Our Daughter of the Deep book review explores Rick Riordan’s modern-day sequel to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, in which we get a glimpse of humanity’s darkest secrets and its greatest potential.
I’ll admit right here and now—I’ve never read 20,000 Leagues or Mysterious Island, both of which provided inspiration for Rick Riordan‘s Daughter of the Deep. Having read this novel, however, I have more motivation than ever to dive into what this story has to offer.
From his introduction, you can feel Riordan’s fervor. He has a deep respect for Jules Verne and what he’s brought to the table as a science-fiction writer, as well as how these two books have influenced literature and scientific innovation. After all, science-fiction doesn’t usually stay fiction for long.
And that’s the premise behind Daughter of the Deep. In this book, Jules Verne is part author, part historian. That’s right—20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is (mostly) real, and Ana Dakkar is a descendent of the real-life Captain Nemo. Of course, she doesn’t know this when she first attends Harding-Pendcroft Academy, but she soon gets a crash course.
After her school is attacked, Ana must unravel the secrets of the Academy, as well as her own lineage. What follows is an intense physical and emotional journey that takes place over several days. By the end, Ana (and the reader) is transported to a new reality in which anything is possible.
As with any book about a school, you tend to fall in with certain groups. Whether you’re sorted into houses a la Harry Potter or you find your own clique based on similar personalities and interests. Riordan is no stranger to this sort of classification, as all the demigods are “sorted” into cabins according to their godly parent in the Camp Half-Blood Chronicles.
But what I loved most about this book, and what I had to include in this Daughter of the Deep book review, is that Harding-Pencroft Academy’s houses were based on the student’s intellectual pre-disposition. House Dolphin are the communicators, the cryptographers, the counterintelligence officers; House Shark are the soldiers, the weapons experts, the commanders; House Cephalopod are the engineers, the inventors, the defense experts; and House Orca are the medical professionals, the educators, the historians. (I’m House Dolphin. Which House are you?)
The school wasn’t broken up into these Houses to set one against the other—the students can room with their friends, no matter where they belong. Yes, they all have their strengths and weaknesses, and there are some stereotypes and friendly rivalries, but overall, the school is a positive place to get your education and become a better citizen of the world.
In fact, that’s the entire point of this book. Ana is thrust into a leadership position because of her family’s legacy, but she never approaches the job with a sense of entitlement or arrogance. Her friends and fellow HP students support her through democratic votes and logical solutions. All of these kids have been instilled with a sense of responsibility for the fate of the future.
You’d think this would be boring, that there’s no conflict in a group of kids who get along and work together like a well-oiled machine. But you’d be wrong. Outside forces ensure Ana’s journey is not an easy one. Harding-Pencroft Academy and Land Institute have been waging a cold war for 150 years, but now it’s come to a roiling bubble.
Without giving too much away, let’s just say that HP and LI don’t see eye to eye. Both have access to technological advancements beyond our wildest dreams, but they have different ideas about how they should be used. Whereas HP wants to safeguard their knowledge until the world is ready for it, LI would like nothing more than to use it to their personal advantage.
And Ana isn’t the only one in Daughter of the Deep who struggles with her family’s legacy and what the future holds. Ester is a Harding, which means she will ultimately be responsible for the school’s trajectory once she comes of age. She carries a heavy burden on her shoulders, and by the end of the book, you can see how important the Academy is to her.
Ester’s friendship with Ana is one of the major foundations of this novel, and despite coming from vastly different backgrounds, they value, respect, and support each other’s perspectives and opinions. Ester is autistic, but her neurodivergency is never depicted as a hindrance. In fact, her view of the world is more often than not an asset to Ana, who relies on her skills during some of the most intense situations in the novel.
Each of the other main characters play similar roles in Ana’s life. It doesn’t matter if they speak a different language or pray to a different god or come from a different cultural background—at the end of the day, they’re all working toward the same goal. It’s obvious that Riordan approached his diverse cast of characters with respect, care, and devotion. A lot of time and effort were clearly put into making sure these portrayals were authentic, and is shines through each and every page.
At the end of the day, this book—and by extension, my Daughter of the Deep book review—has one goal in mind. It reminds us that people can be good. Despite the tragedies Ana has experienced, she sees a bright future ahead of her. With incredible technological advancements in the right hands, there’s no telling what we might be able to do.
And sure, this is just a novel about a made up character who’s the descendent of another made up character, but the message still rings true. In a complicated world full of morally gray heroes, it’s a breath of fresh air to meet someone like Ana Dakkar and her friends. And despite this being a standalone novel, I can’t help but hope we will some day meet again.
‘Daughter of the Deep’ by Rick Riordan hit U.S. retailers on October 26, 2021
Interested in hearing a more in-depth review of the book? Tune in to Prophecy Radio episode 4, “This Is Your Brain on Battle.”