In Deeper Waters
Author: F.T. Lukens
Page Count: 320
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Original Publication Date: 2021
Genre(s): Young adult, LGBT, Fantasy
**A big THANK YOU to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me an ARC of this title!
Prince Tal, the fourth child of five to the Queen of Harth, is setting out on his coming-of-age tour. He’s spent almost his entire life hidden away because of his secret: Tal has magic, and if the kingdom knew, it could start a war. Tal’s tour quickly turns interesting when they come across a burning ship, abandoned save for a chest of gold and a prisoner named Athlen. Tal is responsible for keeping an eye on Athlen until they reach port – that is, until Athlen jumps overboard into the rough seas below. There’s no way Athlen could have survived – so Tal is shocked when, days later, he sees Athlen on land, alive and well. Before Tal can discover all of Athlen’s secrets, Tal is kidnapped by pirates. Only his magic can save him, but is it worth it to start a war?
I’m not sure why we all thought “gay pirates” when we discovered this book, but that’s exactly what I thought going into it. Spoiler alert: it’s not about gay pirates. I didn’t even realize this was a fantasy – I must have skipped right over the “this guy has magic” part of the synopsis. Sigh. Clearly, I did not know what I was getting into. Nonetheless, an LGBT fantasy about a magic prince on the high seas and a mysterious boy is right up my alley, so I was pretty stoked to receive an ARC of this title.
In Deeper Waters is told in third-person POV and follows Tal on his coming-of-age tour. But things get a little crazy when he meets Athlen, a mysterious boy with his own secrets. And then Tal is kidnapped and things get really, really bad. Definitely not the coming-of-age tour Tal expected. And this was definitely not the kind of book I expected it to be. Like I said, I went into it thinking gay pirates, and instead I got something completely different.
It was definitely hard to get into the story. Though I was intrigued, it didn’t pull me in the way I expect fantasies to do. Also, in that same vein, not a lot of worldbuilding for a fantasy novel. I’d literally never heard of F.T. Lukens before, and have never read any of their works until In Deeper Waters. Definitely not my favorite writing. I thought they told more than showed, and I think that’s why it was so hard to get into the story. Though the characters were interesting and the things happening were exciting, I wasn’t blown away or sucked in or dazzled. The whole thing felt a little lackluster. I was emotionally detached from the story and the characters.
That said, I still fairly enjoyed the reading experience as a whole. I know that probably sounds weird because I had quite a few negative things to say about the novel, but I think maybe those are just some personal preferences. Other than the lack of worldbuilding and tell-over-show writing, it’s still a pretty solid story. I think my finding it hard to get into the story isn’t going to happen to everyone. Just because I couldn’t connect to the characters or get sucked into the novel doesn’t mean you will have the same experience. Though it sounded like the perfect novel for me, it wasn’t.
However, I do still recommend you all give it a try, especially if you like adventure stories set at sea and LGBT fantasy. Though it’s not high fantasy that you’ll become immersed in, it’s a cute, sort of fluffy fantasy with a little bit of gay romance thrown in. And it’s a standalone, so you can give your fantasy series marathon a little bit of a break. In Deeper Waters is out April 20th, so mark your calendars!