DEEP’S END by Kai Greenwood (BOOK REVIEW)
“When the Ginka bloom at night,
and the Dreamer awakens, the end
will be near.”
Deep’s End is a standalone novel set within the same world as Kai Greenwood’s debut, Code of the Communer. Whilst normally I would always recommend reading previous instalments first, Deep’s End does a great job of standing in its own right. Firstly the novel’s time period is set a few hundred years after the events of Code of the Communer, and secondly Greenwood gives enough relevant backstory for the readers to fully understand the key elements of the already established setting of Maerida. Having said that, I did enjoy seeing subtle connections between both books and whilst this novel features brand new characters, there is certainly homage paid to the characters of old, which created a nice bridge between them.
Deep’s End superbly immerses its readers into a dark and mysterious tale centered around a wild untamed forest where malevolence and peril lurk within. Yet despite the forest’s troubled history, people who live on the edge are too ignorant to heed the warnings. There is one who dwells in Deep’s End who is not so blinded though, one who holds a legacy to protect against the Deepwood, and she’s tired of everyone’s shit. Meet Derwa, the last of the Natéan Watcher’s, perhaps the only one who can save them all. As she sees a mysterious man running out of Pol Desper, a place where those who enter never return, old fears begin to stir, and an ancient prophecy begins to play out. The ginka trees are blooming at night and now a stranger appears with no memory of how he got here. Are these signs of the end times?
Once again, Greenwood’s prose is atmospheric and foreboding, he’s an author who certainly knows how to build a dark, eerie scene. The opening strikingly hits your senses, the hooting of the goblins, the smells of the forest, the oppressiveness of the trees giving a sense of claustrophobia, and the lone figure running for his life. It certainly was a great way to hook the reader in.
At first glance Derwa’s character may appear unkind and overly boisterous but underneath we soon realise it is because she alone knows the true danger the people of Deep’s End face. She’s grizzled and quick to temper because she’s tired of people not taking the Deepwood threat seriously, she’s continually surrounded by imbeciles who cannot see what is right before their eyes. Derwa’s just the kind of female character I love, she’s strong and oh so determined to save those who are too ignorant to even know they need saving. Greenwood also explores a rather strained relationship between Derwa and her daughter Elestren. From the moment we meet Elestren we realise that she is very different from her mother, she’s more booksmart, she holds a strong belief in the tales of old and the ominous prophecy, and much to Derwa’s dismay she doesn’t want to follow in her mother’s footsteps and become the next Natéan Watcher as tradition would dictate. They may be opposites, but they do share one trait, they are both as stubborn as hell.
“Derwa turned and leant on the shellstone wall to survey the Deepwood. The ginka fragrance was strong as the night-flowering trees reached their unseasonal peak. She scanned the treetops, but it was hard to see in the gloom. Every clump of leaves could be a goblin, or worse.”
Whilst Derwa essentially is the driving force of the entire novel, our second main protagonist is Lukas—the mysterious figure running into Deep’s End at the beginning of the book. He’s a character who compelled me throughout, filling me with many questions. Why has he lost his memory? How did he survive Pol Desper? And why does he have a recurring sense of deja vu? As we begin to explore Lukas’ backstory and pieces start to fall into place I loved how his character became a strange mix of incredibly innocent and cryptic. There is something eerie about Lukas underneath the surface, and Greenwood doesn’t reveal why until the very end.
As for the side characters, we are introduced to Amber who comes from a tribe of sorts—The Vasa, a family of travellers with various skills. Amber’s particular skill lies in the art of healing which makes her an extremely useful character later on. If only Derwa could look past her prejudice and hate towards her. Greenwood begins to use flashback scenes which feel randomly told at first, yet each one builds a story of Amber’s past and the regrets she holds close to her chest. Amber and Derwa may have a constant conflict throughout, with both sides grating on each other, yet eventually they do find common ground; they both have made mistakes, which adds excellent character development to both of them as they try to right their wrongs.
Greenwood greatly builds upon the history of the world, giving small tributes to the deeds of Caida, a now legendary figure from Code of the Communer. However he also delves further back, showing how his world has evolved and how colonisation has changed the land. From the land of Sakrifa, Deep’s End is born, yet unbeknownst to the new settlers it still harbours much of the threat and danger of old. Greenwood additionally adds in snippets telling the order of the Natéan Watch’s history. Their legacy is filled with horrendous sacrifices to keep the Deepwood forest at bay, but what happened to those sacrificed remained unknown.
As we reach the climax of the novel and all that was a mystery begins to unravel, I loved the heightened tension and chaotic journey our characters take deep within the forest. Whereas Code of the Communer largerly focused on the savage goblins, Deep’s End shows us the monsters of the Deepwood out in full force. There were scenes where klik-klak, nymphs, and hagwails attacked relentlessly, and as each assault passed a new one emerged. It’s a thrilling ending which in some aspects borders between dark fantasy and horror, which I absolutely loved.
“Deep’s End is not a place like any other. We stand between the outside world and forces that would destroy their cosy little villages, their shitty little farms. We’re the wall at the edge of the wild. Sometimes they need to see wildness to understand it.”
Ultimately Deep’s End grips its readers into a story of a dark forest, lurking monsters, a man with no memory and one pissed off woman on a mission to save those she loves. Greenwood delivers a fantastic epic fantasy filled with a classic hero’s journey, a prophecy and a land riddled with malevolence.