Book Review: Daughter of the Deep

Rick Riordan pulls off a nice writing trick — of using Jules Verne’s classic 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea to propel a new story forward into the future in Daughter of the Deep, his latest adventure novel for middle school readers.

In this new book, Ana Dakkar is our hero, a high school freshman pulled into action early in the story (in true Riordan form) by experiencing disaster and uncertainty, and then coming to grips with the legacy of an ancestor (Captain Nemo himself) before taking command of The Nautilus, a living submarine, that has been waiting a long time for her to arrive.

I have to admit: I had to shake off Percy Jackson’s voice in my head at the start of the story because anytime I read Riordan, I hear Percy, but soon enough, I was along for the ride with Ana, a hero in her own right, and it became a fun adventure, full of cool scientific technologies and serious family squabbles, and moments of near disaster that Ana, as an unexpected hero, has to navigate through.

Reading this novel certainly brought back memories of Nemo and the Nautilus to my head — I remember reading Verne’s book (not always easy reading, if I remember, but cool enough to keep my youthful focus) and watching movie adaptations over the years. Riordan wisely pulls out the most interesting elements from Verne’s story and weaves that into his story here (and writes an interesting piece at the start about why he wrote Daughter of the Deep).

Riordan should be admired for the work he has been doing in supporting a new generation of writers who explore cultural myths and stories in adventure- and character-packed novels in recent years with his Rick Riordan Presents … imprint. And here, Ana is Bundeli-Indian American, and it’s not just a throwaway cultural reference — there’s an important and clear line back to Nemo himself, and Ana’s character and actions are connected to her heritage at times. It’s not a hammer on the head. It’s just infused into the story. As it should be.

Middle school readers of adventure stories will enjoy Daughter of the Deep, but it would also be good for upper elementary and high school readers.

Peace (in the sea),

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