At the end of the twenty-first century, the world has changed dramatically, but life continues one thousand feet below the ocean’s surface. In Great Britain, sea creatures swim among the ruins of Big Ben and the Tower of London, and citizens waver between fear and hope; fear of what lurks in the abyss, and hope that humanity will soon discover a way to reclaim the Earth.
Meanwhile, sixteen-year-old Leyla McQueen has her own problems to deal with. Her father’s been arrested, accused of taking advantage of victims of the Seasickness-a debilitating malaise that consumes people,often claiming their lives. But Leyla knows he’s innocent, and all she’s interested in is getting him back so that their lives can return to normal.
When she’s picked to race in the action-packed London Submersible Marathon, Leyla gets the chance to secure his freedom; the Prime Minister promises the champion whatever their heart desires. The race takes an unexpected turn, though, and presents her with an opportunity she never wanted: Leyla must venture outside of London for the first time in her life, to find and rescue her father herself.
Now, she’ll have to brave the unfathomable waters and defy a corrupt government determined to keep its secrets, all the while dealing with a secretive, hotheaded companion she never asked for in the first place. If she fails, or falls prey to her own fears, she risks capture-and her father might be lost forever.
Leyla McQueen is in a bind. Her father has been wrongly arrested by the government and no Law firm will take her case. At her wits end she is almost ready to throw in the towel. That is until she gets the chance of a lifetime. Her name is pulled out to take part in the London Submersible Marathon. Leyla hadn’t even hoped of being picked seeing as it was the first year she could enter, but as soon as her name is called she knows she has to take part in the deadly race, and she has to win. The grand prize is either a submarine, or you are able to ask the Prime Minister for literally anything, and Leyla know’s exactly what she will ask for, her fathers freedom. Little does she know that there are people hugely invested in her father never seeing the light of day again, and Leyla might have to face her fear and journey outside of London for the first time if she has any hope of seeing her father alive again.
This was a truly intriguing and fresh read. The world that Shah creates is one parallel to our own, except underwater. Her descriptive writing had me floating along besides the characters, and you could almost picture the underwater London with all its ‘Historical’ sites still intact and a reminder of the ‘old ways’. The way the government is determined to return to, even if living on the surface again is a little bit of a pipe dream. I’m a huge lover of aquatic animals and so really enjoyed how the author manages to make them part of the story, there are free animals and there are those that the government has raised from birth for specific purposes, either to spy or attack, and it was interesting seeing the differences in these animals behaviours.
Leyla was a really fun character, and I thoroughly enjoyed being able to follow the story from her perspective. Afraid of travelling in the ‘wild’ outside of the safety of London city she leads a fairly secluded life. But her determination to save her father vastly outshines and fears she might hold. I couldn’t help but feel for her, I feel that I would act exactly the same in some of the situations she found herself in, and I myself would be terrified to be out in the open ocean for the first time, unsure what dangers were lurking in the darkness. Though I am a fan of marine animals, there is also a part of me that would be petrified to be taken down to the depths of the ocean floor, and I wholly empathised with Leyla about her fears.
Adding into Leyla’s fear are the anthropoids. Once human beings, they were genetically engineered to survive underwater, meant to be a workforce to help prepare the ocean floor for the human races arrival. Her whole life Leyla has been told to fear these creatures, after they rose up against their creators and the government, they have spent their lives attacking the human race and causing as much death and destruction as possible. There is relative safely in the confines of London City, but once Leyla crosses that boundary into the open ocean there is very little protecting her from the dangers she may face.
There is a romance arc throughout the story which is quite a slow burn, and you are unsure whether anything will actually happen between the two before the book ends. Ari is the boy that Leyla’s Grandfather requested to shadow her, without her knowledge or permission. Always at loggerheads these two never seen to agree on a decision and I thoroughly enjoyed the ‘tension’ the author created when they are together. As soon as they begin to bond Leyla is thrown for a loop when she uncovers the secret that Ari has been trying so hard to keep from her. Though the story is rather tense in parts, we do get some release through the ships navigator Oscar Wilde. Yes you read that right, Leyla’s friends chose the 19th century writer to be the ships AI. He brought comedy through the story, most of the times unwittingly, but I thoroughly enjoyed the parts of the book he played a role in.
I do think in parts the book dragged slightly, however, there were plenty of twists and turns to keep you guessing and making sure you read right until the end. And what an ending it was, I thought the book was over and then bam! The author hits us with one hell of a cliffhanger and I need book two in my hands ASAP. With an immersive and fresh dystopian world, some great representation and amazing descriptive writing this is a must pick up for any fantasy fan. 4/5*