The Vanishing Deep

The Vanishing Deep
Written by Astrid Scholte
Fantasy, Dystopian, Science Fiction, Romance
416 Pages
Published March 2020
R.R.P $19.99
Thank you to Allen & Unwin Australia
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Two sisters. One dangerous secret. Twenty-four hours to uncover the truth.

Seventeen year old Tempest was born into a world of water. The most skilled diver on the Equinox Reef, she searches drowned cities with her older sister Elysea, seeking out old world treasures to trade for Notes. After Elysea mysteriously drowns, Tempest scavenges the ruins alone, driven to collect enough Notes to buy her sister's life for 24 hours, and to finally learn the secret she had kept until her last breath.

However, once revived, Elysea convinces Tempest to break her out of the Palindromena research facility and they embark on a dangerous journey to discover the truth about their parents' death. But they're pursued by two Palindromena employees desperate to find them before Elysea's time is up, and to prevent them from uncovering the secrets behind the revival process and the true cost of restored lives.

Dead or living, everyone must pay the price.
The Great Waves decimated the planet, creating underwater graves as the cities were submerged. Tempest lives in a towering building upon the waves, exploring the ruins below the water to survive. It's been five years since her parents passed away, shortly before her sister Elysea drowned, grieving for the loss of her family.

Those who have drowned upon the water are retrieved, their bodies placed in a cryogenic state until their loved ones pay handsomely for one last day. The dead are awoken for twenty four hours and then put to rest once more. Tempe plans to revive her sister, believing Elysea is responsible for the death of their parents. Palindromena promises the lasting memory of a reunion with your loved one, a final goodbye for those who have been left behind. While the communities of the Equinox Reef live in apartments above the waves, Palindromena monopolises the small island upon the reef and for Lor, the facility provides a sense of solace and isolation. Hiding among the tanks that hold the deceased until they are revived by their families or discarded, Lor retreats into his own thoughts, of the friend he once lost and the survivor guilt he endures each day.

Tempe and Lor are both wonderful characters and not too dissimilar, both share a strong moral compass and analytical view of their world. Lor resides within the substructure of the Palindromena facility, the basement his respite from the unethical procedure of restoring lives. Lor is a gentle character, emotional and wears his heart on his sleeve. His thoughts are consumed of the guilt of losing his friend in a rock climbing accident, Lor survived and the guilt has caused him to live his life hidden among the dead, isolated and secluded from the world.

Tempe and Elysea are contrasting characters and although Tempe is angry a deeply feels what she believes is her sister's betrayal, the two siblings care for one another. Elysea is spirited and carefree and despite her current circumstances, wants to spend her final day experiencing the yearly Equinox festival, dancing and enjoying what little of her life remains. Through Elysea's experience, Tempe realises that she wasn't living but simply surviving and although Lor provides an attractive distraction, Tempe continues to place her sister's well being first and foremost.

The Earth flooded in a historical disaster known as the Great Waves, land disappearing beneath the ocean and those who survived now live in salt laden highrise towers jutting from the sea. Relics from the Old World are now hidden below the waves, treasures looted by divers brave enough to endure the waves that decimated their world. The ocean has become a source to sustain communities, providing a livelihood for those living above the watery graveyards. The world building is eerily beautiful and one of my favourite aspects of The Vanishing Deep.

The world flooded and valuable land and resources disappearing beneath the sea. A frightfully prophetic world that raises discussion of environmental impact and global warming, issues rarely mentioned in young adult literature. At the centre of the narrative is the moral dilemma of life and playing God. Resurrection, only to spend the next twenty four hours isolated in a concrete room within the Palindromena facility. You can't leave and you need to lie your way through every conversation because they can't discover they've died. What isn't clear to the grieving loved ones, is how the process works. Without giving too much away, the how provided an intense urgency throughout the storyline which blended beautifully with the emotional impact of Tempe and Elysea's reunion, the secret surrounding the death of their parents and coming to terms with losing your sister all over again. 

Lovingly imagined, atmospheric and beautifully portrayed, The Vanishing Deep is exquisite. 

Infinity Son

Infinity Son
Infinity Cycle Book One
Written by Adam Silvera
Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, LGBT
368 Pages
Published January 2020
Thank you to Simon & Schuster Australia
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Growing up in New York, brothers Emil and Brighton always idolized the Spell Walkers, a vigilante group sworn to rid the world of specters. While the Spell Walkers and other celestials are born with powers, specters take them, violently stealing the essence of endangered magical creatures.

Brighton wishes he had a power so he could join the fray. Emil just wants the fighting to stop. The cycle of violence has taken a toll, making it harder for anyone with a power to live peacefully and openly. In this climate of fear, a gang of specters has been growing bolder by the day.

Then, in a brawl after a protest, Emil manifests a power of his own, one that puts him right at the heart of the conflict and sets him up to be the heroic Spell Walker Brighton always wanted to be.

Brotherhood, love, and loyalty will be put to the test, and no one will escape the fight unscathed.
In a borough of New York City, brothers Emilio and Brighton live in a society where bloodlines determine your allegiance. Spell Walkers are assigned to protect the local community, Celestial beings who have inherited abilities, manipulating elements to defend the mundane against malevolent Blood Casters, those with abilities derived from consuming the blood of a Phoenix.

Brighton idolises the Spell Walkers, believing his own ability will manifest upon their eighteenth birthday. Brighton is an online sensation, documenting infamous Spell Walkers on his Celestials of New York channel for subscribers. Brighton and Emil are contrasting characters, Emil abhors confrontation and violence, Brighton is pursuing the limelight and although the brothers are on vastly different journeys, encourage and strengthen one another unconditionally.

The Spell Walkers are engaged in warfare with a syndicate of Blood Casters when Brighton, Emil and friend Prudencia are accosted and pursued through the bustling streets of New York. Confronted on the underground subway, Brighton is seconds away from his demise when Emil conjures Phoenix Fire.

Infinity Son is an interesting read. New York City on the threshold of conflict, Emil becoming the reluctant chosen one in a metropolis segregated by those with abilities, Celestials and the mundane population. Specters illegally consume the blood of mythical creatures and Spell Walkers protect the community from Specters and an organised crime syndicate. The premise is wonderful and although entertaining, I'm left with more questions than answers and at times, confused by the multiple characters and points of view.

I'm not entirely sure how to review Infinity Son and find no pleasure in writing less than favourable reviews but unfortunately, I was disappointed by Adam Silvera's first fantasy novel. In the beginning, I found it difficult to differentiate between the voices of siblings Brighton and Emil and although they are contrasting characters, the multiple narratives didn't allow me to feel a sense of who they were beneath the surface. Emil is the likeable brother of the two, he's selfless and compassionate, supportive of his brother and mother, who barely rates a mention until nearing the end. Brighton is a character that represents the often stereotypical judgement from adults, aggressively obsessed with social media, narcissistic and needing validation. His character seemed like a caricature of an adolescent and becomes increasingly irritating as the narrative progresses.

The diversity of characters is wonderful. Brighton and Emil are Latinx, Emil identifies as gay, Ness is of Dominican heritage, sapphic secondary characters and characters of colour. The sapphic relationship between two secondary characters was lovely and wonderfully gentle and seeing same sex relationships explored in young adult literature is commendable, adolescents finding solace within characters. Emil and Ness share an attraction but their relationship felt dubious, not entirely certain that Ness wasn't manipulating Emil's emotions or because characters were underdeveloped, their connection felt insincere.

The narrative would have been better suited to a middle grade novel, the absence of elementary world building and characterisation created a storyline that lacked conviction and spirit, two elements readers find synonymous with Adam Silvera novels. I'm still confused how a decapitated character came back to life in the next chapter. Infinity Son is better suited for younger young adult readers or Adam Silvera fans and although this one missed the mark for me, I'm looking forward to seeing what he's working on next.
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