Review: The Deep and Shining Dark by Juliet Kemp

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Juliet Kemp's The Deep and Shining Dark was published by Elsewhen Press in July 2018 (digital edition) / September 2018 (paperback edition).

Information about Juliet Kemp:

Juliet Kemp lives by the river in London, with their partners, child, dog, and too many fountain pens. They have had stories published in several anthologies and online magazines. Their employment history variously includes working as a cycle instructor, sysadmin, life model, researcher, permaculture designer, and journalist. When not writing or parenting, Juliet goes climbing, knits, reads way too much, and drinks a lot of tea.

Information about The Deep and Shining Dark:

You know something’s wrong when the cityangel turns up at your door

Magic within the city-state of Marek works without the need for bloodletting, unlike elsewhere in Teren, thanks to an agreement three hundred years ago between an angel and the founding fathers. It also ensures that political stability is protected from magical influence. Now, though, most sophisticates no longer even believe in magic or the cityangel.

But magic has suddenly stopped working, discovers Reb, one of the two sorcerers who survived a plague that wiped out virtually all of the rest. Soon she is forced to acknowledge that someone has deposed the cityangel without being able to replace it. Marcia, Heir to House Fereno, and one of the few in high society who is well-aware that magic still exists, stumbles across that same truth. But it is just one part of a much more ambitious plan to seize control of Marek.

Meanwhile, city Council members connive and conspire, unaware that they are being manipulated in a treacherous political game. A game that threatens the peace and security not just of the city, but all the states around the Oval Sea, including the shipboard traders of Salina upon whom Marek relies.

To stop the impending disaster, Reb and Marcia, despite their difference in status, must work together alongside the deposed cityangel and Jonas, a messenger from Salina. But first they must discover who is behind the plot, and each of them must try to decide whom they can really trust.


Juliet Kemp's The Deep and Shining Dark is the first part of the Marek series. It's an entertaining and well written fantasy novel with subtle complexity, good worldbuilding and fluent characterisation. It's a strong debut novel from a talented new author.

The Deep and Shining Dark is one of the most positive reading experiences I've had this year, because it's an enjoyable and entertaining fantasy novel. I enjoyed reading this novel, because the story was sufficiently complex and well-crafted, but not heavy in anyway. The story immediately pulled me in and didn't let go until I'd reached the end (I read this novel in one sitting).

The author has written a story that flows effortlessly and becomes increasingly intriguing as the reader finds out what is going on and how certain things are connected to each other. This novel is perfect escapism, because it immerses readers into the story right alongside the protagonists and takes them on a fascinating journey into the city of Marek where magic and politics abound.

Here's a bit of information about the story:

Jonas t'Riseri is watching traffic on the river. He suffers from flickers and has come from Salina to Marek to get rid of his condition. When he realises how much time he has spent in Marek, he decices to see a sorcerer as soon as possible, because he should be heading back home... Reb, one of the two sorceres left in Marek, notices that magic doesn't work well in Marek and her spell ends in chaos. She knows that the cityangel, who is bound to the city since its founding, is supposed to tame the chaos, but nothing happens. She wonders what may have happened to the cityangel... Jonas meets the cityangel who seems confused, lost and desperate. The angel's connection to the city and its people is gone. Jonas decides to take the cityangel to Reb, because she might be able to help... Marcia, Heir to House Fereno, has been in charge of a trading route expedition that has been a failure. She is struggling between her own ambitions and the ones of her mother, because her mother is not going to retire and give power to her anytime soon... Unknown to House Fereno, the son of the House Leandra, Daril b'Leandra, is hatching plans to take power into his own hands...

This interesting premise serves as a prelude to the rest of the happenings and marks the beginning of a story filled with intrigue, politics and magic.

I enjoyed reading about the characters, because the characterisation is interesting and realistic. The author writes well about the characters and pays attention to their lives, feelings, flaws and problems, making them as real as possible, which is nice. It was great that the characters were not perfect, but had flaws, because it made them human.

Here's a bit of information about some of the characters:

- Jonas is a Salina who has spent half a year in Marek. He does messenger jobs and thinks about getting rid of his flickers, because his people are seafaring people who think that sea and magic don't mix. Marek isn't his home, but he likes being in Marek.

- Reb is a sorcerer, who has come to Marek. She used to do blood magic, but not anymore, because there's no need for it in Marek. She is determined to restore magic back to its normal state.

- Marcia is an Heir to House Fereno. She has a brother, Cato, who is a sorcerer. She is not pleased with her mother's decision to stay in power, because she likes challenges and wants to have power. There's a bit of history between her and Daril b'Leandra.

I was impressed by the effortless worldbuilding, because the author has created a vibrant vision of Marek and its people. Marek is a flourishing city that thrives on trade. As the story unfolds, the author paints a believable and realistic picture of how things work in Marek and how its people live their lives. The author also pays attention to cultural differences and fleshes out how the Houses maintain control.

This novel has interesting magic, because magic is chaos at its root, but not in Marek. Unlike elsewhere in Teren, the sorcerers in Marek don't have to resort to bloodletting in order to make magic work. Marek's cityangel tames the chaos and makes magic safe for the sorcerers. Elsewhere, sorceres have to rely on blood magic, which can be dangerous and unreliable.

There used to be many sorcerers in Marek, but a plague has wiped out almost all of the sorcerers and only two are left. Because the remaining sorcerers, Reb and Cato, don't get along very well, it was intriguing to read about Reb's thoughts concerning Cato and his actions. I also enjoyed reading about how Reb used magic and what she thought about the disappearance of magic.

The scene in which Jonas realises that he is looking at an angel is handled well. It was fascinating to read about how he recognised the angel as a spirit being. The angel's interaction with humans is handled well and the author manages to convey the angel's feelings of loss and desperation to readers in a surprisingly effective and touching way.

I found the the political elements of the story intriguing. I was captivated by them, because the author managed to keep politics fresh and interesting. What the city Council members do and how they control things is described well. The author adds depth to the politics by telling how the children of the Council members feel about their parents not letting them decide things.

It's nice to see LGBTQ elements handled fluently in this novel. They're not the main focus of the story, but they're in the background and add additional depth to the story arc.

Because I enjoyed this novel, I look forward to reading the next instalment. It'll be interesting to read what the author has come up and where the story goes next, because there are many things to explore.

My final words are:

Juliet Kemp's debut novel, The Deep and Shining Dark, is a fascinating and enjoyable fantasy novel for adults. It's a promising and strong start to the Marek series. If you're looking for something new to read, this novel is a good choice, because the story is captivating and well-crafted.

Good and well written fantasy entertainment!