The Deepest Ocean is a story about a woman who has a pet Great White Shark. That should be all the information you need to decide whether or not you want to read the book. And if you don’t want to read a book about a woman who has a pet Great White Shark, you are dead to me. Not that I’m judging you.
OK, fine, I’ll give you more details. Yerena Fin Caller (not her real name, obviously) is part of a group called Seawatch. Seawatch trains kids to become weapons, and Yerena was one of these kids. She is mentally linked to a shark and can make the shark attack people and ships. Technically, Yerena’s shark is not hers in any way. Certianly, it’s not her pet. She is forbidden to name it and as a child she is brutally whipped when she is caught playing with it. The shark is supposed to be a tool, and a disposable one at that. But Yerena is deeply bonded to the shark, and she can’t bear to think that harm may befall it.
Yerena is assigned to sail with Captain Darok Juell. He does not know that she is assigned to make her shark sink his ship if it looks like the ship might fall into enemy hands. Of course sparks fly and they have a passionate romance although to be perfectly honest all I cared about was the shark, because sharks are cool whereas Darok is your basic seafaring, mildly alpha hero guy – lots of fighting on the rigging, lots of trying to persuade Yerena to be free from the clutches of her evil overlords. He was a fine hero just not as compelling to read about as a shark, because few things are.
Yerena and Darok are kept quite busy fighting the forces of the evil Captain Jash, who keeps handing over prisoners to her resident mad scientist who tries to make sea creature/human hybrids (eeeeeeewwwwww). Jash is also encumbered with a mad priest and a mad rogue Seawatch agent who works with Orcas (squeeeee). With all these insane people on her boat you’d think the tone would be more…mad, but they are all very serious and riddled with angst. More on that later.
Just to be clear, there are no sexy times between Yerena and the shark. The romance is between her and Darok, a human. At no point does anyone engage in interspecies sexy times.
This is a fantasy that is well-grounded and intricate. This is the second book in a series but I didn’t have a problem jumping in. I felt I was leaping in to a world of complex political structures but I got the gist easily, at least enough to follow the story. The book is very serious in tone, and that surprised me, because I kind of figured if you’re going to write about people who use sharks as weapons you’re probably going to seize the absurdity and go full Dr. Evil.
For God’s sake, people, at one point there’s a charcter who is turned into a walking, talking, superpowered coral monster by having his brain replaced with coral. Was it BRAIN CORAL? Are we all clear that even brain coral cannot function as an ACTUAL BRAIN? At one point the author says, with total seriousness,
“His calm had been shattered since his mother had tried to murder him, and he needed time and rest to recover.”
Well, yeah, I should think so. And some therapy too, probably.
But instead of embracing the camp, this book goes for a totally serious tone, and to my amazement it pulls it off pretty well. I think it would work better if I read the book twice, because I could judge it on its own merits more easily after having had a first reading to get over the fact that the shark never does get to wear lasers on its head. I thought Darvok was pretty one dimensional but likeable, and Yerena is a fascinating character. She’s so repressed that sometimes she makes for bland company, but she has, if you’ll pardon the pun, hidden depths. We never get to find out her whole story which is a shame because it means we never get to fully understand her. I felt like her story was half written. It’s a very emotional story and I really wanted to know more.
There’s a lot of action – the action sequence at the end involves a battle between lots of people who are literally backstabbing each other right and left, while simultaneously multiple ships are attacking each other, while simultaneously Yerena’s shark is very busy fighting another creature who I won’t name because it would spoil your delight. This is a great sequence where all the characters' conflicts, both internal and external, are being resolved at a blinding pace, frequently in bloody ways.
This is a solid book that commits to its premise in a serious way. It talks about how Yerena works with the shark, and communicates with it, and the line “Fetch!” had me shrieking with delight. I might like the romance more on a second read, but honestly for me this was the Yerena and Shark Show and I’d love a sequel but I don’t really care who’s in it beside Yerena and the shark. Because sharks are cool!