A Letter to the Luminous Deep

A Letter to the Luminous Deep

by Sylvie Cathrall
Genres: Fiction / Epistolary, Fiction / Fantasy / General
Published on April 23, 2024
Pages: 400
Format: eBook Source: Library

A beautiful discovery outside the window of her underwater home prompts the reclusive E. to begin a correspondence with renowned scholar Henerey Clel. The letters they share are filled with passion, at first for their mutual interests, and then, inevitably, for each other.

Together, they uncover a mystery from the unknown depths, destined to transform the underwater world they both equally fear and love. But by no mere coincidence, a seaquake destroys E.'s home, and she and Henerey vanish.

A year later, E.'s sister Sophy, and Henerey's brother Vyerin, are left to solve the mystery, piecing together the letters, sketches and field notes left behind—and learn what their siblings’ disappearance might mean for life as they know it.
Inspired, immersive, and full of heart, this charming epistolary tale is an adventure into the depths of a magical sea and the limits of the imagination from a marvelous debut voice.

I wanted to love this book. I don’t usually get sucked in by a pretty cover but this one is pretty spectacular. Add in the conceit of an epistolary story and the promise of magical academia in some of the blurbs and I was excited.

The story itself isn’t bad. It just takes forever to find out what it is. The siblings of the dead people are writing letters to each other to find out what happened. They include letters they found from E and Henerey. The facts of the story are slowly – very, very, very slowly – revealed through these letters. This book would be best for people who like to read about characters more than for people who care most about plot. I’m a person who reads for plot so I found this book frustrating. Again, the plot isn’t bad. But if you distilled this book down to the actual plot it would be about 1/4 of the length.

The other frustration I had is that it read 99% as sci fi instead of fantasy even though it is advertised as a fantasy book. That isn’t a bad thing either but all the blurbs and descriptions keep talking about magic. There is no magic in this book. I spent the whole time wondering why this was classified as fantasy when it was obviously not. There is a tiny bit at the end that maybe (?) could be considered fantasy/magic. I’d argue that it just as easily could be advanced technology. The question isn’t really answered in the story. It is part of a set up for a sequel.

Overall, I thought the relationship between E and Henerey was cute. E has severe anxiety and lives in her family home underwater on a planet that is mostly ocean. She gets to know Henerey because he is a scholar she writes to in order to ask a question about a large fish she saw outside her window. They strike up a correspondence. There is obviously a complicated world in the author’s mind but you don’t really get the full explanation of it. (That’s a drawback of epistolary novels. People don’t explain what is obvious to them in letters so you miss some background.) The main mystery was pretty easy to figure out even though you don’t get all the answers at the end of the book.

I think this one just wasn’t for me because the super slow pace was too frustrating. If you are more into lyrical novels and characters talking to each other, you might like this one more.