The Deep is a fantasy novel about the descendants of African slave women thrown overboard into the sea by slave owners. Pregnant women were thrown overboard for being “sick and disruptive cargo,” but what would have happened if their babies adapted to the new environment and survived anyways? The zoti are the answer to this “what if.” They are born from the bodies of women thrown overboard, but rather than having legs they have tails and can breathe underwater. They do not remember where they came from, as it is too painful for them to remember. Only Yetu is cursed with being the Historian. She is overcome by the pain of the History, of all the horrific memories of the first zoti and of the women thrown overboard. She barely remembers who she is, and she cannot rid herself of the History lest the rest of her people suffer as she does with the memories. But one day, she can’t take it anymore, and flees to the surface. She leaves the rest of her people in the process of the Remembering, the yearly pain of the memories coming to the surface again, and she flees to discover herself outside of the painful memories of the ancestors.
I came into this novel expecting a hard-hitting dark fantasy book that mixed history with the secrets of the ocean in a beautiful way. WHat I read was a confusing story that jumped around in time, where I was never sure of who was speaking. Sometimes the POV only referred to the main character as “We”, sometimes the POV was clearly from Yetu, and sometimes I could never tell who was speaking at all. I kept reading hoping that things would clear themselves up by the end of the story, but they didn’t. The book was so short that I never truly felt any connection to Yetu or her people, and I couldn’t figure out how the side characters were even important to the story at all.
One thing that confused me the most in this story was Yetu’s multiple (?) love interests? I could not tell whose POV the story was supposed to be being told from at the time, but Yetu was with a male side character, and then she was talking to and seemed to be romantically interested in a female character Oori. I am not completely sure if it was even Yetu with the male character, as that occurred during a POV switch where the only pronoun being used was “we.” But it made the story confusing to read as it seemed like Yetu was with both this male character and the female character at the same time, just going back and forth between the two. This is simply one example of something that didn’t add up within the story.
I also couldn’t understand why the other zoti didn’t understand why Yetu was in such pain being the Historian. She was cursed with the Rememberings constantly, and she had to lead them through their own Rememberings as well, so why didn’t they understand her pain. They were clearly in pain during the Rememberings, so why was it so difficult for them to understand that this was how she felt all the time?
The only part that I did like about this book was the dark fantasy aspect. I was horrified by the description of the zoti helping the newborn zoti out of the bodies of their dead mothers, but I loved how it was described and how the instant connection was made from this horrific real world to the underwater fantasy one. I also did enjoy reading some of the flashbacks of history, even though I felt like they could have been expanded on.
If this book had been longer and focused on Yetu’s story alone, I believe I would have really enjoyed it. If the book had been this length and been a collection of short stories from the Rememberings without trying to connect the main plot of Yetu, I believe I would have enjoyed that as well. But as this story was written, it feels more like a hodge-podge of information than a coherent tale, and I could not recommend it.
I received an advance copy of this book and this is my voluntary review.
Overall Rating: 2 out of 5 books.