Book Review: In Deeper Waters (ARC)

Published April 20th 2021

Author: F.T. Lukens

A young prince must rely on a mysterious stranger to save him when he is kidnapped during his coming-of-age tour in this swoony adventure that is The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue meets Pirates of the Caribbean.

Prince Tal has long awaited his coming-of-age tour. After spending most of his life cloistered behind palace walls as he learns to keep his forbidden magic secret, he can finally see his family’s kingdom for the first time. His first taste of adventure comes just two days into the journey, when their crew discovers a mysterious prisoner on a burning derelict vessel.

Tasked with watching over the prisoner, Tal is surprised to feel an intense connection with the roguish Athlen. So when Athlen leaps overboard and disappears, Tal feels responsible and heartbroken, knowing Athlen could not have survived in the open ocean.

That is, until Tal runs into Athlen days later on dry land, very much alive, and as charming—and secretive—as ever. But before they can pursue anything further, Tal is kidnapped by pirates and held ransom in a plot to reveal his rumored powers and instigate a war. Tal must escape if he hopes to save his family and the kingdom. And Athlen might just be his only hope… 

First, the cover of this novel is simply gorgeous and instantly made me want to read it before I even looked at the synopsis. In Deeper Water was an excellent blend of character growth, magic, politics, and high seas adventure. There are multiple romance stories throughout, but they are not the central focus, to me, and instead are perfectly integrated with the adventure.

Prince Tal finally gets to stop hiding away in the castle and gets to explore the world with his coming-of-age tour. As one of five children in the royal family, he is fourth in line and the youngest son. Although he does not feel pressure for the throne, as he will not inherit it, he has the added burden of being the last mage. He inherited the magic from his great-grandfather and he is struggling to control and understand his power considering there is no one to teach him. Not only is he unsure about his magic, but he is also fearful of it. His great-grandfather used the magic to kill thousands and waged wars and Tal has no interest in using his power to hurt others.

Tal was an interesting character as he is a confused teenager who is trying to figure out how he fits into the royal family as he has been hidden for so long due to his magic. He makes many mistakes throughout the story, but I loved his character growth as he learns from them and makes better decisions the next time. I am not positive if Tal is described as bisexual or pansexual as the exact label is not said (as far as I remember), but it is stated that he loves anyone regardless of gender. I loved the representation given to this main character and that it was not a plot device. Instead, it was a part of Tal’s character and was “normalized” in this world as his family and other characters accepted him.

The events into the story are set into motion when Tal, his brother, Garrett, and the rest of the crew encounter an abandoned shipwreck where they find a boy, Athlen. Tal has an attraction to Athlen and is intrigued by him. The two of them end up entangled in a huge adventure when Tal is eventually kidnapped and there is a sudden impending war on the horizon that must be stopped. There are many secrets between them as Athlen and Tal get to know each other and they slowly begin to show their growing feelings.

I absolutely love Tal and his family and would love spin-off stories to focus on each of them. I greatly enjoyed that the author wrote this family as a unit and there was no needless backstabbing or jealousy written in just to add in extra drama. The characters were all fun in this novel and it was not difficult to keep track even though there were a lot of them. Athlen is a mysterious character and it was nice to read about him as each layer was revealed. He is a complex character that relates to Tal as both of them are more similar than they initially seem. The story moves forward at a decent pace, but I would have preferred a little longer spend on the last bit of the book as it felt rushed in comparison to the rest of the novel. It was very well done though and more emotional than I thought it would be as it was very sweet. Overall, this is a very loving adventure story!

**I want to give a special thank you to Netgalley and the publisher, Margaret K. McElderry Books, for a review copy of this very entertaining novel. The opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.**

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