Our home began, as all things do, with a wish: Daughter of the Merciful Deep by Leslye Penelope #DaughteroftheMercifulDeep #NetGalley

A woman journeys into a submerged world of gods and myth to save her home in this powerful historical fantasy that shines a light on the drowned Black towns of the American South.
Jane Edwards hasn’t spoken since she was eleven years old, when armed riders expelled her family from their hometown along with every other Black resident. Now, twelve years later, she’s found a haven in the all-Black town of Awenasa. But the construction of a dam promises to wash her home under the waters of the new lake.
To save her community, Jane must journey into a sunken world. A land of capricious gods and unsung myths; of salvation and dreams made real. But the flood waters are rising and to gain the miracle she desires, Jane will have to find her voice again and finally face the trauma of the past.


Hi and welcome to my review of Daughter of the Merciful Deep!

Daughter of the Merciful Deep was my first book by this author and it was the title and the blurb that drew me in. I love historical fiction and I love fantasy and if done well, historical fantasy is the best of both worlds. This is a combination of two very different genres that all authors do in their own way, so I wasn’t sure what to expect but I was curious. Moreover, I had never heard of the drowned Black towns of the American South, and I was eager to learn more about them.

I have to say, the author aced the premise of the story, and the afterword was enlightening, elaborating on a couple of truly heart-breaking historical facts that inspired Daughter of the Merciful Deep. A story with a main character to root for, and people coming together to face off evil in whichever form despite their own insecurities and issues always works for me. Add some depth by weaving true historical facts into the narrative and some (folk)lore, and you have all the ingredients to win my heart.

Alas, Daughter of the Merciful Deep did not quite conquer my heart. As wonderful as the premise and all the separate elements were, the execution did not entirely work for me, it took me a while to get into the story and I ended up with some mixed feelings. I do have to add that Fickle Frieda set up camp again and she’s made me very VERY hard to please. I’m a mood reader at the best of times but when Frieda’s in da house, my moods are irrationally fickle.

The biggest niggle I had was that I couldn’t quite orientate myself in space and time. Part of the narrative is set in a fictional place, but a large part is set in a town that I eventually assumed had a fictional name but was based on a real town. The blurb speaks of the American South, so I figured that must be where the story was set, but I found little to prove that it was, and if so, in which State. The afterword did clear that up.

With regards to when the story is set, there is a past timeline, which is set in 1923, in which the protagonist is a child, so that did allow me to orientate myself in time. However, there are a few bits and bobs that irked me, things like one of the characters saying: no shit, Sherlock. I dunno, most readers may not even notice, but to me, those little details felt too contemporary to fit the story, and clashed horribly with some historical aspects and as such, they pulled me right out of it. 

However, as I said, Fickle Frieda has been making sure it doesn’t take much to pull me out of any story lately, so if Daughter of the Merciful Deep speaks to you, you should probably listen to her, not me!

Despite some mixed feelings, overall I did have a good time with Daughter of the Merciful Deep. It’s a blend of historical fiction and fantasy that tells a story of racism and violence but also of hope, courage and love, while highlighting a true (and sad) chapter in Black history.

Daughter of the Merciful Deep is out in digital formats and audio on 4 June, and paperback on 6 June.

Massive thanks to Orbit and NetGalley for the DRC. All opinions are my own.

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