Sarah Glenn Marsh’s Fear the Drowning Deep has romance, danger, and a mysterious boy, much like a lot of YA fiction these days. What sets it apart from other stories is the choice of setting and the mythology Marsh chooses to explore, both of which I found refreshing and interesting.
First off, the setting. Fear the Drowning Deep takes place on the Isle of Man, 1913. I have no knowledge of the Isle of Man, so I can only assume Marsh’s depiction is fairly accurate, but I felt very grounded in the setting.
The sea is ever-present, whether it’s by sight, smell, taste, or sound, but it’s not the only feature of this island. Between the bustling marketplace, the quiet cliffs, nosy neighbors, and a hermit witch, you really get the feel of a place that has a strong sense of community (where everyone knows everyone) but also seems very remote. It’s a place still caught in time a little bit, as even adults still go barefoot regularly and they leave out cake every night for the “Little Fellas” (fairies). Also, the character names (Mally, Bridey, Morag) and the occasional Manx phrase really helped me imagine the rhythm of speech, which isn’t a detail I notice very often.
But a good setting only gets you so far without a good story; Fear the Drowning Deep does not disappoint! It centers around Bridey, a sixteen-year-old island girl who hates the sea. She hasn’t trusted it, ever since she witnessed her granddad dive off a cliff and drown when she was nine, lured into the water by something no one else believed she saw.
Bridey’s past comes back to haunt her when a young woman washes up on the beach, drowned, and other young women from her village begin to disappear. Then a young man turns up on the beach, alive, but badly wounded and with no memory. Convinced that there is something lurking in the sea, possibly the same thing that killed her granddad, Bridey is determined to discover what it is and how to stop it before anyone else gets hurt.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I haven’t come across a lot of sea-monster books. Vampires, werewolves, zombies, you bet, but not sea-monsters. This was some mythology I didn’t have a lot of background knowledge in, which made for a refreshing story and kept me from figuring out all of the details too quickly. And I’m not just talking mermaids here; Marsh has pulled from Viking, Irish, and Celtic mythology (all cultures which influenced Manx culture at different points) further grounding her story in its setting and making the threat feel all that more mysterious and dangerous.
Once I got a few chapters in, I knew I was going to finish this book in one sitting. It’s an adrenaline rush kind of read, sweeping you up in the mystery and the romance so that you have to know what happens next.
My one complaint is that I would have liked about three more pages at the end. There is closure, and it leaves you with a pretty good idea about what will happen in the characters’ future, but it would have made me happier to have seen one particular moment actually played out before I left the story.
All in all, it’s a fun, exciting read, and I give it three out of five stars. I bet it’d make a great book to read by the pool, but I dare you to read it by the lake or the ocean!