The Deep & Dark Blue

Little, Brown. Jan. 2020. 256p. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9780316485982; pap. $12.99. ISBN 9780316486019.
Gr 4-7–Identical twins Grayson and Hawke belong to one of their city-state’s ruling families. When they lose their entire family in a bloody coup, the brothers disguise themselves as girls named Grayce and Hanna and hide out in the Communion of Blue, a religious order of magical women who weave using a mysterious deep blue dye that allows them to spin the threads of reality and manipulate elements such as fire and water. Obsessed with thwarting the traitors and getting his old life back, Hawke begrudges every moment he spends as a girl. His twin also wants justice, but identifying as a girl and belonging to the sisterhood feel like home, and she’s anxious to remain true to herself, perhaps for the first time in her life. Smith vividly depicts siblings who couldn’t be more different yet grow together. When confronted with Grayce’s true identity, Hawke accepts that she is the same twin he has always loved, and they remain two halves of an unbroken whole. Manga-esque art advances the action smoothly, and speech bubbles are expressive and well placed. The palette is integral to the story: dynamic backgrounds rely on beautifully saturated hues, including royal purples, and blue-tinged scenes portraying the order’s use of magic are mesmerizing.
VERDICT Children figuring out where they fit in will appreciate this stunning work that does double duty as an absorbing adventure and a gentle musing on gender identity, family, and acceptance.

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