Deep Blue

336p. (Waterfire Saga: Bk. 1). Disney-Hyperion. May 2014. RTE $17.99. ISBN 9781423133162; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9781484701850.
Gr 5–8—Donnelly, perhaps best-known for her lush and emotionally resonant historical fiction, tries her hand at middle-grade fantasy. Not one to dip a toe into a genre, she dives right in with a four-volume underwater saga of the mer, complete with four thousand years of Atlantean history and magic. In Deep Blue, readers meet Serafina, a 16-year-old mermaid and heir apparent to the realm, on the day of her betrothal as part of her Dokimí ceremony. All goes swimmingly, despite her nervousness and qualms about her intended, until her mother, the ruler of Miromara, is felled by a sniper's arrow. Serafina's worries take a more serious, geopolitical turn as she and her best friend, Neela, are on the run and seeking to avoid an all-out war among the mer nations. The "merlfriends" have been summoned by the same magical dream and are drawn to search for four other mermaids who will join together and save the world from a dark, evil force. There's a lot going on, yet despite the convoluted backstory and the dreaded "terragogg" (human) degradation of the oceans, everything gets a light, surface treatment. There's little character development, beyond the protagonist, or sense of real danger, and even the spells that abound seem to exist for expediency and nick-of-time escapes. All that said, the story is appropriately cinematic, and perhaps with a few songs added to the mix, could be adapted into an animated Disney hit.—Luann Toth, School Library Journal
After a group of assassins attack during her betrothal ceremony, mermaid princess Serafina and her friend Neela escape. Their prophetic dreams lead them to Romania, where a river witch hopes to unite six teenage mermaids who together have the power to defeat an ancient monster. Mermaid lovers will adore this earnest fantasy novel's detailed world-building, likable characters, and adventurous plot.

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