The Queen of YA stand-alone fantasy strikes again!
Astrid has gone and delivered us another wonderful stand-alone fantasy. This time we’re transported to a post-apocalyptic world in which capitalism rules all and two sisters fight everything to keep their family together.
Blurb: Seventeen-year-old Tempe was born into a world of water. When the Great Waves destroyed her planet, its people had to learn to survive living on the water, but the ruins of the cities below still called. Tempe dives daily, scavenging the ruins of a bygone era, searching for anything of value to trade for Notes. It isn't food or clothing that she wants to buy, but her dead sister's life. For a price, the research facility on the island of Palindromena will revive the dearly departed for twenty-four hours before returning them to death. It isn't a heartfelt reunion that Tempe is after; she wants answers. Elysea died keeping a terrible secret, one that has ignited an unquenchable fury in Tempe: Her beloved sister was responsible for the death of their parents. Tempe wants to know why. But once revived, Elysea has other plans. She doesn't want to spend her last day in a cold room accounting for a crime she insists she didn't commit. Elysea wants her freedom and one final glimpse at the life that was stolen from her. She persuades Tempe to break her out of the facility, and they embark on a dangerous journey to discover the truth about their parents' death and mend their broken bond. But they're pursued every step of the way by two Palindromena employees desperate to find them before Elysea's time is up--and before the secret behind the revival process and the true cost of restored life is revealed.
Stand-alone fantasy isn’t a common thing. Actually, I don’t think I’d ever read a fantasy novel that didn’t have a sequel until Four Dead Queens, Astrid’s debut novel.
Something about being able to tell a story with so many mysteries, questions, twists and turns in one novel without letting it drag on just seems so effortless to Astrid. Her writing is so fluid and there is this perfect balance between where the entire novel isn’t some fast-paced mystery and she focuses on the family aspect of the story just as much as the intrigue.
There is a theme with Astrid’s novels and that’s family. It’s especially important in The Vanishing Deep where, unlike many fantasy novels, the concept of family is prioritised over romance. This might sound silly, but she really romanticises the concept of family. Whether it be chosen family or blood, it is a huge motive and/or value within her novels.
This really shows especially in one of the last twists that the novel throws at us. Proving that people would do anything for the ones they love, even if it does mean murdering another dear to them.
TVD is told in alternating perspectives from two people on opposite sides of the cause. We have Tempest – or Tempe for short – and Lor. Both are fighting for someone they love, although one is seemingly more cowardly than the other.
This was a little more fast-paced than her last and I found myself really cherishing the downtime we had between the running. Really hanging on to each word spoken between characters, knowing one might not be there in the end. Now obviously to avoid spoilers I won’t say any more on that topic.
Throughout the entire novel, I was constantly conflicted over whom I wanted to live in the end and battling with myself over why and I think that’s what Astrid intended to happen.
At the start, you have this feeling that you know what might happen and that if it does, it’ll be the right thing, but as the story progresses, you want something different. Then as characters change in their mindsets, evaluate the meaning of life and all that, you want everyone to live! This book is an endless cycle of “how can we save them all and if we can’t save them all, who should die and why?!”
Lor’s character progression was so perfectly done. His internal conflict so well constructed as we hear him battling his own guilt as he tries to do the right thing, not even knowing what will be the right thing to do. Sometimes he reminded me of the scene in Frozen 2 where Ana drags herself up singing The Next Right Thing after she realises Elsa is gone.
I loved (and really hated) how it ended. The whole novel is based around the discourse on life and death, ownership of the dead and experimenting on the unwilling deceased. The way people treat their life once given another chance is such an awesome way to explore someone’s character.
As someone who is kinda scared of the concept of death and having my existence be just a little blip in time, not meaningful, I loved how Tempe moved on at the end. Her attitude really reminded me of that quote from Macklemore’s song Glorious: “I heard you die twice, once when they bury you in the grave and the second time is the last time that somebody mentions your name.”
★ Rating ★
I rated this book ★★★★☆ (4.5/5 stars). I wanted this novel to be a full 5 stars but there was something slightly missing that didn’t meet the expectations her previous novel set. I honestly can pick what it is… All I know is that I cannot wait to hear more from Astrid!
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