Happy Friday, kids! I’m posting a review today instead of my usual TBR round-up. I have some reviews I need to catch up on, and I’m excited to share this one with you. Have a great weekend!
Everyone in Timbers knows Still Cove is off-limits, with its creepy Beast sightings and equally terrifying legends. But when a bullying incident sends twelve-year-old Nico Holland over a cliff and into Still Cove’s icy waters, friends Tyler and Emma — and even Opal Walsh, who usually runs with the popular kids — rush to his rescue…and discover a mysterious island hiding in the murky, swirling mists below.
Though the island appears uninhabited, the kids can’t shake a feeling that something about it is definitely not right. Their suspicions grow when they stumble upon an abandoned houseboat filled with all sorts of curiosities: odd-looking weapons, unnerving portraits, maps to unknown places, and a glass jar containing something completely unidentifiable. And in its lowest depths churns a dark, deep secret.
As the group delves deeper into this mysterious new clubhouse, their lives begin to intertwine in weird and dangerous ways. For something ancient has awakened…and it can detect not only their wishes and dreams, but also their darkest, most terrible imaginings. Do they have what it takes to face the shadowy secrets lurking within their own hearts?
- Title: The Darkdeep
- Series: The Darkdeep, Book 1
- Authors: Ally Condie and Brendan Reichs
- Cover Artists: Antonio Javier Caparo, illustration; Jeanette Levy, design
- Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s Books
- ISBN: 1547600462
- Publication Date: October 2, 2018
- For Ages: 8-12
- Category: Middle Grade
- Spooky-Scary or Spooky-Fun? ☠️ Scary.
I’d like to thank Bloomsbury Children’s Books for providing a free copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
The Darkdeep is a thrilling love letter to the horror genre. It combines tropes from ’80s horror flicks and Atomic Age creature features with an intriguing Lovecraftian mythology, and the kids at the center of the story with an “us against the world” mission bring to mind the works of Stephen King. Authors Ally Condie and Brendan Reichs even slip in a sly nod to Twin Peaks. (Even if they didn’t intend it that way, I still choose to interpret it as a hidden message that the owls are not what they seem.) This is no pastiche, though. The book pays affectionate tribute to its influences, but it remains original and creative to the end. The Darkdeep is an imaginative, moving, and wildly fun book that kids will love.
Our intrepid heroes are Nico, Tyler, Emma, and Opal. I, of course, have a soft spot for Emma, the horror fanatic who obsesses over special effects and memorizes cult classics. All of the characters are fully realized enough, though, that kids will identify with each of them and feel like they’ve known them their whole lives. The camaraderie among this group of friends is palpable. Their parents are often absent and neglectful, so it’s a pleasure to see how much the kids can depend on each other for love and support. I can only imagine how much that will mean to young readers who may be dealing with the same problems with their own families.
The story is exciting from start to finish. The kids discover a houseboat filled with bizarre treasures and then stumble upon an even more bizarre secret hiding below this museum of the macabre. What they do when they discover the secret is hilarious, horrifying, and utterly human. Through the kids’ reactions to “the Darkdeep,” the authors explore how ruthlessly fear can control our lives, but they keep the plot and tone at the perfect level for a middle grade audience.
Forgive me if I’ve made it sound too intense, because I can’t overstate how fun this book is. It’s divided into four parts, with each one ending in a perfect cliffhanger. The best one of all comes at the end of the book, which made my eyes go as wide as saucers and sent me rushing to the Goodreads app to see when the second book in the series comes out (October 1st, just in time for a spooky Halloween read-along!).
This is the kind of book that you devour in one sitting, ideally while staying up past your bedtime and reading with a flashlight under the sheets. Kids will want to be friends with these characters. They will laugh and get creeped out right along with them, and they will want to know what happens after they’ve finished the last page. The Darkdeep is excellent middle grade horror: it celebrates how fun scary stories can be and reminds kids that they are stronger than their fears.
Imagine if Stephen King wrote The Monster Squad and had the kids fight Cthulhu instead of Dracula and the Wolf Man. Yeah. I give this book 5 out of 5 coffins.