Yetu holds the memories for her people—water-dwelling descendants of pregnant African slave women thrown overboard by slave owners—who live idyllic lives in the deep. Their past, too traumatic to be remembered regularly, is forgotten by everyone, save one—the historian. This demanding role has been bestowed on Yetu.
Yetu remembers for everyone, and the memories, painful and wonderful, traumatic and terrible and miraculous, are destroying her. And so, she flees to the surface, escaping the memories, the expectations, and the responsibilities—and discovers a world her people left behind long ago.
Yetu will learn more than she ever expected to about her own past—and about the future of her people. If they are all to survive, they’ll need to reclaim the memories, reclaim their identity—and own who they really are.
The Deep tells a harrowing tale of a society of mermaids, the Wajinru, and centers around their Historian, Yetu. Because of the trauma of their origin, the Wajinru are forgetful creatures, unaware of their past and history. One member of their society is designated to keep the memories of their people, retell those memories when the mermaids start feeling existential.
I had very mixed feeling about the character, Yeta. From page one, it is very clear this position is slowly killing Yetu. She gets easily overwhelmed by the emotion of the memories and the memory of her ancestors is slowly consuming her. While I sympathized with her character, I also found her frustratingly passive at times and it made POV sometimes difficult to read. Then there was a weird also fish-sex scene that came out of nowhere.
On the other hand, I loved the worldbuilding around the Wajinru fascinating and incredibly well done. It’s hinted early on that the current Wajinru are the remnants of a much greater society, and I enjoyed learning of their past and that society. Soloman et al do a fantastic job of creating their history. There’s mentions of a great kingdom, a war, and the conditions of the land above the sea. I only wish that more time was spent going through their history, instead of Yetu’s POV.
Definitely the strongest part of this book is the atmosphere created. I read this novella in one sitting and even though I didn’t like Yetu’s character, her narration came off so beautifully and emotionally-provoking, especially given some of the dark subjects this book goes into.
Overall, I rate this book a 3/5. I loved the almost-haunting atmospheric writing and the world-building around the Wajinru, but I found the main character Yetu difficult to connect with.
/r/Fantasy 2019-2020 Bingo Squares:
- SFF Novel Featuring an Ocean Setting (Hard Mode)
- SFF Novella
- SFF Published in 2019
Publisher: Gallery/Saga Press