I received an advance reader’s copy (ARC) of In Deeper Waters by F. T. Lukens. Since this version is just a proof and not the final version, I won’t quote directly and will keep my comments general.
In Deeper Waters begins with Prince Tal setting off on his coming-of-age tour around the world, though he is worried that being away from home for the first time will force him into a situation where he must reveal his secret magical abilities, which are stigmatized because of Tal’s own violent magical ancestor. Then, a few days into the trip, Tal meets a mercurial, fascinating boy called Athlen, who captivates as much as he confuses. But an incident occurs, and Tal believes Athlen to be dead. But when their paths cross again, he starts to think there’s something more to this boy than he thought. And when Tal is kidnapped, Athlen might be the only one who can help him.
This was compared to both The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue and the Pirates of the Caribbean, so naturally I was intrigued. And overall, this wasn’t bad, but I prefer those other two things anyway.
Tal is a decent protagonist, though he’s not unlike other characters I’ve seen many times. He’s a naive boy learning of the dangers of the world, while learning to accept himself for an ability he’s been taught to fear. His innocence is a little ridiculous sometimes; I mean, I figured out what Athlen was, like, three pages after meeting him, and Tal had to be told in the next chapter. How is he that oblivious? But in the end, I didn’t mind him.
Athlen is an interesting character too, very mysterious and mischievous but also very caring. I also like Tal’s siblings, as well as Shay. Honestly, they were the best part, and I wished I’d seen more of them.
The romance, as with so many books particularly for teen audiences, was rushed to me. I did get a sense of some chemistry, but the progression didn’t move at what I think is a sensible pace. Surely they have more on their minds? I guess not, because we’re already saying “I love you.” This isn’t entirely a criticism, because Tal and Athlen’s affection is really sweet, it’s just something I’ve seen before.
As for the plot, I expected there to be a lot more pirate action, though I did enjoy the political intrigue anyway. I could definitely see this be the first of a series, because it feels like there is a lot of potential drama in the world that Lukens has created, in terms of international relations. The development of this felt somewhat surface level in this, but it still got the job done.
In the end, In Deeper Waters is a pretty enjoyable, if not particularly ground-breaking, fantasy adventure story. There is danger on the high seas, royal magicians, swashbuckling characters, and a heartfelt romance. I wasn’t blown away, but I was entertained.
Overall rating: 8/10
In Deeper Waters will be published on April 20th, 2021!