Title: Fear the Drowning Deep
Author: Sarah Glenn Marsh
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Romance, Paranormal
Set in the year of 1913, Fear the Drowning Deep starts off with the tide bringing in a young, dead girl to the shores of the Isle of Man. This event, in turn, catalyzes sixteen-year-old Bridey Corkill’s suspicions about the evil lurking underneath the ocean – the same mysterious force that compelled her granddad to leap into the sea with a smile on his face, never to be seen above the water’s surface ever again.
Soon enough, villagers begin to vanish without reason (or so it seems) in the night. With the body count of missing people continually increasing, Bridey is forced to take matters into her own hands by confronting the very thing she’s spent years fearing the most: the sea. Otherwise, she might lose more of her loved ones to the treacherous waves.
Allow me to be frank here. I am not a fan of historical fiction. In fact, I generally avoid history-heavy literature altogether as my interest tends to wane quickly as I read. Having said that, I walked into Fear the Drowning Deep with a significant amount of hesitation and apprehension. I thought I would write off the novel as another unfinished read – similar to all the other historical stories I’ve read prior to it. I was wrong. Not only is Fear the Drowning Deep the first historical fiction novel I actually finished reading, but it is also the first one I found myself immensely enjoying!
One of the primary highlights of the book is definitely Bridey Corkill. As a sixteen-year-old heroine, her character was a rather realistic portrayal of the modern teenager – hesitant, somewhat helpless and awkwardly lost while simultaneously harnessing an inner brand of strength that urged her to be self-sufficient and to take action when deemed necessary. Her narrative held a somewhat solemn tone, but her fierce determination to protect her loved ones never failed to warm my heart. In fact, what made Bridey so remarkable is how her genuine compassion and concern for the wellbeing of her family and friends evidently served as her anchor, keeping herself steady and preventing the waves of fear from pulling her under.
This innate selflessness allowed Bridey to grow bolder and to mature exceptionally as the plot thickened. Her growth in character can only be described as impressive, well-executed and noteworthy. In addition to Bridey, Fear the Drowning Deep featured a set of well-rounded main and supporting characters as well. Fynn and Grayse were clear favorites of mine.
The characters were as fascinating as the relationships they had amongst themselves. All the familial and platonic interactions were wonderful to read about. One thing I’d like to note, though, is the story’s romance. In this book, the budding love between two characters was not the main impetus of the story’s plot; instead, romance took a backseat from acting as a primary focal point but nonetheless managed to tug at my heartstrings. While the “love story” aspect of the book has supple room for improvement, I found the romantic development to be understated, innocent and charming.
The plot itself banked on the presence of strong family ties and relationship dynamics. It was such a refreshing change from all the typical YA novels wherein parents and other family members are frequently absent. Moreover, although a handful of scenes could have been expounded on (e.g. the latter chapters of the book where the confrontations took place), the plot moved along at a perfectly brisk pace as it played with mystery, suspense and paranormal elements. Consequently, Marsh succeeded in fostering an ever-present haunting atmosphere and eerie ambience all throughout, as if the book itself was blanketed by a veil of mist.
The sea monsters were pretty terrifying as well.
What I adored the most about Fear the Drowning Deep was learning about the Manx culture and history as I turned the pages. I easily fell in love with the culturally rich setting and the prevalent sense of community and history. The Isle’s ancient superstitions and folklore played an enormous role to the story; it genuinely astounded me to witness all these parts tie together quite wonderfully.
Essentially, Marsh’s writing style reminded me of the dynamic yet controlled motion of the sea: a continuous, rhythmic wave that hits the shore in different speeds and forces, but collectively comes across as smooth, natural and effortlessly easy to get myself immersed in. While I would not go so far as to call this as a new favorite, Fear the Drowning Deep is definitely a historical fiction novel I would not mind rereading. Kudos to Sarah Marsh for a gorgeously evocative debut!
Excerpt from the book:
The sea did strange things to people. It played tricks on the mind. Its vastness hid things… Bodies. Secrets. The deadly bulk of icebergs.
A month ago, people on both sides of the Atlantic had mourned the one-year anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. Someone had called the giant ship unsinkable, but the sea had proven them wrong. Maybe she didn’t like being challenged. Maybe that’s why she took the ship and most of its passengers to a place no one living could follow, in a tragedy that continued to haunt me from the pages of the newspapers Da brought home.
I turned away from the moonlight and closed my eyes. Even with the window shut and Liss’s familiar breathing in my ear, I was sure I could hear someone wailing away on his fiddle, playing a mournful tribute to all those lost to the sea. And along with the melody came the unmistakable sound of water slapping against the rocks far below us, slowly eroding the foundation of Port Coire, and everything I loved.