much frowned upon since his great-grandfather, the last great magician, tried to burn down the entire continent. So Tal grew up sheltered and his grand tour is the first time he comes into contact with the world. And, obviously, he falls head over heels in love with literally the first guy his age he meets.
Uhm, yeah, my „excitement“ for this might be obvious. Honestly, I don‘t know why I gave this novel 4 stars when I rated it right after I had finished reading it. Like, there‘s a lot I liked about it but basically none of the things I liked were part of the main story and the main story is just some ridiculous gay Little Mermaid insta love stuff. I do not like The Little Mermaid. Never have, never will. And while this isn‘t a straight up retelling or anything like that it does feature mercreatures and magic and insta-love.
The longer I‘m thinking about it, the less I can get over the fact that Tal, at 16, goes outside once and finds the love of his life in the very first person he sees. I did actually like both Tal and his love interest, Athlen, but their romance is so quick and so devoid of any chemistry that it didn‘t even fully register with me. I was just like „Oh, there‘s a cool conspiracy against this kingdom’s royal family and the Protagonist has to not only come into his abilities but also overcome trauma and race against time to save the family he loves and the kingdom he serves“ and then I was vaguely disappointed because the whole romance thing took away page space from the political intrigue stuff.
Because yes, I did very much enjoy reading F.T. Lukens‘ In Deeper Waters. I liked the few glimpses we got of the world and would love to get to know more about it. I adored the relationship dynamics of all the amazing platonic relationships in this novel – between Tal and his siblings (all of whom were somehow way more interesting than Tal) as well as between Athlen and his friend Dara but also among the pirate crew. Throughout the plot the novel hinted at so many amazing stories that could be told about this world and its inhabitants.
All in all then I am still not quite sure why I gave this four stars because the main story absolutely does not deserve them. This is trying to be a romance novel with a fantasy setting and, honestly, for me the romance doesn’t deserve more than two stars tops. But I liked everything apart from that teenage insta-love thing so much! The world-building is scarce but the other characters are great and especially the dynamics between the royal siblings and their unconditional love for each other are awesome. So maybe it does deserve the 4 stars after all? Let‘s say 3,5! And maybe, some day, there will be a sequel, prequel or spin-off to In Deeper Waters that tells one of the more interesting stories …
I would love to read more about how the pirate crew came to be a misfit family. Or about Poppy‘s adventures as a sea spirit. Or about the melancholic shapeshifter scholar prince and his kick-ass commander wife. Or even (or especially?) about the bastard princess mentioned in one sentence of the epilogue, who ran away with her handmaiden and fencing instructor. All of these stories sound more interesting than Tal‘s love story.
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