ARC Review: The Deep by Rivers Solomon

(Last Updated On: November 12, 2019)

The Deep simply blew me away with its powerful prose and blend of history and fantasy. It’s a story of memory and history, the individual versus the group, of identity, of pain and of hope. This is such a beautifully crafted and powerful story that I can’t recommend enough.

About the Book

Publisher: Saga Press  |  Release Date: November 5, 2019  |  Pages: 176
Genre: Adult, Science Fiction  |  Format: Physical & Audiobook ARC  |  Source: Publisher

The Deep coverYetu holds the memories for her people—water-dwelling descendants of pregnant African slave women thrown overboard by slave owners—who live idyllic lives in the deep. Their past, too traumatic to be remembered regularly, is forgotten by everyone, save one—the historian. This demanding role has been bestowed on Yetu.

Yetu remembers for everyone, and the memories, painful and wonderful, traumatic and terrible and miraculous, are destroying her. And so, she flees to the surface, escaping the memories, the expectations, and the responsibilities—and discovers a world her people left behind long ago.

Yetu will learn more than she ever expected to about her own past—and about the future of her people. If they are all to survive, they’ll need to reclaim the memories, reclaim their identity—and own who they really are.

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My Review

Inspired by a song produced by the rap group Clipping for the This American Life episode “We Are In The Future.”

The Deep simply blew me away with its powerful prose and blend of history and fantasy. It’s a story of memory and history, the individual versus the group, of identity, of pain and of hope. This is such a beautifully crafted and powerful story that I can’t recommend enough.

“Forgetting was not the same as healing.”

The Deep arcDescended from pregnant African women thrown overboard from slave ships, the wajinru have no long-term memory, instead choosing to live in the moment without the burden of the past. It is the responsibility of their historian – Yetu – to hold the memories for them so they aren’t lost, and once a year they have a ceremony to remember the history for a brief time. But the weight of the painful and traumatic memories consumes Yetu and threatens her life.

“Who was she outside of her relationship to her kin?”

I adore stories that delve into concepts of identity, so it is no surprise that I was particularly taken with The Deep. Yetu’s journey to save herself leads to an exploration of personhood. Who are we without our past? Can we find a balance between remembering the past and not being crippled by it? I found hope in the narrative and Yetu’s journey.

“There were men, women, both, and neither. Such things were self-determined and Yetu wondered if two-legs had self-determination too.”

The world is casually LGBTQIAP+, which made me so incredibly happy. Suka uses they/them pronouns and the wajinru are described to be fluid in terms of sexual identity. Labels don’t really seem to matter much and I appreciate that a lot.

Solomon’s prose evokes powerful emotion and is captivating in its prose. Solomon did an amazing job, bringing to life the vast world imagined by Clipping’s song of the same name. There is so much I can say about this novella but I think it is one best experienced with as little information as possible; I highly recommend this one, friends!

Note: If you are an own-voices, international reader who would like this ARC, please check out Flapping Pages as I am passing my copy along.

🎶 Audio notes: I read along with my physical copy of the book, and Daveed Diggs’ narration for the audiobook is incredible. The flowing cadence of Solomon’s words come alive, which is unsurprising given the history and iterations of this story. Highly recommend. Also, lol at the burn in the afterword about listening to the book too fast at 2x speed. Touche.

Representation: anxiety rep, black rep, LGBTQIAP+ rep (nonbinary side character, fluid sexual identity rep)
Content warnings:
 attempted suicide, loss, trauma,

ARC provided by the publisher via BookishFirst in exchange for my honest review; Audio Listening Copy provided by Simon & Schuster Audio. Quotations are from an uncorrected proof and subject to change upon final publication.

Have you read The Deep, or do you want to? If so, what are your thoughts?

spacer_wLet’s go on another adventure together!


  1. Lotte Han

    November 12, 2019 at 2:09 AM

    Wow the cover is stunning!
    Lotte |

    1. Kal

      November 25, 2019 at 10:19 PM

      I agree!!!!

  2. Anika

    November 12, 2019 at 2:44 AM

    The premise sounds amazing and I love the cover! Looks like a brilliant read.
    Anika |

    1. Kal

      November 25, 2019 at 10:19 PM

      Thanks so much for your comment, and I am so excited to read this sequel!!!

  3. Tammy @ Books, Bones & Buffy

    November 12, 2019 at 6:51 AM

    Lovely review, Kal, and I agree 100%. This was such a short but powerful story that was filled with emotion. Such a wonderful reading experience!

    1. Kal

      November 25, 2019 at 10:20 PM

      Thanks so much Tammy! I was honestly so blown away by this one, novellas are so hard to nail worldbuilding in but this one is just masterfully written.

  4. Lois @ My Midnight Musing

    November 12, 2019 at 9:42 AM

    The concept of this book sounds incredible. I love it when books explore themes of identity. It sounds like an incredible reading experience, one that is so rich in its world building.

    1. Kal

      November 25, 2019 at 10:22 PM

      Thank you so much for your comment, and it sounds like this book will be right up your alley! I hope you enjoy it if you decide to pick it up.

  5. Jess

    November 12, 2019 at 11:13 AM

    I saw this and passed it by because it was a novella and now I am so upset I did that! This sounds spectacular and I really hope I can get my hands on it now!

    1. Kal

      November 25, 2019 at 10:26 PM

      Ohhh noooo, I am sorry you skipped this one! I normally don’t read novellas either because world-building is so important to me, but I read the extract on Bookish First and knew it was for me. The audiobook is one of the LibroFM ALCs for November!

  6. Lisa @ waytoofantasy

    November 13, 2019 at 9:06 AM

    Ahh, this is one I’ve been pretty excited for. Can’t wait to check it out (at some point, I think I just heard my TBR pile groan, haha).

    1. Kal

      November 25, 2019 at 10:42 PM

      Tell your TBR pile to shush, this one is worth it haha!

  7. Shon @ Books and Bugs

    November 13, 2019 at 1:42 PM

    I’m so excited about this book! I’m in line for the audiobook at my library because I knew I wanted to hear Diggs narrate. I’m happy to hear that my excitement about hearing him read wasn’t misplaced!

    1. Kal

      November 25, 2019 at 10:43 PM

      Ahh, I hope your loan comes in soon for the audiobook — it’s definitely worth it! Happy reading and thanks for stopping by!

  8. Sam || Fictionally Sam

    November 14, 2019 at 10:51 AM

    I was in love with this review, but fell more in love and perked all the way up when I saw the words:

    “Daveed Diggs’ narration for the audiobook is incredible.”

    This is no long a want, this is a need. I NEED this in my life. Thank you ten fold for bringing this to my attention. 10/10 you are.

    1. Kal

      November 25, 2019 at 10:49 PM

      YOU DIDN’T KNOW?!?!?! He’s part of Clipping, which composed the song the novella is based one, so it’s just an extra level of nerdy goodness. If you haven’t heard The Deep… uh… you need to listen to it before reading the book. I’m addicted.

  9. Destiny @ Howling Libraries

    November 14, 2019 at 9:57 PM

    I am SO PUMPED for this and I’m so glad you loved it! I was sold on the audio when you said Daveed narrates it. I’ve never seen Hamilton, which I feel like is where most people know him from, but clipping. was my intro to noise rap and has been one of my most respected rap groups for years. I’ve had the song this novella was inspired by in my weekly rotation for MONTHS and can’t get enough. I can’t wait to see (hear, lol) him rock this audiobook. <3 Amazing review!

    1. Kal

      November 25, 2019 at 11:11 PM

      I think you will love this novella and I can’t wait to hear your thoughts once you get to it! I hadn’t heard the song or noise rap before… but I am hooked now.

  10. Dani @ Perspective of a Writer

    November 16, 2019 at 11:09 AM

    I read an excerpt and really enjoyed what I read. I love when poetic prose is paired with a short number of pages though. I really hope my library gets this!

    1. Kal

      November 25, 2019 at 11:26 PM

      I agree with you there on poetic prose & shorter books – there’s something oddly satisfying & inspiring about masterfully written novellas. I hope you are able to read the full story soon, Dani!

  11. Em

    November 16, 2019 at 1:29 PM

    Yay!! I’m so glad you liked this book! I just picked up my copy from the library and your review made me even more excited to read it.

    1. Kal

      November 25, 2019 at 11:27 PM

      Oooh, I hope you enjoy this one as much as I do!

  12. Haley

    November 25, 2019 at 3:59 AM

    I already had this on my tbr, I was so happy to learn about it, it just seems amazing but after reading your review like omg I NEED THIS. So, I’ve gone and preordered the paperback.

    1. Kal

      November 26, 2019 at 12:08 AM

      I think you will enjoy this one, so I’m glad you have the paperback on order!

  13. Jenna @ Falling Letters

    November 25, 2019 at 5:14 PM

    Hi Kal, found your blog while looking for new-to-me blogs on Twitter. 🙂 I’ve been curious about this book since I saw the cover a few weeks ago. Great review – I’ll have to check it out.

    1. Kal

      November 26, 2019 at 12:17 AM

      Hi Jenna, welcome! I hope you enjoy this one as much as I did – I highly recommend the audiobook if you are an audio fan.

  14. DB

    December 9, 2019 at 9:13 PM

    I didn’t know there was LGBTQ+ rep in here! I’m definitely more interested in reading this now – or listening to it as I like the idea of the audiobook.

    1. Kal

      December 22, 2019 at 10:18 AM

      Yea I haven’t seen anyone else mention it??? It’s kind of a big component of the story but also not held up to be a big deal. The audiobook is amazing, 15/10 would recommend!

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