Author: F.T. Lukens
Age Category: Young Adult
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publish Date: April 20, 2021
Print Length: 320
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A young prince must rely on a mysterious stranger to save him when he is kidnapped during his coming-of-age tour in this swoony adventure that is The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue meets Pirates of the Caribbean.
Prince Tal has long awaited his coming-of-age tour. After spending most of his life cloistered behind palace walls as he learns to keep his forbidden magic secret, he can finally see his family’s kingdom for the first time. His first taste of adventure comes just two days into the journey, when their crew discovers a mysterious prisoner on a burning derelict vessel.
Tasked with watching over the prisoner, Tal is surprised to feel an intense connection with the roguish Athlen. So when Athlen leaps overboard and disappears, Tal feels responsible and heartbroken, knowing Athlen could not have survived in the open ocean.
That is, until Tal runs into Athlen days later on dry land, very much alive, and as charming–and secretive–as ever. But before they can pursue anything further, Tal is kidnapped by pirates and held ransom in a plot to reveal his rumored powers and instigate a war. Tal must escape if he hopes to save his family and the kingdom. And Athlen might just be his only hope…
At its core, IN DEEPER WATERS is about learning to accept yourself as you are rather than hiding your true self from the world (and, well, yourself). This is a particularly sticky point for Prince Tal, needs to keep his magic a secret lest it cause unrest in the kingdom. After all, magic is a deadly weapon when in the wrong hands. So, in an effort to endear himself to the public, he embarks on the traditional coming-of-age tour across the land. With his brother and trusted guard, what ever could go wrong? A lot, it seems.
It doesn’t take long before Tal and his crew encounter their first adventure before even making it to their landward destination. After rescuing the timid yet cheeky Athlen from an abandoned ship, Athlen jumps overboard and is presumed dead after his stunning act of defiance. But the plot thickens when Tal’s crew finds coin on the derelict ship from a country with whom they have a shaky relationship. What’s more, once on land they run into Athlen, no harm, no foul. Intrigued, Tal tries to learn more about Athlen and feels an undeniable pull towards this mysterious young man. But, quite unfortunately, Tal finds himself kidnapped for ransom: reveal his magic or don’t, the end result of both being war.
Though on the faster-paced side of things, I thought Tal experienced plenty of character growth during his [mis]adventures. Having only learned about the world through tutors in the castle, Tal still has much to learn in actuality; there is no better teacher than experience. His kidnapping serves as a catalyst towards accepting that having magic doesn’t automatically make him a bad person. Additionally, Tal’s slow burn friendship and relationship with Athlen opens Tal’s eyes to the freedom one can feel when accepting one’s self. Athlen is a free spirit and is happy with who he is, which inspires Tal to reevaluate his relationship with magic.
The romance between the two characters is very sweet. Not in a “cinnamon roll” kind of way, but in that Tal and Athlen take the time to understand one another’s fears and vulnerabilities. They take into consideration each other’s feelings before making big decisions. And they don’t push each other to reveal more than they’re comfortable with until they’re ready.
Because IN DEEPER WATERS is more fast-paced, characterization takes priority whereas the world-building, though present, is less pronounced. The focus is on the plot and how Tal reacts to the events he experiences. In other words, this is a more character-driven book, but the political intrigue of the plot is also important.
Though a lighter and more fluffy read than I generally choose for myself, IN DEEPER WATERS tackles the importance of self identity and claiming it with confidence. This is a perfect book for those seeking LGBTQ+ representation, adventures on land and sea, and a happily ever after.
Content warnings: blood, kidnapping, torture
Reading format: Library hardback