Daughter of the Deep by Lina C. Amarego – My Review, followed by Character Discussion + Analysis – [Spoiler-free]
“A wedding to end a war…”
After years of bloodshed from a complex family feud, Keira is determined to reconcile the two sides. In order to do this, she must marry a man from the other family. Unfortunately for Keira, she holds a deep-rooted vendetta against the groom: he killed her father – or so she believes…
“Bold, passionate, and deeply engrossing, Daughter of the Deep is an adventurous tale with a cutting wit that’ll have you grinning until your cheeks hurt and belly-laughing until your sides ache. But heartfelt tears will be close behind (for the best reasons)…”– My take on Lina C. Amarego’s Daughter of the Deep
(to give you an idea of the atmosphere)
“Navy-blue cotton and blood-red silk.
Emerald green velvet. Shimmering gold coins.
Deep teal and vivid crimson.
Citrus and salt. Cool waves and hot flames.
The taste of chicken broth.
The pop of a cork from a whiskey bottle.
Dark raven curls and blond rugged locks.
Sharp steel and soft mist.
Slithering hisses and jovial laughter.
Trickling water and creaking wood.
The smell of fish.
A crack of thunder and an exhale of breath.
A flash of lightning and a ruffling of hair.
The sting of a slap, the security of an embrace.
The metallic click of a compass closing.
The braided texture of rope.
A thrashing ocean. A tranquil spring.
Glittering stars and amber sunrises.
You’ll like it if you enjoy:
- Pirates of the Caribbean (for the dark backstories + seafaring themes)
- Merlin (the snarkiness + character chemistry)
- Lord of the Rings (the sense of duty + teamwork)
- The Princess Bride (for the wit and sense of adventure)
- Once Upon A Time (for the timeless quality + emotional character relationships)
- Historical dramas (for the ancient feel to the background)
- Any enemies-to-lovers romantic films where the couples have genuine chemistry (for the romance element).
A few months ago, I stumbled upon Lina Amarego’s Instagram page and was immediately drawn into the synopsis of her book. I really enjoyed the weekly posts she sent out, with fun polls and activities based on the book and characters – all leading up to release day!
Safe to say, the final result didn’t disappoint.
Lina has created a world brimming with life and mystery, one that is such a pleasure to escape to, and it feels very established even within the first few chapters. Inspired by Welsh mythology, the epic setting is brought to life through beautiful descriptions:
I am in awe of Lina’s writing style – it just flows, and she has a real knack for capturing imagery. There’s a sophistication to the narrative, but it’s also conversational, as if we are sitting with Keira while she recounts her story over a tumbler of whiskey.
One review I read mentioned a tendency to ‘tell’ rather than ‘show’. While that is occasionally the case (but it makes sense anyway as we’re hearing Keira’s thoughts directly), I was particularly struck by how much ‘showing’ there is compared to many books I’ve read. Frequently, characters’ feelings are presented in vividly-depicted movements and expressions, instead of just stating their emotions, and that’s a quality I really valued in how the book is written.
It is also teeming with humour and wit. This evidently comes naturally to Lina, who even found irony in her happiness on the release day:
“I’m a therapist and writer who doesn’t have words for how I feel today.”– Lina Amarego, on the Daughter of the Deep release day
In Keira’s mind, there’s a disconnect between her sense of duty and allowing herself to be happy, which surfaces in dialogue as she grapples with conscious & unconscious parts of herself. One character spots this, saying: “Sounds like part of ye disagrees” – (this is likely to be Lina’s experience as a therapist peeking through).
Lina leads Keira by the hand through this magical world, and Keira leads us. We often know things Keira doesn’t, as Lina winks back at us over her shoulder when the protagonist isn’t looking. But there are still plenty of red herrings that keep you guessing, even when you think you’re ahead!
A journey of growth and discovery, Daughter of the Deep deals with many themes: façades, duty, death, love, memory and uncertainty – to name a few.
A rich maritime discourse runs consistently throughout the narrative, along with a conscience of traditions in the world – even to the detail of “godsdamned”. It’s infused into casual remarks: “You look like something that washed up on the shore”, appearances: “salt and pepper beard”, similes: “like a fish out of water” and metaphors: “an anchor of guilt”, carefully selected to fit with how everything in Keira’s world revolves around her connection to the sea.
Set in the seven islands of the Deyrnas – (with a map in the front and everything!) – the story exists in a suspended time period, feeling ancient and modern at the same time. It’s familiar, but has a sense of historical gravitas. Therefore, the occasional seeming anachronism (e.g. ‘comedian’) is forgiven, as the limits of shared concepts in the Deyrnas are (understandably) not clear-cut.
In this regard, there’s a slight underdeveloped feel to some of the wider world, as there isn’t much to give a sense of the other islands’ presence. But I don’t think that was needed in this case, as the focus is on Keira’s internal world, her home, and where she was travelling to, and that information came as needed when she got to it. Also, I’m sure the identity of the world will expand and deepen in the next 2 books!
(Speaking of which, book 2, – Sister of the Stars – is in the works!)
I grinned through so many scenes, laughed out loud frequently, and was deeply moved (especially during the poignant father-daughter scenes). There’s also a tantalising action-sequence finale that had me on the edge of my seat, and an unexpected moment at the end suddenly struck me in such a heartwarming way that I actually shed a few tears, which is unusual for me!
A palpable sense of love and familial duty – in equal parts through teasing and unapologetic devotion – is the beating heart of the book. This is shown not only through dialogue (crafted to match the personality of each character while maintaining an overall cohesive tone), but the characters’ actions – as highlighted in Lina’s touching dedication to her father at the front of the book:
It’s clear to see that this book is Lina’s heart and soul. In spite of the cynical overtones in much of the narration, it’s always laced with her enthusiasm for the world and characters – which is infectious.
From the start, we’re immediately launched into the world, welcomed with an air of familiarity rather than a slow introduction. Now, my experience of this may have been partly because I knew about the characters before, so I already felt connected with the world. I’m not sure if it would be different for someone coming completely afresh. But either way, Keira will take care of you and you’ll become familiar with it in no time.
To get a sense of the characters beforehand like I did – which I found enriched my connection with the story – allow me to introduce you to a few of them:
Here are some members of the two feuding families – the Branwens (whom Lina based on her own family) and the Mathonwys (the family she secretly wishes she had… but don’t tell anyone that!):
With a steely determination and steadfast loyalty to her family, Keira’s goal is to learn the truth, though she fears what it may hold.
As she embarks on a journey to uncover secrets from the past, she follows the internal voice of her late father – a poignant addition to what drives her character.
Buy the Keira sticker here
There was a fascinating progression of how I felt about Keira. I immediately connected with her, but found her quite harsh at first. Then as she evolved, I really began to sympathise and felt empowered by her. She is short-tempered and stubborn – but because Lina demonstrates an awareness of this, it works. Keira’s flaws are laid bare, inviting us in. We root for her even when we can judge her situation better than she can – because it’s fun to witness the events play out.
Ah, Ronan. He was actually the most vivid character for me – I had such a clear image of him in my mind.
He’s charming, he’s shady, but what struck me most is just how respectful he is, beneath the mysterious guise.
He’ll surprise you.
Buy the Ronan sticker here (as seen in my photos!)
Ronan is calm and suave, yet he harbours the sudden gravitas of infrequent but powerful outbursts, compared to Keira’s continuous ebbing and flowing emotions as anger rises to peaks like the movement of the tide.
Oh you’ll love Griffin. Everyone loves Griffin. According to Lina, he “introduced himself” and demanded to be more of a main character.
It looks like he’s just sauntered onto this list, too.
An “agent of chaos”, he has such a presence and some of his interactions are among my favourite parts of the book.
His brotherly bickering with Keira is just as wholesome as their unspoken understanding.
Reagan adds so much heart to the story, and plays a big part in uniting the other characters.
(These gorgeous artworks were drawn by Lina herself!
See more of her work at @silverwheelpressdesigns)
These distinct personalities had such a sense of autonomy that I often pictured what I thought they’d naturally do in a situation, and was delighted to then watch something similar play out. But there were still plenty of things I hadn’t seen coming, and they frequently surprised me. Their complex and varied personalities really shine through in the way they speak, their mannerisms, and how they deal with emotions.
Something I relished was how interactions are given space to breathe, as you really get to exist in those moments with the characters and it doesn’t feel rushed. The greater emphasis on character, dialogue and relationships was refreshing – I enjoyed just ‘spending time’ with them.
Certain phrases or trademark aspects of characters – smells, features, actions – are often repeated throughout, which helps make them distinct and adds colour as you remember that trait about them (e.g. Ronan stuffing his hands into his pockets or Keira reaching for her dagger). This could potentially be seen as a little repetitive, but I actually found those little character quirks charming, so I didn’t mind.
The same goes for the repeated quotes at the core of the book’s identity. It may seem over-explanatory to keep referencing them, but it actually really helps to weave a tapestry of Keira’s thoughts. It means the presence of her father is always felt, and the quotes enrich the immediacy and culmination of the plot. As well as supporting the reader so they don’t forget important details, it adds identity and flavour. Many phrases became familiar and endearing as I saw them each time, and some even gathered a new meaning over the course of the story. Some are also very merch-worthy…
Other merchandise includes a notebook with the quote “Small Victories”, pin badges & stickers of the family crests, and shirts with this design:
As you can probably tell, I love Daughter of the Deep. The concept, the characters, the writing style, and the fact I have been able to fangirl about it directly to Lina has been such an added bonus that really made it a whole experience.
So Lina, thank you for telling this story. Its song has made its way to my heart. Already, it has impacted my life in a positive way – I had been thinking of starting a blog for a while, but I was so compelled to do a review after reading DotD that it became the catalyst for me actually setting it up. You were the first indie author I discovered on Instagram, and seeing your work has inspired me to actually start pursuing my lifelong dream of publishing a book, rather than leaving it as a “one day” possibility.
You’re right, the universe isn’t made of atoms – it’s made of stories…
As well as book 2 – Sister of the stars – Lina’s latest work-in-progress is “Project Babylon“…
“Shin lives a simple, carefree life in the Sora Air Province, providing for his little sister and his band of scrappy young orphans by stealing, swearing, and living on the edge. But when he steals from the wrong nobleman, he catapults himself into the dark world of the corrupt nobility, and to save his sister, he must become their pawn- and kidnap the reclusive Princess of the Earth Province….
Shin is a cross between Peter Pan and Aladdin- sarcastic, scrappy, too clever for his own good. But he has a bright soul burning inside of him and a dark past he’s desperate to run from. He loves his cadre deeply, and is a natural born leader, if only he believed it himself.“
*Have you read Daughter of the Deep? What did you think of it? Tell me in the comments, let’s discuss (i.e. obsess) over it!*
A note from me:
If you made it all the way through to here, you deserve a chocolate-chip shortbread biscuit for all that reading! Unfortunately, I ate the last one today… But thank you for taking the time to visit! I hope you found my ramblings somewhat interesting. I’ll be posting more reviews of indie books in future, so let me know what you liked or didn’t like about this one! (Note: most won’t be quite this long!)