Utterly Dark and the Face of the Deep by Philip Reeve

Written by Philip Reeve, Cover Illustration by Paddy Donnelly, Published by David Fickling Books in September

Utterly Dark is a superb piece of storytelling from the master himself, Philip Reeve. There is a lyrical style to the story that is filled with myths, legends and wonderful descriptions.

Utterly Dark was found washed up on a beach, adopted by Andrewe Dark and cared for by him and his caretakers, the Skraevelings. An odd family they might be but Utterly is certainly the centre of their world. When tragedy strikes, Utterly must come to terms with her loss and begin to understand just what Andrewe did as Watcher.

A job passed from generation to generations of Darks, a watcher is someone who looks for anomalies with the ocean and hidden isles that appear. Wildsea is steeped in myth, legends, traditions and magic…but also in fear of The Gorm. The watcher is said to be protector of the land and will deal with any conflicts with The Gorm. The Gorm, of course, is the ocean who can be cruel at any time.

Will Dark, Andrewe’s brother, is sent home to become the new watcher and is not keen, barely surviving when he is shipwrecked onto the island he used to call home. Surprised to find Utterly, he is curious about where she came from and looks for secrets. Secrets he finds and lead him to look for ways to rid Wildsea of their old wives tales and beliefs.

What he does is the opposite….he truly learns the truth of Utterly, The Gorm and his brother Andrewe.

The language is advanced and thoughtfully placed, ensuring the reader takes it all in slowly. This is not a book to be rushed, but savoured for the details, the characters and the myths come to life.

The characters are a bold mix of strength and calmness, wildness and disbelieving. Utterly has been brought up with the tales and believes them wholeheartedly. Aish, of the troll people will not step a foot near to the water’s edge and Egg is charming and chosen protector of Utterly. The combination of fascinating characters creates even more of a mythical atmosphere.

Read beside the sea one sunny day, I was glad of the light for there are dark moments within this story, terrifying creatures and death looming.

A masterpiece of a story, a girl born of the sea and land and choosing your home, family and friends.

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