Utterly Dark and the Face of the Deep by Philip Reeve: Review

I requested this book on NetGalley because I really enjoyed Philip’s Mortal Engines series. Unfortunately I feel like I should have clocked the artwork and realised this was probably for someone about 25 years younger than me.

Some information about this book:

  • Release date: September 2nd 2021
  • Published by: David Fickling Books
  • Pages: 288
  • Genre: Fantasy (middle grade)
  • Series: Standalone

Blurb:

It was always at sundown they were seen. In that twilight hour, when the walls between the worlds grew thin, strange things might slip through the cracks. Sometimes then, so the stories went, enchanted islands would appear in the empty ocean to the west of Wildsea.

When Utterly Dark was a baby, she was washed up on the shores of the Autumn Isles and taken in by the Watcher of Wildsea. But everything changes when her guardian suddenly drowns. Now who will keep the Watch, and make sure Wildsea stays safe from the strange forces teeming in the deep ocean around them?

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Firstly, that cover art is phenomenal. It really draws you in and focuses on the girl stood on a rock in the sea. She is looking for something but what?

As I said previously I requested this book from Netgalley as I really liked Mortal Engines and it’s actually one of the series on my TBR I’m desperate to complete. This book however is most definitely for 9-12 year olds and I will do my best to keep that in mind when reviewing it but this just honestly is not as good as I expected it to be.

Utterly Dark is a young girl who is eleven and a half. Found washed up on the beach by Mr Dark, who was the Watcher, and given to an old couple to look after since she was now orphaned. It’s the Watcher’s job to look out for the monster of legend, the Gorm. However, when Mr Dark mysteriously dies in an apparent suicide, Utterly finds herself the Watcher of Wildsea.

This is a story about myths and legends, some magic, some “monsters” and a whole lot of ‘will it or won’t it’. I like what Philip has created here and think children will really enjoy it. It has enough fear and mystery for them to be intrigued and enough character variation that this would sound great as an audiobook if read by a good narrator.

The characters are certainly different enough, with Uncle Will taking the spotlight for me – his character arc being almost the only one unfortunately. The story is a cool idea and I wished it was bigger but I have to remind myself this is a children’s book and at almost 300 pages it’s probably on the big side.

For someone like myself who likes adult SFF stories, I found it did fall flat in a few places. Character development was lacking for the majority of the characters, the level of danger was low at most times, only ramping up to what I would call high at one point and sometimes there was just too much filler – towards the last 10% of the book I found myself skimming passages to read the conversations and finish the book.

Rating – 3/5 I appreciate this is for younger children and as I said, they would really enjoy this book but if you’re 18 or over, you will probably find this as tame as Harry Potter, without as much danger or as much magic. Buy if you want to give to a child or to read to them but don’t get this if you’re an adult who enjoys Philip’s work, this is not for us.

You can add this to your Goodreads TBR here. You can purchase a copy from Amazon UK or Amazon US too.

If you like science fiction and fantasy books then consider joining The Oasis Discord here – it’s free and has a great community, buddy reads, community reads and much more!

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